Frank Vogel believes basketball gods will reward Orlando Magic’s effort

Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel reacts in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Nets won 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel reacts in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. The Nets won 121-111. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel offered no apologies for lowering the team’s Lottery odds. He trusts the team’s effort will be rewarded.

The final game of the season carried with it a fair amount of stress. The Orlando Magic playing “meaningful games” was not quite finished.

This game did not have the meaning the Magic hoped for at the beginning of the season. But it had meaning, nonetheless. The kind of meaning the team did not care about.

The Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers entered the final game of the season tied with 28 wins. A tie would have meant the fourth and fifth spots in the Lottery would be determined by a coin flip, the teams splitting the 207 lottery combinations, the coin flip determining who gets the first 104.

If the teams did not have the same result, then the split becomes much starker. The fifth place team gets only 88 of those 207 lottery combinations, the fourth place team 109.

The Philadelphia 76ers led the New York Knicks for much of the evening as the Orlando Magic seemed poised to run away from the Detroit Pistons. Both games got considerably tighter down the stretch.

And as the Magic made the plays to win that final game, the 76ers fell off. Maurice Ndour ended up hitting the game-winner, giving the 76ers the fourth best Lottery odds.

As had been the case for much of the final games this season, fans were cheering for losses to improve the Magic’s draft lottery positioning. They were not wrong. This is the kind of draft a team would want more chances at winning the Draft Lottery.

But coach Frank Vogel was not having any of it. He was dutifully trying to win games. He spent the last part of the season talking about laying the seeds for the team’s culture and what they want to be. Losing is not part of that equation.

Vogel’s approach was the simplistic one — do your job, win some games and let the ping pong balls fall where they may.

"“Fifth and sixth is not a big difference especially in this year’s draft,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily after the team’s final game. “It’s a deep draft. You have to compete to win. I believe in that. Karma is something that I can’t really say. But I believe in the basketball gods and caring about the right things and doing the right things. That stuff gets rewarded. We competed to win every year in Indiana, and we ended up with Paul George and Myles Turner at 10 and 11. The Boston Celtics years ago competed to lose to get Tim Duncan and they didn’t get Tim Duncan. I believe in trying to build a winning culture is the most important thing for us.”"

Vogel has firsthand experience.

Vogel was an assistant coach when the Indiana Pacers when they went 32-50 in 2010 and were at the low point of a four-year Playoff drought. They finished with the 10th pick and landed Paul George.

The only year Vogel missed the Playoffs in 2015 with 38 wins, the team landed the 11th pick and selected Myles Turner.

Shrewd drafting was just as important as Lottery position and the Pacers landed themselves back in the Playoffs quickly. That lone year the team missed the Playoffs, the team missed it by one game. The Pacers were rewarded for trying to win late in the season.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

As team CEO Alex Martins might say, the Pacers made their own luck.

Conversely, Vogel was a video coordinator with the Celtics just after they tried to tank their way into drafting Tim Duncan. The Celtics went 15-67 to get the top lottery odds in the 1997 Draft. They ended up with the third pick, selecting Chauncey Billups.

Tanking does not always pay off.

Call it karma or whatever, the reality is the Lottery is random. The Magic have won the Lottery with the best odds to win it and the worst odds to win it. No coach is going to rely wholly on it.

That is not Vogel’s job to worry about it. Especially with the organization seemingly in flux.

Throughout exit interviews last week, the Magic made it clear they are not planning another long-term rebuild. The draft pick — wherever it lands — is only a piece to a larger puzzle.

No one is under any disillusion the Magic are close. They might be closer than they appeared during the 29-win season, but the team still needs some major improvements.

"“We’ve got to close the gap,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily. “I don’t know if I would say we’re not that far away. We still have work to do. We’ve still got to get a lot better with the guys we have. And we still have to add some pieces. It’s not an easy quick fix. You look at all the teams who have been rebuilding over the last few years with young players, most of them are still struggling. It’s tough to win right away with the one-and-done guys. Hopefully, we developed our youngs guys a little bit this year and gave them a little bit more confidence. That bodes well for us going into next year."

It will take more than one draft pick to fix things as quickly as the Magic seem to want. And a higher pick would help speed that process up more than a lower one.

The approach Vogel took was to believe he will need the players on this roster to develop to get the team where it needs to go next year. That was about all he could control.

Next: What Went Right: Frank Vogel

Let the chips fall where they may now. And trust the basketball gods will abide.