ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s no longer about rebuilding or improving for the Orlando Magic.
The expectations around the franchise are all about not just making the playoffs, but also putting together a run once they get there. Those are rather lofty goals for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012 when Dwight Howard was the focal point.
But no one within the franchise is the least shy about the bold expectations, especially not first-year coach Frank Vogel set to tip-off his training camp with Orlando on Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t be this way if I didn’t really believe in this team,” Vogel said during Monday’s media day at the Amway Center. “I don’t think you can fake that type of talk, that type of belief. I really believe this team has what it takes to make the playoffs and have success in the playoffs.”
The Magic, spearheaded by general manager Rob Hennigan, went through yet another remake of the roster this offseason in hopes of getting Orlando back into the postseason. It start with a shift in coaching when Scott Skiles surprising left after just one season and the defensive-minded Vogel was brought in after his contract wasn’t renewed in Indiana.
But the most notable differences will be on the floor.
Gone are some of the young guns like Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, who were supposed to be major pieces to the puzzle in getting the Magic back to the playoffs last season. Now Orlando has shifted to more of a blend of young talent and proven playoff veterans with the additions of Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green and Bismack Biyombo to improve the inside presence and add depth to the roster.
Just six players — Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja and C.J. Watson — remain from last season’s roster.
“Everyone is excited about the makeup of the team and the depth and versatility that we have,” said Hennigan, who saw his team make a double-digit improvement in wins to 35-47 last season but still failed to make a playoff appearance in Scott Skiles’ only season as the coach. “Now it’s on us to go out and prove that we can do it.”
Ibaka and Biyombo, the biggest offseason acquisitions, will not only give the Magic much needed rim protection and versatility in the front court but they also come with the understanding of what it takes to get to the playoffs and make a run.
Ibaka, who was acquired in a draft night trade with Oklahoma City, will see his role expanded from just being a defensive presence at the power forward to being looked to for more scoring and leadership than was the case in his seven seasons with the Thunder franchise.
“I am going to just show them how it’s supposed to get done,” Ibaka said. “Sometimes it’s not just to talk but to do it so they can follow it because I’ve been there before.
“So I am going to bring that to the table so that we can do it together.”
Biyombo was the big free agent get after an impressive Eastern Conference Finals with the Toronto Raptors against Cleveland. While limited offensively, He will be a huge defensive presence in the middle and a big-time offensive rebounder who will compete with Vucevic for minutes in the paint.
“I look forward to this opportunity,” Biyombo said. “I think it’s a challenge not just to me but to all of us as teammates. All of these new guys who are coming, we all have to find a way to do it.”
The returning players all seem excited about the new pieces and what they can potentially bring to the table, even if that means a reduced role.
“It feels different, a lot of new faces on this team,” said Vucevic, who could be coming off the bench after leading the team in scoring last season. “But I’m excited. We have a lot of new guys on this team, a lot of guys who can help us win. So I’m excited to get to work and see how that works out.”
Notes: As expected newly acquired shooting guard Jodie Meeks will not be available for a while after undergoing another surgery on his right foot to stabilize the fifth metatarasal, which was the same bone he fractured in the second game last season that sidelined him for the year with Detroit. … Vogel said forward Aaron Gordon rolled his ankle a couple of weeks and will be limited during the early part of training camp. … Guard C.J. Wilcox (wrist) was cleared for full participation Monday.