The Orlando Magic are not happy following a 1-5 road trip and a disappointing effort against the New Orleans Pelicans. This team is angry and frustrated.
The Orlando Magic set out on their six-game, 11-day road trip to the West Coast hoping to find themselves and begin the process of turning their season around. Instead, they return home 1-5 and quickly fading out of the Playoff race.
For some perspective, the Magic are 17-27 this season. Last year through 44 games, the Magic were 20-24, but losers of their past seven games. Orlando did not fall 10 games worse than .500 last year until March 18.
Maybe that means nothing as both teams faded completely out of the Playoff picture by mid-January. It feels like the story is very much the same. It is hard to argue whether this team is an improvement over last year.
This Magic team has lost seven of their past eight games and nine of their past 11. Orlando was struggling to keep its head above water before the road trip, but now the team has really fallen out of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Magic are 4.5 games out from that final spot, but going 24-14 to get back to .500 and climbing over several teams to secure that last spot seems like a long shot.
While the front office certainly may be planning the team’s long-term future, teams are only focused on the short term. And all the players can and should focus on is how to win the next game, trying to save this season. That is all a player can do.
And so the frustration was palpable even from reading the comments from the team following Wednesday’s 118-98 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
This road trip was supposed to help the team come together. Instead, it only further reinforced the team’s inconsistency and struggles to come together. And several players voiced some displeasure after Wednesday’s game (quotes from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and OrlandoMagic.com).
“I don’t think anybody is happy with where we are at,” Nikola Vucevic said. “We have to show up mad. But then show up mad. Be mad on the court. Mad doesn’t mean go out there and do dumb stuff. It’s playing the right way. Bring the effort, play mad, show some passion. You are supposed to do that if you play basketball. If you enjoy the game, it’s automatic. It’s never a question to do it.”
There is a certain amount of anger and frustration over the team’s lack of effort. And it has been slowly bubbling for a voice throughout this losing streak and seems to have boiled over now.
Nikola Vucevic said effort is all that matters right now defensively. It does not matter what schemes coach Frank Vogel puts in, the team simply is not executing its end of the deal. And even a modicum of consistent effort would improve this team dramatically.
For now, Vucevic is preaching for the team to keep things simple to get out of this rut. And that starts with effort.
Because Vucevic lobbied the ultimate insult on his team, claiming the Magic are playing no better than pick-up basketball right now. And everyone who has played pick-up knows how disorganized, disjointed and terrible that level of basketball.
“We’re just not playing hard enough, plain and simple,” Jeff Green said. “We need to make sure we leave it out there on the floor. There’s no excuses. We had only one back to back. We had days in between. We had chances to rest. There is no excuse for the way we’ve been playing. That’s not what we came here to do. We all want to win, but we’re all not giving an effort to win. That’s the result right there. We’re losing by 20. It’s embarrassing.
“There shouldn’t be any message. If you’re not mad by the next game, if you’re not going to come out and play hard, you shouldn’t be out there on the floor. If you are not going to be mad and upset with the way we’re playing, you shouldn’t be out on there on the floor.”
The always optimistic Vogel said the team has to keep believing in what they do. Nobody is happy with how the team played, but the team has to figure it out.
For Vogel, the Playoffs are still in reach and the team has to keep chipping away at it one win at a time.
Vogel is not one to criticize his team heavily in the media. His comments typically look forward to what the team has to do to fix problems rather than pointing blame.
The players clearly have taken some of that message. They are at least saying the right things in assessing their team and voicing their frustration following Wednesday’s game.
But Wednesday’s comments came with extra bite.
“We don’t play the right way,” Vucevic said. “We can play as hard as we want — as long as we keep playing like this, this is how it’s going to be. It’s hard for certain guys to keep giving effort when you don’t do the right things out there. We take bad shots. We play selfish. It’s embarrassing. We’ve been losing to everybody by 20. It’s bad, man.
“Last year, we were losing but we won 35 games and we lost 15 games we lost by less than three points. This year, we haven’t lost a game by less than 10 [the Magic have lost 11 of 27 games by 10 ports or less]. It’s just bad.”
The question is whether it will bring about any change.
The team has said many of these things before. Maybe not as pointed. And maybe the urgency has not increased.
They have heeded these warnings for a game or two before returning to poor play. The Magic’s season is hanging in the balance for sure. And it is unclear how far some anger will carry this team.