NBA AM: The Orlando Magic Plan To Win Now
A Winning Culture: The assumption in NBA circles is the Orlando Magic are going to tank the 2012-2013 season. The belief is that landing a top-tier draft pick is inevitably the goal and that the Magic will, at some point before the February 21dst trade deadline, trade off as much long-term salary as they can to prepare for a massive rebuild.
Yesterday Magic general manager Rob Hennigan took issue with that idea, saying that his club is trying try to instill a winning mentality and culture in Orlando and that sacrificing wins would be counterproductive to that concept.
“I think it’s about creating a mindset and a mentality,” explained Hennigan. “We talked to our guys about coming in, being professional. Help instill the culture that we want to instill and we are going to try to win every game. We are going to try to win every possession and I think as soon as you try to do anything but try to do that, you run the risk of creating an atmosphere you don’t want to create.
“It starts with being consistent. Consistent in everything that we do, whether its practice, games, preparing for shoot around , how you are getting out the car every day. Just really trying to preach consistency and attention to detail.
“Winning is important. We are in this to win, we are going to do everything we can to do that.”
There is no doubting that this year’s Magic team is going to take some steps backwards and that’s not lost on Hennigan either.
“I’m not sure patience is the key word, its opportunity,” said Hennigan. “Trying to make sure we identify opportunities that exist, maybe trying to create some of our own, but I think making sure that any decision we make, stays in line with the future that we want to create here.”
The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder use a similar mindset in explaining their roster moves, that everything they do has to line up to the culture they are trying to create, and it seems Hennigan is using the same playbook for the Magic.
“We are really excited about the season, excited about the opportunity and you know we wanted to create some flexibility and create some players that we can build around and we are excited to get started,” said Hennigan
There was a noticeably different attitude around the Magic yesterday, as the franchise embarks on its season without Dwight Howard, when asked how that would impact the win loss column, Hennigan was clear that Orlando couldn’t replace Dwight with a single player, that it would going to take a team effort to replace what Orlando got from a single roster spot.
“I think it is a team mentality,” said Hennigan. “It’s going to take every man on the roster to contribute and that’s part of the environment we want to create here: every guy playing for each other, playing with each other. It’s going to be a situation where not one person is going to define who we are, not one player is going to define whether we win or we lose, it’s going to be a team effort all the way around.”
The Magic officially open training camp today with two-a-day practice sessions, but like most NBA teams the Magic have been running informal workouts for several weeks, so it will be about fine tuning concepts and installing systems.
The Magic will play their first preseason game on Oct. 7 in Mexico City before returning to Orlando for their first home preseason game versus the 76ers on Oct. 11.
The message from Orlando yesterday was that the team is not about to sacrifice a winning mentality for some future development goals. It will be interesting to see how much they stick to that company line.
Harden Will Extend: According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Thunder guard James Harden had a message for anyone doubting his future in Oklahoma City. He plans to sign a contract extension before the October 31st deadline to reach an extension of his rookie-scale contract.
“I’m not too worried about it,” Harden said to gathered media yesterday in Oklahoma City. “I know. I have confidence in my agent and the organization to get it done. They know how important it is, so I’m sure it will be done.
“Like I said, I’m not really worried about that. I’m not focused on it. I’ll let my agent and Sam figure that out, all those numbers and things like that. I’m really just focused on hooping; hooping and bettering myself … as a basketball player.”
The Thunder and Harden’s camp have spent the summer talking about an extension, which most expect to clock in north of $12 million per season. Such a deal would push the Thunder well into the luxury tax next season when the new Collective Bargaining Agreemeent would kick in, leading many to speculate that the Thunder might opt to let Harden become a restricted free agent in hopes of the market lowering the price or reduce the length of the deal.
“They’re discussing that,” Harden said. “I let them deal with the contract situation. My focus is on playing basketball. Everything will figure itself out eventually. But right now, training camp is starting. I think everybody is excited to be here and just enjoy each other’s company. We really missed each other.”
The burning question surrounding a Harden extension is whether he’s take a few less dollars to stay in OKC and whether he’d be comfortable sacrificing the chance to be his own star on another team or remain the third guy behind Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Harden said he has no problem sacrificing, that’s why it has worked so well in OKC.
“Oh yeah. Sacrifice,” Harden said. “I think everybody on this team has sacrificed in their own way, just for the betterment of the team. That’s why we’re so close as well. Like I said, everything will work itself out eventually.”
Harden is eligible for an extension up to the NBA maximum of roughly $14.5 million. There is some belief that teams like the Orlando Magic or Atlanta Hawks would make a max level offer to Harden if the Thunder allow him to test free agency next July.
Sources close to the situation say the Thunder do not have an issue paying luxury tax to keep this team together and that Thunder general manager Sam Presti has the green light to do whatever deal he feels is in the best interest of the team.
The Thunder have $68.5 million in salary commitments this year and are on the hook for $61.32 million next season. The Thunder still hold their one-time amnesty cut and its assumed that if the Thunder and Harden reach a deal on an extension that Kendrick Perkins and his remaining two years and $18 million would be cut using that provision.
Presti has been clear that one thing is not immediately related to the other, but it’s hard to imagine the Thunder paying massive luxury tax especially when the new graduated tax system kicks in next year.
Harden was adamant yesterday that he and the Thunder will reach a deal, what happens after that is still very much up in the air.
Blair Wants To Stay: There were trade talks in and around the NBA Draft in June surrounding San Antonio Spurs big man DeJuan Blair. Those talks surfaced again throughout the summer. For Blair, his final contract year could be his final year with the Spurs.
“I’ve been working hard trying to come into training camp in the best shape possible,” Blair said to HOOPSWORLD. “Still have a little bit more working out to do but I’m where I want to be right now. I just have to keep going even harder.
“I got to go and try to figure out what this team wants from me and needs from me. I have to use that as fuel to start my engine and just keep going. But right now I’m just worried about my body and getting ready for training camp.”
There were deals on the table for Blair that could have moved him this past summer, but the Spurs opted to hang onto him.
As Blair enters his final year, there seems to be the inevitability that he’ll be moved at some point before the trade deadline. Blair says he is just trying to be ready and contribute. Time will tell if he’ll have a bigger role this season.
Kyle O’Quinn Is Ready: Magic big man Kyle O’Quinn sounds more like a sage veteran when he talks about his first season in the NBA. O’Quinn was a standout in Summer League; he hopes that he can bring some of that success into his first NBA season.
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