Orlando Magic must make their own luck to overcome poor timing

Dec 5, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles yells at referees during the 1st quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Scott Skiles yells at referees during the 1st quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

With a full and strong coaching market this year, the Orlando Magic’s poor timing is on full display. Now they must make their own luck to move forward.

The news in coaching circles has been quite active. And quite surprising.

Two playoff coaches that seemed to have their teams overachieving are now out of jobs. The dismissals of Frank Vogel and Dave Joerger have sent some shockwaves through the NBA world. It seems no one is safe.

Those situations have a little more nuance involved with them. Vogel’s contract had expired and in some ways had run his course as a coach. The Indiana Pacers wanted to move in a new direction that Vogel was perhaps not best suited to adapt to despite his run and record of success. Joerger himself had tried to leave Memphis once before and seemed determined to do so again. A split, even if it was surprising, may not have been about on-court production.

Still, there is no doubt this has suddenly become one of the best coaching markets in recent memory. Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks just took jobs with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards. Now Vogel and Joerger are available. An up-and-coming coach like Ettore Messina has reportedly interviewed with the Sacramento Kings. David Blatt may not have gotten along with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but there is a reason he was brought in to lead a young team.

It feels like this year’s coaching market is so significantly better than last year’s market. Sure Thibodeau and Brooks were open for jobs, but they were not likely to take any that first year after getting fired with their ability to collect a paycheck without the salary getting offset. Not to mention who knows what their potential interest would be in the Magic.

A year ago, the candidates the Orlando Magic interviewed for the head coach job were Scott Skiles, Mike Woodson, Vinny Del Negro and Mark Jackson. That is not exactly a who’s who of coaching candidates. Now there seems to be a plethora of great choices.

There are plenty of those already in the Magic fan base who have suggested the Magic unceremoniously dump Scott Skiles to go after one of these big fish — even without any guarantee they could actually hire them. There is a lot of wanting more.

That is perhaps a byproduct of the general disappointment felt over the 2016 season. The team improved but did not seem to reach its full potential. The blame fell on the coach and his shortcomings rather than his successes.

Perhaps it is a sign of just how hungry the fan base is to see the team win. Four years is the longest anyone in Orlando has had to wait for a Playoff berth.

In a very real way, this is a patience Magic fans have never had to exhibit. The Magic have never gone more than four years in their 27-year history without making the playoffs. They have never gone this long without having an All Star. They went from Shaquille O’Neal to Anfernee Hardaway to Tracy McGrady to Dwight Howard in quick succession. There was no break.

There is a growing impatience over everything.

And Skiles and the suddenly open possibilities of this offseason’s coaching market is just the latest in a line of bad timing the Magic have had in this current rebuild.

The path the Magic have set upon is one of patience and slow building. But it also had its moments where it absolutely needed things to bounce the right way to be the true success. The Magic did not need to hit the Lottery twice like they did in the mid-1990s, but they needed to get one of the big prizes to make this whole thing work.

Instead, the Magic picked second in the worst Draft in recent memory — picking a really good player for that draft class in Victor Oladipo. That was the only time the Magic landed in the top three. In fact, in the past three drafts, the Magic have improved or matched their projected draft position just once — last year when they took Mario Hezonja.

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Jun 26, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Aaron Gordon (Arizona) is interviewed after being selected as the number four overall pick to the Orlando Magic in the 2014 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

There are plenty of decisions that could be second guessed. Perhaps the Magic took on too much of a project in taking Aaron Gordon over Julius Rnadle or Mario Hezonja over Justise Winslow. Perhaps the Magic could have cashed in an Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe just before he signed his new extension and inked in a potential star.

The opportunities to get a star and take that step has been few and far between.

The reality is after three years with three top-five pick, the Magic should be farther along. They should have that surefire star in place. The core should be locked in. Instead they are left wondering if Oladipo truly can be a star, they are still unsure what Aaron Gordon is and Mario Hezonja is still learning the NBA game off the bench.

Shift the timeline a year later? The No. 2 pick the year after Oladipo was Jabari Parker. The fourth pick a year after Aaron Gordon was Kristaps Porzingis.

Fate, luck and timing have a lot to do with a team’s success. The ping pong ball bounce the Magic’s way just once, and their fortunes and future have changed.

Orlando has largely played its hand correctly. It built its core, making the best pick available to them with some calculated risks to try to cash in on high upside. They have tried to stay patient and diligent, waiting for the right time to cash in or move on from assets.

The pieces have not fit exactly correctly. The Magic pushed its core to see if it could truly compete this past season and found that it could not. Then they created the flexibility to make a push for free agency.

The plan still remains the same — build a sustainable winning team. That takes patience. That takes striking when the time is right and not making a move for merely a short-term gain. The Magic are not going to sign a free agent just to sign a free agent. It remains about signing the right free agent.

Perhaps Rob Hennigan has not accomplished that — his big free agent signings to date are Channing Frye and C.J. Watson. But nothing he has done has put the Magic too far off the path or the expected progression.

Yes, that means the Magic have to really compete for the Playoffs in 2017. That pressure remains and exists.

This rebuild has suffered from some terrible timing. A clearer path does not exist. At a certain point, Hennigan may be forced to take a risk. A calculated risk, but a risk nonetheless. That time may come this summer.

Related Story: Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag: Decision time

There is no thinking of what could have been though or looking to possibilities that do not exist. There is only the opportunities as they present themselves.

The Magic will have an active summer and will try to make their own luck in some sense after striking out so many times in the Draft Lottery.

Yes, life would be easier if the Magic had that clear path. The coach with the sure future and the superstar draft pick in waiting.

It is time to move forward rather than think of what could have been.