There is a lot going on this season. A lot for Magic fans to digest and a lot of change that is coming throughout the entire franchise.
We are entering a new frame of thinking in this franchise's history. Or at least we hope so. The "please-me-now" culture that has pervaded the franchise and its decision making for the better part of two decades is changing with Rob Hennigan. That is the hope at least.
It is a plan that will take some buying into. And there will be bumps in the road.
Right now, it seems like the Magic have a plan to get back to a championship level. Executing it will be the trick. At the beginning of that path though, Magic fans generally like what they see. And even though Orlando seems destined to be under .500 for the first time in five years and likely under .400 for the first time in eight.
I can echo what Rob Hennigan told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, the response from Magic fans about the new direction of the team has been overwhelmingly positive. After the dirty divorce from Dwight Howard, Magic fans are ready for a team that is about each other without much of an eye toward individual goals. Those will undoubtedly comeback when the Magic return to a position to win.
Orlando fans are generally excited about where this team is headed and the banner under which they are flying.
"I've been blown away by the support and the passion of our fans," Hennigan said. "Everybody that I've been fortunate enough to speak with has been excited about the new direction and has been enthusiastic about the changes and the new opportunities that they will create for us."
Certainly it is easy to say that now. It is clear that Orlando is trying to restore some assets for the future and stockpile draft picks. The odd mix of veterans on this team give a somewhat confusing signal and may delay the process — but that is what happens when your superstar player specifies one or two teams he wants to play with, scaring off other trade suitors.
The Dwight Howard trade could have been build to keep Orlando in Playoff contention. That is clearly not the purpose — otherwise Andre Iguodala or Andrew Bynum would be on the team now — and the lack of really solid young players or high draft picks will delay the rebuilding process.
Still, it is difficult not to have at least some thoughts on what the Magic will immediately look like. The play on the floor will not be pretty all the time, but it seems that this team will not completely bottom out as others would suggest. That mix of veterans — such as Glen Davis, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo — may keep Orlando from really being at the bottom of the barrel.
In perhaps a true sign of the professionalism of this team and a recognition of what is in store for this team's future, J.J. Redick told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com that he believes this team will defy expectations:
"I truly believe, and I say this with sincerity, that we will be better than people expect.
"It's a different experience this year, not having Dwight. I've spent my whole career with Dwight and not seeing him is weird. But I like the team and I like the group that we've had while working out at Amway. There's a good spirit about our team and a real professionalism about our team. There's an excitement because we're new and full of energy. Guys have a lot to prove — whether it's young guys or vets — we all have something to prove."
Redick's future is very much in the air. As a young player on an expiring contract, Redick will be one of the more valuable trade pieces Orlando has to offer in the next step of the franchise's plans. Redick said he hopes to remain in Orlando long-term, but understands that business decisions may be made.
This gets us back to the central debate for the Magic for the next year or so. When will the Magic be in position to strike? Will they go for the Playoffs if they are in reach even if it is ahead of schedule?
Hennigan has to be patient to get the Magic back to where they need to go. But he also needs to execute and remain flexible if he does miss. It could be a long process to get back.
Alex Martins was quick to remind the media of the Magic's success in the last decade and how the team consistently competes for Playoff spots throughout its history. This is the old way of thinking — the mode that led to quick fixes rather than sustainable growth. Excuse me, if I feel the Magic have not quite turned a leaf on this thought process. All indications so far is that they have and will.
The real question is whether the fans will remain patient.
At 0-0, it is easy to feel optimistic about the future. Even before a season that looks like it will have less than 30 wins. The question is will fans be this excited when the team suffers a 10-game losing streak? Will they be able to suffer through another losing season that may have even less hope as Orlando gathers assets for the future.
If the opportunity comes to get better sooner, will that patience dry up? These questions are too hard to predict answers to at this point.
For now, the optimism is good. The Magic have a plan that everyone within the organization seems to be buying into. Even long-time players want to be part of the plan Orlando is proposing — even if they may not be here when it is ultimately realized. This is a good thing. It suggests that the optimism will be warranted further down the road.