Jacque Vaughn is on to something when you listen to his pre- and post game interviews over the past few months. Jacque refuses to use the term 'rebuilding'. Same goes with the Magic players. It's a word used in article titles constantly spotted throughout print and internet blogging outlets. 'Rebuilding' to me means everything from last season's 'Dwightmare' apocalyptic demise should be completely negated, criticized, and erased from our memories. That we ought to forget all the positives we saw last season out of Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ish Smith (they exist, I swear). That's why I'm not a fan of the utilization of 'rebuilding' to be correlated in any way with the current state of this Orlando franchise. There's too much veteran pride and talent to believe that malarkey.
When Big Baby says "I suck" and 'we need to do better', or other leaders such as Redick and Nelson are intricately describing this roster's early faults and failures in these first 10 losses, it means the veterans believe in themselves to go out on that parquet floor and make up for bad performances. When Arron Afflalo chats about accountability by each and every player, he's not excluding himself. This roster is not accepting moral victories, nor are they diverting tough questions about inconsistencies and inabilities to stay in certain games. To find a way to adapt to slow starts or when getting out-muscled in the paint.
The 7-10 Magic face the Utah Jazz tonight as they hit the midway point of this 5-game West Coast swing. I believe 17 games is a decent enough sample size to safely decide that this Orlando squad is a lot better than their 16-victory and 22-win (Sorry Evan, I'm picking on you) predictors initially gave them credit for. Here are some 'winning' statistics for anyone hopeful of this Jacque Vaughn Orlando side being a playoff contender:
- The Magic are 7-7 when you remove the 3 losses to Brooklyn.
- 6-4 with Jameer Nelson and 1-6 without 'Mighty Mite'.
- 3-0 when more combined blocks & steals are tallied than turnovers.
- 5-1 when Nik Vucevic records 2+ blocks in a contest.
- 4-0 when Glen Davis scores 20+ points.
- 3-0 when Josh McRoberts records 3 or more assists.
- 5-1 when J.J. Redick shoots 40% or better from 3-point range.
Big Baby's offensive arsenal is shudder-inducing at times, but clearly Coach Vaughn needs to rely on his go-to big man to score. Also, an aggressive 'Vucci Mane' is a great enough player to decently cover up Dwight's vacancy. It's redundantly obvious, but a defensively active as well as unselfishly offensive Magic squad is what is most desired for victories to continue racking up. Six players averaging double digit points is evident of ball sharing.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a new beginning. Every season the reset button gets pressed on win-loss records and postseason accomplishments. Two-thirds of this Magic roster is completely different. That's a fact. Orlando has lost Dwight Howard, along with his oblivious nature and flatulence. The Magic have a completely brand spanking new coaching staff and scouting department. Then there's Rob Hennigan who is a long win streak away already from being dubbed a messiah of the Magic General Manager position. 'Henny' has his own unique cabinet of advisers that cover up any 'inexperience' issues.
The only consistency in relation to the Magic organization appears to be the previously 5 mentioned players from the 2011-2012 campaign, renewed season ticket holders, cheerleaders, training staff, PA Announcer Paul Porter, PR folks, arena vendors, media members, and the broadcasters. Even the replaced 'Stuff' mascot has a year under his belt.
Is it a new beginning? You bet. Are there 7-8 rookies and sophomores on this roster that need an abundance of development? Uh huh. Is Orlando attempting to 'build' a winning mentality from scratch? Of course. It’s that ‘re’ part of 'building' Magic fans should ignore. It's a fabulous luxury to be able to win while still developing and molding your raw and youthful talent. We're all fully aware and expectant of Hennigan making some salary cap influenced deals as the season progresses.
It's Rob's job to make this franchise free agency 'buyers' by the summer of 2014. What's a fantastic way to boost the trade value of guys like Josh McRoberts? Winning. That and health, which is why Hennigan is at the top of the list of people who want to see Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington get back onto the court. Not every Magic mainstay will be shipped out during this upcoming 'transactions'. Jacque will still go out there and try to win every game possible. Vaughn wasn't hired to happily develop grow talent, or get pushed around by veterans, while being accepting of embarrassing losses.
Let's for a moment imagine this: What happens if the Magic get into the playoff hunt and remain there? What if my 39-win prediction is feasible? It'd be a pleasant dilemma to be in for those who don't believe in 'tanking'. Yes, I'm point at myself with a big grin on my face. At this moment, Orlando is playing very entertaining and fundamental basketball that is catching the eyes of the Orlando community along with the rest of the league-viewing public. Can someone rationally be angry about the Magic not purposely throwing games, or Orlando not being in favor of trying to get in 'prime position' of obtaining some unknown Draft Lottery talent? Get a clue and enjoy this actual 'team'.