Magic invested in young core headed into offseason
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Three seasons removed from overhauling their front office, coaching staff and roster, this was supposed to be the year the Orlando Magic began playing in meaningful basketball games by season's end.
Instead the Magic entered the offseason Thursday with almost as many unknowns as they had three years ago.
Orlando did improve, winning 25 games after notching just 23 and 20 victories in its first two seasons under coach Jacque Vaughn. Ten of this year's wins came under James Borrego, who became interim coach following Vaughn's dismissal in February following a 10-game skid.
They also saw flashes of their potential when they began starting a backcourt featuring two of their most recent lottery picks in second-year guard Victor Oladipo and rookie point guard Elfrid Payton. That opened up the court for center Nik Vucevic, who had his best scoring average as a pro.
It also can't be discounted that injuries to free agent pickup Channing Frye, rookie Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier did stunt the growth of a team that was hoping to see fruit by pairing its young core with some veteran pieces.
The question is how much tweaking general manager Rob Hennigan thinks needs to be made to make this team into a playoff contender.
''Our focus is on getting better. We want to be a playoff team. We're not trying to be a lottery team - that's counter to our goals,'' Hennigan said. ''This season has been frustrating. It has, I think if you ask our players, our coaches, myself- we expect more. We're also realistic about how young we are...We think with their development and some pieces added here and there we will start to turn this thing.''
Regarding the coaching search, Hennigan wouldn't offer a timetable or the criteria he's looking for, but said Borrego would be interviewed.
Oladipo said he likes the youthful core that exists and that nearly spearheaded what was nearly the Magic's first four-game winning streak since 2012.
''I feel like we have tools to get better,'' Oladipo said. ''It's gonna be fun. I'm looking forward to that...I think me and (Payton) are gonna have to be the catalysts. We have to be the leaders of this group.''
Perhaps most pressing task for Hennigan is what to do with fourth-year forward Tobias Harris. The team didn't extend Harris prior to this season and he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.
Harris averaged 17.1 points per game this season, just under his career-high. He also shot career bests from both the field (46.6) and 3-point line (36.4).
''I've said all along that we don't envision a scenario where Tobias isn't with us next season and we'll stay true to that,'' Hennigan said.
Harris characterized his season-ending meeting Thursday with Hennigan as being productive.
''Talk went good,'' Harris said. ''Only God knows what's next. I can't control the future. None of us can. I'll leave it up to management to decide what the overall plan is and go from there.
''We didn't really talk too much about (his contract), just about the season...He just told me not to worry about it and he's proud of the year I had.''
Harris brushed off the notion that it was in awkward being in a holding pattern of sorts, in which the Magic could wait to see what the outside market is like for him before extending an offer.
''Well, who said that they have to wait?'' said Harris, who acknowledged he doesn't know what the Magic will do.
''I'm just saying you have to look at all aspects,'' he said. ''I think it's a good position to be in. Like I said before, I trust in the Lord's plan for me and what's to happen next. But I can't sit here and tell you this is gonna happen or that's gonna happen, because I don't know.''
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