The Magic are unabashedly following the Spurs and Thunder model for rebuilding their organization. Several members of the Magic organization came directly from the Spurs and their family tree, including head coach Jacque Vaughn. So there will now, at least with this management in place, be a tie between the Magic and the perennially successful Spurs.
As things stand today, Orlando is at the beginning of the rebuild. So the hope of matching San Antonio on the court on a nightly basis is not going to happen (yet). Ther eis a big gap between the Spurs and the Magic.
But, like the Thunder, the Magic get their up-close look at the team they are trying to model and it feels like a family reunion of sorts. There is a long way to go before the Magic can sit at the adult table. We will just have to see whether Rob Hennigan can get those Spurs roots to plant.
With the Magic finishing off their season series with the Spurs tonight, Project Spurs reached out to me to do a quick gameday preview. They returned the favor with Project Spurs' Jose Grijalva answering a few of my questions ahead of the game this evening:
Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily: It always seems like when the Spurs have an injury to one of their key players, someone is always there to step up. What is it about the way Gregg Popovich prepares his team and the way the team identifies players that enables them to always do this?
Jose Grijalva, Project Spurs: The system is what gives the players a chance, especially this season. This team is so versatile with various players being able to handle the ball, shoot the long ball, and pass it to open teammates. With almost every player on the main rotation being able to do these three things, it helps exploit a match that's in their favor and it's easy with a team with no egos getting in the way. The best example was the game against the Miami Heat when Pop sent the stars home and the role players played the same way they would have (role wise) without the superstars.
PRR: How important is it for the Spurs to get home court advantage in this year's Playoffs?
Jose: I think it's pretty important to have homecourt in the Finals, especially the Miami Heat. The Spurs' four NBA championships have come with homecourt in June while they were a lower seed in the West playoffs. It's pretty hard to imagine the Spurs with a team full of young players having to go into Miami against two of the top players in the league and perform at a high level in the NBA's big stage. The home crowd is a better environment for them, but in the end it has to be health even if they were relatively healthy last season. Homecourt is important, but health is the most important.
PRR: The Magic are still in the early stages (and lack any foundational building blocks), but what similarities do you see between the Magic and the Spurs organizations at this point? Do you feel Orlando is on the right path (so far) to being a San Antonio-type franchise?
Jose: I do see Orlando as a San Antonio franchise and they're doing it in the right way over others who've tried it before them. Teams who tried to build a San Antonio Spurs type team like Cleveland and Mike Brown have faltered mainly because they tried to duplicate the exact team and schemes.
Jacque Vaughn has been doing an excellent job by putting his players in situations they can succeed in with their talents over trying to duplicate Pop's exact system. There's a difference between using Pop's philosophies and trying to copy exactly what he has done with his players. Vaughn's coaching like Pop instead of trying to be Pop and it's paying off.
PRR: What do the Magic have to do to score a win against the Spurs? Do you give them any chance tonight?
Jose: Orlando has to keep in constant movement and using their youth to their advantage. San Antonio is a very good defensive team, but they've been getting killed with screen and rolls mixed with motion on offense that moves the help. If Jameer Nelson is still hurt, it'll be more difficult to do that with Beno Udrih manning the offense and Pop knows how to handle him by knowing the kind of game he has mentality since he was Spur.
If the Magic can hit the outside shot and open up the paint, they have a good shot at beating the Spurs. San Antonio's been struggling lately, so it wouldn't be surprising for the Magic to give them a scare tonight.
PRR: Many thanks to Jose for taking the time. Check out the great Spurs coverage over at Project Spurs! Game is at 8:30 p.m. tonight.