NBA AM: Orlando Magic Like Where They Stand
Tobias Harris - VIDEO OF THE DAY
Magic forward Tobias Harris talks about his team, what he expects this season and his role as a leader in Orlando.Watch More Video Here
The Magic Like Where They Stand: As the Orlando Magic open training camp today, there are no delusions from management or the players that Orlando is a bona fide playoff contender, but what they do believe is that as a team and an organization, they are headed in the right direction.
“I’m seeing this season with great anticipation,” Magic CEO Alex Martins told HOOPSWORLD. “First of all, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year since our new basketball operations team has been in place because they have accomplished so much in 12 months’ time, but I’m anticipating this season from the standpoint from the work that our players have put in this summer. I’ve watched them, on their own, working hard all summer long to improve their game. As you know, to make major leaps in improving your own game personally, you have to do it in the offseason. In the regular season it just doesn’t happen because of the lack of time, practices, and travel and games, so if you’re going to make major leaps in your game, if you’re going to personally improve, you have to do it in the offseason. Our guys have really put in the time and the effort, in my opinion, this off season to do that. You notice the difference in a lot of them physically and I do believe that once they get out on the floor you’ll notice the improvement in the skills in their game as well, so I really look with great anticipation for this upcoming season.”
The Magic did not make many splashy moves in the offseason, focusing more on the draft and internal development. Part of that development was urging their young guys to stay in Orlando during the summer and creating an environment for them to work in the Magic’s facility.
“It’s very refreshing,” said Magic GM Rob Hennigan about his players sticking together this summer. “I think it speaks to how unselfish all of our guys are because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of a team, and they’re willing to make the necessary efforts to make that happen whether it be on the court, off the floor, in a video session, or out to dinner. There’s a constant effort to create a bond that I think over time can be something that’s an advantage for us.”
The Magic are a team most believe won’t win many games this season, with an expected greater emphasis on player development at the expense of competing, but from a management point of view – the Magic don’t see those goals as accurate or mutually exclusive.
“I don’t think anybody can sit here and say whether they can win or not,” said Martin. “No one can tell until they’re out on the basketball floor and they perform together; what I do know is that they put in the effort this summer to improve and so to me, our focus will be on continuous improvement and making sure that we continuously improve. What that manifests itself in terms of wins and losses we’ll just have to see, but it’s hard for anybody to predict without seeing these guys and how they’ve improved and getting out on the court together as to what the ultimate outcome is going to be.
“What I will tell you is that our fan base and corporate America in particular is as interested in this team as they ever have been. From a business standpoint, the pre-sale for the season has been tremendous. Even last year, our fans proved that they’re among the best fans in the league coming out for a team that record-wise was the worst team in the NBA and still coming out with over 17,000 people a night, and I do believe that we’ll see similar results this year so the fans understand what we’re doing. I do believe that they like the way that we are developing this team for the future to consistently win over a long period of time and they’re continuing to invest in the product.”
The Magic opened this season with some of the same concepts as last season, and that simply to get better in everything they do, every day.
“We’re expecting to win as many as we can,” said Hennigan. “We said last year that we’re going to try to win every game and that’s what we’re going to try and do this year and compete. That’s the name of the game: is to compete with consistency and intensity, and our goal is to do just that, every practice, every game.”
Given how young the Magic’s core is, and that this is really the first full season together, everyone around the team struggled to peg how improved this Magic team can really be.
“I’m not sure,” said Hennigan. “I think it depends on how you look at it, but I certainly think that habits can get better, the approach can get tighter, the consistency can get more solidified, so I think the gains you can make are in areas that may not make a big splash, but are areas that collectively you know that by the time that you get to the end of the season, you feel good about the incremental gains that have been made.”
As camp opens for the Magic the comments about the players in camp were pretty consistent from both Hennigan and Martins.
“They all want to be great players,” said Martins. “But they want to be a great team and they developed a camaraderie amongst themselves that is pretty special. They’re growing together, they want all the same things, they want to be able to ultimately win together, and that ‘it’ to me is the fact that chemistry has really started to develop. I think this was, in my opinion, a great year for chemistry, not just a great summer, and it really started with Jacque [Vaughn] and his approach and the way that he interacted with our players to develop them during the season last season, but amongst themselves, the chemistry really developed pretty significantly this summer and that’s the big ‘it’ for me is when you start to develop that kind of chemistry while developing your skill at the same time.”
The Magic begin two-a-day workouts in Orlando and will play their first pre-season game on October 9th in Jacksonville versus the new look New Orleans Pelicans.
We Want To Know:
Olshey Not Happy With Trade Talk: Trades and trade rumors are part of the sports business. As one executive said yesterday “You are either selling winning or the possibility of winning in the future.” For the Portland Trail Blazers neither concept applied last season and everyone around the team knew it.
Being trapped in the middle often leads to speculation and there was plenty of that this summer surrounding the Blazers.
Blazers’ GM Neil Olshey did an amazing job re-tooling the roster in Portland, but is growing annoyed at the constant questions about trade rumors and his best player, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge did a great job capturing the scene.
“Oh dear God, would you guys get over it?,” replied Olshey when asked about Aldridge. “How many — asked and answered. Thank you [to Chris Haynes], by the way. What else, guys?
“Show me a media report where LaMarcus Aldridge has said anything other than, ‘I hope the team improves, I’m excited about what we did, I want to get better and I want to win.’ Then we can have a conversation. Until then, let’s move on. OK? Is that possible.”
Olshey explained that he and Aldridge are on the same page and spent some time together this summer.
“LaMarcus and I went hunting and fishing and talked about Portland. Lord. I would avoid that one with him because you may not get as congenial of a response, because the redundancy of it is wearing on everybody a little bit.”
Not satisfied with Olshey’s answer, reporters pressed him a little more, saying the fans still had questions about Aldridge’s future in Portland.
“Why? Why do they? What have they read that has indicated anything other, here’s Ben Golliver from Blazersedge, who basically copies and pastes every article that’s written about everybody about the Trail Blazers. Which he does and it’s great.
“And the entire string that Ben showed, right, the entire string around LaMarcus, other than one, said, ‘I want to get better. I want to win. I want to be on a playoff team. I don’t want to go through a rebuild.’ Right? ‘I like what we did this offseason. I haven’t given Neil a chance yet. I like what we did. I like the additions. I’m excited about coming back. I never asked for a trade.’ Every one of them. So I don’t know where you’re getting this from? Where? Where are you getting this from? Guys, move on.
“Look, if LA wasn’t happy, he wouldn’t be here. He’s got a really good team around him, we’ve supported him with veterans. We’ve continued to do what we need to do in terms of bringing young talent in here. We’ve kept our long-term flexibility, we have the ability to aggregate our assets and put those into play, if it gets to that point, where we can put another star around him and Damian [Lillard] and some of the other guys.
“If there was an issue with LA, don’t you think somebody nationally would have gotten to this? He’s represented by the most powerful agency in the business. Don’t you think somebody nationally would have gotten something if the guy wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be in Portland?”
For Aldridge’s part he wasn’t nearly as annoyed and animated as his general manager.
“I’m good. Had a good offseason. Healthy. I feel good,” said Aldridge. “The team looks really good right now. Guys are ready to go.
“I’m here. I’m excited about the season. We’re looking good, I’m in great shape, I had a great offseason of getting my body ready to go, I’m healthy, I’m happy that I had a full offseason. I’m happy to be here, I’m here, and we’re going to win. That’s all I have to say about that.”
When pressed specifically about the trade rumors that suggested he wanted out of Portland, Aldridge tried to downplay the notion.
“I’m not going to get into all of that. I’m here, I’m happy,” said Aldridge. “I’m looking forward to this season. This team looks really good. We have a better bench, we have [Robin] Lopez, who is a true center. This year should be good for us.”
Aldridge had his own thoughts on the source of the rumors with his name on them came from.
“People that know me know that I never said any of those things,” said Aldridge. “All of my teammates that I’m close with, Wesley [Matthews], those guys called me, they knew it wasn’t true. It’s just the job. Whenever people think you’re unsatisfied, or things happen, they’re going to make up stories.”
Aldridge is under contract to the Blazers for two more seasons and is eligible for free agency in July of 2015.
Portland opens their training camp today and will play their first preseason game at home on October 7.
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