The Magic have started fairly well. On Magic Basketball, Danny Nowell is noticing something important: The quality on this roster is homegrown, nurtured by Stan Van Gundy. Which is great, until you consider ownership's conviction that free agency is the path to greatness.
Put simply: the players giving the Magic a prayer right now are players developed by Stan Van Gundy and the Magic organization, while the players who seem stuck in molasses are endemic of the strategy the team has pursued the past two seasons and has said it will pursue in the future. If the Magic continue to devote resources to veteran retreads who don’t fit their team, then the fresh legs and minds which might otherwise have weathered the upcoming fatigue will fail just the same.
It isn’t simply that the team has been most effective when showcasing its homegrown players, it’s that the manner in which it’s succeeding shows that there are some players on this roster who show an IQ and an identity that has been wanting. I hate to overuse the term “identity,” but the difference between Redick’s game and Jason Richardson’s is night and day, and it’s the difference between a player who has grown into a role and system and a player imported to bring a perceived skill set to the table. Redick was brought along to play for the Magic; Richardson was acquired to bring Jason Richardson TO the Magic. It’s a subtle but important difference, and it’s why the Magic have recently strayed from their success. Even the players who weren’t drafted by the Magic, like Jameer Nelson or Hedo, are players that have been in Van Gundy’s system for years and have learned to maximize their strengths within a recognizable context.
What this means is that the best way for the Magic to fight the physical fatigue of the season and the emotional fatigue that will surely come from the media attention is to reverse course and rededicate itself to its own organization and development. We’ve been saying this for a while now, that the front office has been butchering the team and that the players being acquired are poor fits, but it’s no longer conjectural. When the Magic have played their best this year, it has been the product of players schooled in Orlando’s system filling their roles. It has led to a 4-2 record, and while the Magic haven’t played any worldbeaters, if Hedo creates like he did down the stretch in Charlotte, and if Jameer can pinball around the lane like he did in Oklahoma City, then the new contributions from system players like Anderson and Redick will restore some shine to this team while having the added benefit of getting young legs on the floor.
The alternative, of course, is for the team to stay its present course and to allow the aging, less disciplined members of the roster dictate the future. I know that the DeVos family have stated time and again their desire to bring in players who will win right now, but the team is simultaneously showing the dangers of that approach and the benefits of patience.