As every member of the Magic filed through media day -- whether it be the media scrum or OrlandoMagic.com's live broadcast of the media day -- the same message continued to come up.
Yes, the Dwight Howard saga was a bit of a distraction last year. But there is no ill will among his former teammates. Just because Dwight Howard is gone, does not mean the Magic are destined for losing. The expectation for this Magic team to win and win now reamins even without the superstar center anchoring the paint.
The Magic are not in a "woe-is-me" mentality. That is not the culture Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn want to build. This is still an organization that expects the best from its players every night, expects them to play hard and expects them to win.
And that is what the Magic expect from themselves too, as Arron Afflalo explains:
When you throw the term 'rebuilding' [around], it kind of implies as if you're almost willing to lose. And I don't think there's a guy in the locker room, management or on the coaching staff that is willing to lose.
No one within the Magic locker room or organization wants to use the "R" word. That may very well be what the Magic are actually undertaking as a franchise. They are not going to let a loser's mentality or a tanking mentality enter the locker room however (no matter how beneficial such a strategy might be). Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn both echoed that their team will compete hard every night.
That is all you can ask for from a team like this.
Outside observers see a Magic team that will sink to the bottom. All the way to the bottom, even below the Bobcats. That is a very realistic possibility. Outside the flowery talk and message the Magic hoped to portray on Media Day, sits a team that does not have a star player or a player who can consistently create offense. Not to mention a team that is full of inconsistent defenders.
The Stan Van Gundy-era Magic these are not. Fifty wins would be a miracle it seems. Orlando is likely to lose more games than it will win.
That is the view from the outside. Inside the team, the machinations are much different. These are competitive people. Many of these players are veterans who have been around the block in the NBA. Many of these players have spent the majority of their careers competing for NBA titles. Accepting losses is not in their DNA.
The overall talent may not be there, but that desire to win and that expectation to win remain. And that is more than enough reason to believe this Magic team will overachieve. Competing for a Playoff spot might be a bit optimistic, but you cannot blame the team for believing it as a possibility. These are all players with something to prove and the experience to know what it takes to achieve in this league.
This does not sound like your typical bottom of the league team. This sounds increasingly like your middle of the conference, just outside the Playoffs team. Maybe that is where Orlando wants to be... maybe it is not.
Whatever Hennigan's plan may be, the players that are on the Magic are expected to play hard and go out and compete regardless of their record. And the players, at least by their words on Media Day, are expecting the same things from themselves.
Images: Orlando Sentinel, US Presswire