HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The NBA is a copy-cat league. When a team has success, other teams look to poach their personnel and copy their methods.
Since winning their first championship 15 years ago, the Spurs have had countless coaches and executives hired by the 29 other teams. The latest hires that spent time in San Antonio are Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn, the new general manager and coach, respectively, of the Orlando Magic.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes that emulating the Spurs is exactly the Magic’s plan…
Again, the details of the Magic’s long-term strategy remain unclear.
The franchise could speed up a rebuilding process by paring payroll and by signing a marquee free agent who would embrace a team-first philosophy.
Because of Florida’s warm weather and lack of a state income tax, the Magic have succeeded in landing free agents before — and they almost succeeded in prying Duncan out of San Antonio as a free agent in 2000.
In the meantime, the Magic will stress player development.
“Development will be a huge component of what we do here,” Vaughn said. “I think San Antonio has done a good job of capitalizing on that part of the market. They’ve taken guys drafted 50th and drafted in the second round and created spots for guys that were on the summer-league team and ended up being integral parts of the team.
“So for us I’m going to be a huge believer in development, and I’ll have guys on the staff that their focus will be development. But we all will touch the players every single day. I’m a huge believer in that.”
If it’s not the Spurs, teams want to emulate the Oklahoma City Thunder model, which, of course, was put together by another guy — Sam Presti — who was hired out of San Antonio years ago. The problem with those plans is that there is only one Tim Duncan. There is only one Kevin Durant. And really, there is only one Gregg Popovich.
Yes, you can strip your roster down in order to bottom out competitively and increase your chances of a No. 1 pick. And you can certainly have high character standards when drafting, trading and signing to improve your locker-room culture.
But you can’t just wait for another Duncan or Durant to come along. You have to make the most of the hand you’re dealt and formulate your own plan. Each of the last five championships have been won by teams (the Celtics, Lakers, Mavs and Heat) that went down different paths than the Spurs or Thunder did.
If you’re looking three or four years ahead, there’s nothing on the current Magic roster worth building around, unless No. 19 pick Andrew Nicholson pans out. Hennigan can look to get prospects and picks in a Dwight Howard trade, but there aren’t any five-star prospects out there to acquire, and any picks they receive won’t be very high if they’re coming from a team that just got the three-time DPOY.
So good luck, Orlando. Really, no matter how well the Magic plan, it’s going to take a lot of luck to get back to The Finals, given the position they’re currently in.