Reasonable people can differ as to whether the Orlando Magic fielded the worst team in the NBA last season. On one hand, they finished with a record of 20-62, which gave them the lowest winning percentage in the league; on the other, they scored more points per possession and allowed fewer (if only barely) than the also-awful Charlotte Bobcats, despite winning one fewer game than the soon-to-be-Hornets. Either way, though, I think we all can agree that Orlando was pretty bad.
What's more, while there are a number of intriguing talents on hand in Central Florida — young frontcourt players Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn and Romero Osby, plus rising sophomore guard Doron Lamb and No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo — they're probably going to be pretty bad again this year. Yes, young players develop and improve, but they also tend to be unreliable when it comes to defense and execution; Orlando also might really struggle to space the floor if returning veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo keep shooting like they did last year. So, yes: While the Magic will likely be better this season, they'll probably still rank among the worst teams in the league.
But while just about everybody knows and understands that — this, after all, is what happens when you lose your franchise cornerstone and completely overhaul your organization's decision-making apparatus, both on the court and off it — you can't really just say that. Even if the slow-and-steady rebuild is the preferred plan and that's clear to everyone, even the veterans in the mix, you have to offer some sort of spin.
So when Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan and Magic team website reporter John Denton sat down for a question-and-answer session/slideshow about the state of the organization and what to expect in the season ahead, they seemed to search for ways to soften the landing of the "It's going to be a long season" message. Here are my 12 favorite:
1. Denton: "Your roster appears to be chock-full of talented young players."
(READ: Two of your three most seasoned veterans are Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price.)
2. Hennigan: "We view our players, all of them to a man, as guys who can still get a lot better."
(READ: We hope they get a lot better.)
3. Hennigan: "We certainly have high hopes for our young guys."
(READ: No, seriously: We're really banking on this.)
4. Denton: "With the team still in somewhat of a growing phase"
(READ: We are basically a baby, and not even all that big a baby, which is kind of ironic, considering.)
5. Hennigan: "a lot will be based on attitude, approach, effort and consistency"
(READ: We're already batting around designs for Full Participation, Team Spirit and Perfect Attendance awards.)
6. Hennigan: "Going through a transition period and a building phase like this, it’s not for the faint of heart."
(READ: Consult your physician before attempting to make it through multiple Ronnie Price/E'Twaun Moore stretches.)
7. Hennigan: "You look at players and you look at the game, but we try to look at it a little differently."
(READ: We kind of have to.)
8. Denton: "In Jacque Vaughn, you have a head coach who is about teaching, consistency and patience"
(READ: He kind of has to be.)
9. Denton: "Your stated mission is that you want to build a sustainable winner in Orlando, and you are well aware that it will take time to do that."
(READ: Seriously, fans, just stick with us.)
10. Hennigan: "It’s a challenge in real time"
(READ: If you DVR and fast-forward through our games, it will become a more pleasant experience.)
11. Denton: "[...] do you ever close your eyes and think ahead to a time when Nik, Mo, Tobias and Victor are deeper into their careers and in their primes?"
(READ: It's just about all we can do at this point.)
12. Hennigan: "We’re excited about their futures."
As well Hennigan, Vaughn and the Magic's fans should be. I wouldn't blame them if they weren't super excited about the present, though.