Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Volume 34: The one where the Orlando Magic make the playoffs

The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder are playing very similarly to start the season. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Jeff Weltman, John Hammond, Orlando Magic
ORLANDO, FL – NOVEMBER 17: Jeff Weltman and John Hammond of the Orlando Magic during practice on November 17, 2017 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

From Stephen Keller via e-mail

"I’m curious if you’ve dug into Jeff Weltman’s philosophy?  I’ve heard him say that he doesn’t use certain buzzwords like “culture” and “identity” but he’s more focused on the desired behaviors and steps necessary to achieve desired results.  Have you heard him explain more about this philosophy or know where he got these ideas from?  I know there was Harvard business review article talking about the word “culture” as overused.  I know some of the tv announcers have used the word, Jeff Turner seemed to know when he said it that it was opposed to Jeff Weltman’s ideals.  This approach of Weltman’s fascinates me and I’d like to know more about it if you know anything.  Seems like Jeff’s approach is a big part of the team’s success."

This is certainly a really fair and interesting question to ask. The term “culture” and “identity” has become something of a short-hand for an abstract concept. And its overuse — both in the corporate/business sense and the sports/team sense — has rendered the word perhaps a bit meaningless.

I think Jeff Weltman likes to avoid using this word because of its connotation with rebuilding, tanking and the Philadelphia 76ers (not that there was anything wrong with how they built their team). It is a word that has meaning, but not one that anyone is going to define pretty clearly.

It is sort of like that Supreme Court case — you may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see it.

Whether Weltman wants to admit it or not, there is something he looks for in a player and how he builds a team — both on and off the court. And that is what “culture” gets to the heart at. What is the common bond between everyone on the team that keeps them working toward a common goal? What is the common thread?

On the court, at least, it is clear what kind of players he likes and seeks out. He loves players with physical length and versatility. This is more the strategic wing (pun!) of his strategy. It has become something of a joke, but everyone is seeing what kind of impact it can have on the court right now.

The larger organizational philosophy has to do with the people they bring in. Weltman often talks about that aspect when they acquire players. He often says they are more interested in learning about their new player the person rather than the player. Seeing how a guy plays is the easy part — there is lots of tape on that.

Looking at the kind of guys Weltman has valued, they are hard-working grinders who value winning and have a bit of a chip on their shoulder. This team really came together because so many of the players shared those traits. And that is what helps a team overachieve like this team did.

Weltman should get a lot of credit too for hiring guys with similar backgrounds behind the scenes. Steve Clifford obviously is a big factor with the on-court productivity. But even someone like high performance director David Tenney and the medical training staff they have hired have played a role.

A big part of what has changed with the basketball operations is that it feels like a more collaborative and open group. Their communication across departments seems a lot more streamlined. And there is a trust between players, coaches, management and medical staff that everyone is in it for each other.

Does this establish a culture of sorts? I think the proof of that will come if they can carry over this success to next year.

But you know it when you see it, I guess.