Jacque Vaughn, Jameer Nelson, Rob Hennigan and several other players were coy about what the Magic's goals should be for the 2014 season. No matter how much prodding during Media Day on Monday at Amway Center, they were not ready to say the "P" word. Not out loud anyway.
Glen Davis was in his usually boisterous way.
"Most definitely," Davis said on the Magic's Playoff chances. "You look at the Bucks, they won 38 games. You can't sit here and tell me if I'm playing and we're all healthy — Arron is ehalthy and Jameer is healthy — that we can't win more than 38 games. I watched people talk about us and say we suck really bad. And no we don't.
"There is no question. If we can stay healthy, we can keep learning, we will have a chance at the end of the year to play in the postseason."
That is about as straight an answer as you can get from anyone with the Magic regarding the team's Playoff hopes.
Of course, the team is not focused on winning. They are focused on improving. That is what a team must do when it has a young core. Improvement and constant improvement are the goals for a team that considers itself to have a bright future ahead.
Judging by the work Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo put in throughout the summer, it seems certain that there will be some individual improvement. Those guys, among many others, were all in Orlando throughout the summer working out and trying to improve their bodies and their game. It is too early to tell what translated.
Losing is not in this team's DNA though and players are hungry to win — let alone, the coaching staff as Jacque Vaughn said he wants losing to continue to be unacceptable.
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"It is unacceptable. That stated, no one is at this level because they want to lose," Vaughn said. "We don't want people in our locker room who want to lose. That hasn't changed and it won't change. I want guys to take it hard and serious when we lose, but understand that there is a process to get to winning at the same time."
And that becomes the story of the season. Individual improvement and how the Magic continue through the process Rob Hennigan and the Magic began undertaking lats year. Vaughn said he will continue to throw his young players into the games and get them experience through the fire of competition in games.
That approach will not change this year. The Magic are still a young team with a lot of growing pains to get through. This is the time for optimism to be at its highest however.
Vaughn said he liked the overall approach his young players took to the offseason and he likes how the roster has a good mix of young players and older players. That experience will help each achieve their goals and help the team with its ultimate goal of getting better every day.
Most of the players on the roster are thinking with that long-term vision of getting better too:
"Our goal right now is to get better every day, to bond as a team, to develop and create an identity for ourselves and our team so we can move forward and hopefully make the Playoffs," Jameer Nelson said. "I have seen a lot of crazy things happen in this league, both good and bad. I can't predict the future, and I am not going to predict it now becuase I'd be lying to you."
Anything can happen will be something those fans who want to believe the team is closer than it would like to admit will grasp on to. Crazier things have happened.
For now, though, the Playoffs may be out of the team's mind. April is a long way away from now — let alone the February deadline or the long 82-game slog ahead. This simple goal for a young team stays true to the process Rob Hennigan outlined when he took over as general manager.
There is no skipping steps in this process. The Magic are still trying to grow and learn and make those changes work "between the lines."
"I think for us, we won't say and I won't say it's going to take this many games," Vaughn said. "This is our approach: What we will do each and every day is get better. We'll be a better team than we were last year. We will work extremely hard and where that leads, we'll see."