Defense, versatility and chemistry dominated the conversation Monday inside the Amway Center during the Orlando Magic’s Media Day.
“The first half of tomorrow’s practice will be focused solely around defense,” said coach Jacque Vaughn. Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris, Romero Osby, and Doron Lamb all expressed a new focus on improving their defense during their round of interviews. For a team still in the rebuilding stage, the offensive production is going to waiver from night to night. However, good defense is determined more by effort than skill. It’s the quickest way a bad team can improve. Vaughn has been preaching this from the beginning of his tenure and it sounds like his players are taking his message to heart.
GM Rob Hennigan has purposefully assembled this roster with players who can play multiple positions. Second overall pick Victor Oladipo is going to get substantial minutes at both the point and shooting guard positions during the preseason. The 20 year old Moe Harkless, who grew from 6’8″ to 6’9″ in the offseason, can play at both the two and the three, and Tobias Harris is going to get time playing at both forward positions. “I think the more versatile you can be, the better you are prepared for anything that gets thrown at you,” said Hennigan. “There’s only one position on the floor,” said coach Vaughn, “and probably that’s the center in today’s game.”
There’s still questions about what Orlando’s lineup will look like, but there doesn’t seem to be any question about the team’s chemistry coming into the season. Everyone across the board looks and sounds more comfortable about Orlando’s vision coming into the season.
There were a lot of firsts last year. First year for GM Rob Hennigan. First year as a head coach for Jacque Vaughn. Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless, Doron Lamb and Kyle O’Quinn were all rookies last year. Vucevic and Tobias both joined the Magic in only their second year in the league. So there was a whole lot of uncertainty going into last year. The organization was basically flying blind.
Last year’s adversity appears to have bonded a lot of these young guys who are essentially going through the same point of their career at the same time. A lot of the guys spent the summer together getting stronger in the weight room, working on their game, and just plain spending time around one another.
There wasn’t an air of championship aspirations in Orlando on Monday, but there was confidence behind every answer that just wasn’t there last October. The roster is buying into the process.