When the Orlando Magic took on the San Antonio Spurs, they got front row seats to the premiere franchise in the NBA. Hopefully they were taking notes. But before Orlando can emulate the Spurs’ success, the Magic must follow their lead and instill a culture of loyalty within the organization.
Everyone assumes that the Magic are following the Oklahoma City blueprint for building a team because they are focused on obtaining and developing high draft picks while forgoing free agency. But that is only part of managements’ vision. For the other half of the plan, look no further than last night’s opponent, the San Antonio Spurs.
It’s clear that the Magic value the impressive Spurs’ operation. They hired coach Jacque Vaughn out of San Antonio, but that admiration extends beyond X’s & O’s. Greg Popovich is a great coach, but he has been supported by an excellent front office. No one has been better than San Antonio at finding under the radar talent, and no one has been better at keeping that talent at home. They draft superstars, and then convince them to stay.
It’s easy to forget, but when Tim Duncan first entered free agency, he was seriously considering following Grant Hill to Orlando. San Antonio convinced him to re-sign, and the rest is history. Orlando has never been able to convince their homegrown talent to commit to Orlando long term. Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Dwight Howard, and even Tracy McGrady (who wasn’t drafted in Orlando) have left the team in their taillights.
GM Rob Hennigan and Vaughn consistently talk about finding high-character players with the right attitude. That is a code word for loyalty. A player can be a saint in the community, but if he leaves after four years, he is going to be considered a failure in Orlando. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker aren’t saints, but they’ve earned the respect of their organization, teammates, and community by sticking around.
San Antonio has overcome the obstacle of a small market to both retain and attract free agents. The key is winning. Having no state income tax and good weather helps, sure, but Orlando has those same exact advantages with the bonus of Disney World!
Do you think the Orlando Magic can create a culture of loyalty? Or is that something out of their control? Let us know in the comments section below! Want more Magic? Subscribe to our newsletter!