Everyone loves predictions before a season. You try and guess how many games the team will win. Will they make the playoffs? Can they win a title? What is a fair expectation? Who will be the star and what new player will stand out?
You want to guess how many wins the Orlando Magic will have this season, go ahead. As long as your guess doesn't begin with a 6 or 5 followed by another number, I am not going to argue. I do not think the Magic will win 49 games but maybe they can win 40. I hope they don't win less than 30 but I guess they can.
I always believe the journey of how you get to your record matters so guessing a number and reaching that number are two different things.
But the point of change for the Magic should be obvious. The team has won only 43 games in the last two seasons so the team needs to change its record. This is the third rebuild since the Dwight trade ten years ago. The team has one 40-win season in the last 11 years.
Change needs to happen when it comes to developing a franchise player because the team doesn't have one. With the current roster, two players appear to be candidates to slide into that spot. The two are Franz Wagner, coming off a strong rookie season and a busy basketball summer, and top pick Paolo Banchero. The team has not had a face of the team since Dwight.
A change in coaching? No. Jamahl Mosley is easy to root for and here's hoping he has success but if the Magic don't make strides this season people will wonder if he's the right guy. It's just how it works.
What about change in the front office? No. The Magic extended Jeff Weltman and John Hammond and no one is blaming them for the Magic's position. They have hit and miss on draft picks and they can't be blamed for players getting injured but this was their choice to press reset again with ownership approval. Both are likeable guys but the game is about winning, or at least it's supposed to be. So if they Magic are no better this season, are they still the right people in charge of the build or rebuild or whatever it's called.
Change for Stuff? C'mo. There's nothing like that big lovable thing shooting confetti from his nose even if the team is down 26 in the fourth.
Change in culture? I don't even really know what the heck culture on a sports team is anymore. The word is thrown around so often it has one million meanings. The Magic have been building and rebuilding cultures for a decade. This team appears to get along and like their coach, so I guess the culture is good.
Change in shooting? Well, that needs to change if the team wants to be successful. The Magic have been among the worst shooting teams in the NBA for years and that may not get better this season.
Change when it comes to injuries? That should be obvious. The Magic have had no luck when it comes to key players staying healthy. I have no idea if or when Jonathan Isaac returns and anyone who thinks he will return to a level he once was is really optimistic. Their history of players who have had similar injuries woes tells you Isaac will not get back to a previous level. Markelle Fultz has played 131 games in five seasons, just 26 in the last two years. While he shows flashes of being a solid and productive player, the lack of game experience remains a concern. Chuma Okeke missed his rookie season because of an injury and while there have been moments to feel good, he appears to be a role player at best.
What I mean by change is the Magic just need to be better. They need to win more games. They need to shoot better. They need to stay healthy. They need Paolo to become the face of the franchise. They need to give fans a reason to be excited about the outcome of games after Valentine's Day and not look at a 20-point loss and say "yea, but how about the effort of Bol Bol in the fourth where he had 8 points and 5 boards."
The Devos family bought the Magic for $85M in 1991. The team might be worth $1.5-2B but they are not for sale. I don't think the reason the Magic have struggled the last decade is because Magic fans couldn't recognize the owner in a lineup, but I do wish Dan Devos was around a bit more to show fans a little more interest. The ownership chose to make CEO Alex Martins the face of ownership and Alex has been a loyal leader for the Devos family. He is often criticized for basketball things he is not responsible for because Magic fans want someone to blame. A sports team doesn't have to have a Mark Cuban or Steve Ballmer on the sidelines screaming but I do believe fans like to see that their owner cares a little like they do.
I don't think Dan Devos has done a media session in years and if he did it would not mean the Magic will win 15 more games, but show your fans you are invested emotionally as well. But I do think change is coming in this area for the Magic. I do not think the Devos family is selling any time soon and why should they. The return has been good for the family.
A few months ago, Alex Martins was rumored to be a candidate for the commissioner's job at the Big XII before the conference settled on Brett Yormark. Whispers were that Martins has had his name out there for certain opportunities that he feels are a next step. As someone who has sat on the board at UCF, there were some that wondered if he would have emerged as a candidate for president before the school hired Alexander Cartwright. Martin was the Magic's first media relations director before moving on to work for the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Browns. He returned to the Magic in 2006 and is well respected within the NBA circles as an executive.
But there have been a few new faces at times inside the Magic offices. The siblings of Dan Devos, brother Dick Devos, sister-in-law Betsy Devos and others within the family have appeared at team meetings and functions and there appears to be a sense that some of the younger Devos kids like the idea of getting more involved. I don't know if that is good or bad. But I do wonder if it's why Martins might think about what's next.
The future for the Magic is unknown. I don't know if the team will get all this in the right direction and become a consistent playoff team. I don't know how anyone can safely predict that. I hope that happens because it's better when the team wins versus what we had the last decade.I do think you will learn more and see more of the younger Devos family members wanting and getting involved. For now, Dan Devos is the owner of the team and that is fine. But keep a watch on who the face of ownership will be in the coming years. That might be a story for one to follow.
Onto the start of a new season and here's hoping change starts with a solid run to begin the season so we are engaged in meaningful games late into the season...
Final note: Terry Catledge led the Magic in scoring in the teams first ever game. He went for 25 in the loss to the Nets on November 4,1989.