Magic officials enter offseason with confidence
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It's been two seasons since the Orlando Magic went through near-wholesale changes that included a franchise player's exit and bringing in a new general manager and coaching staff.
The two seasons since have produced just 20 and 23 victories, respectively, following Wednesday night's season finale.
While fans haven't seen a lot of positive on-court results yet, the new regime is hoping that it can remain patient entering what could the most pivotal offseason to date of the current rebuilding project.
''I think if you look back on the year, I think we made some positive strides. Strides in the right direction,'' Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said Thursday.
''I think clearly the win-loss record was not very good. We're all aware of that. We all know that has to improve. But I think there are some deeper layers to it, and I think that if you look at the way our guys competed consistently, I thought the spirit of the team was pretty good,'' he said.
That spirit, combined with solid seasons from No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Oladipo and third-year center Nik Vucevic, gives team officials even more confidence as they head into a summer highlighted by two lottery picks in June's draft, and lots of roster flexibility to potentially bring in veteran pieces as well.
As has been his style, Hennigan was short on specifics about what could happen in the coming months. But he reiterated that whatever happened, that it wouldn't be a deviation from the process he had in mind when he took the job.
''I think we'll continue to try to do our work to identify the best ways to improve the team,'' Hennigan said. ''And what we don't want to do is skip any steps. So I think we'll be methodical, we'll continue to be very strategic in how we add to the team, how we improve the team.''
''The draft is certainly one area to do that. I also think that we'll continue to be opportunistic in actively exploring what options exist in free agency and trades. So we're not bound to just one basket. We're looking for ways to improve all the way around,'' he said.
It's a mantra that has clearly trickled down to and is being fully embraced his head coach as well.
''I think there are more steps than just the win and loss column. You can prepare to win. There's also cultivating,'' Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ''It's similar to a garden. You have to cultivate, you have to feed it. You got to weed out some things. You got to fertilize it. So there's steps to making that garden grow.''
''And I think it's the same way in cultivating a winning culture,'' he said.
Orlando's current roster features just four players over the age of 25.
Point guard Jameer Nelson, who has spent his entire 10-year career in Orlando, is the Magic's longest-tenured player at age 32. He embraced a mentorship role with Oladipo this year, which Oladipo said was beneficial in helping him navigate through the ups and downs of a rookie season.
Still, there is uncertainty about whether Nelson will be a part of the rebuild next season. He is due $8 million in the final year of his contract in 2014-15, but the Magic would owe him only $2 million if he is waived by July 15.
Nelson acknowledged there have been internal conversations with team officials about his future with the team, but he declined to elaborate.
''I would be lying to you if I said I didn't (have talks),'' Nelson said. ''I did, but I'm not going to disclose that with you guys. I'll keep that internal. As I've always done in the past. Like I said before, it's the team's option. I would love to continue to play here and be here and see this thing turn around. I'll just keep my fingers crossed.''
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