Most NBA experts envision a rough season ahead for the Orlando Magic. In one worst-case scenario, the losses will pile up at an astounding rate, and a franchise accustomed to regular playoff appearances will spend late April recovering from a year-long beatdown.
The Magic feel differently.
A consensus emerged as players, coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Rob Hennigan spent much of Monday afternoon's media day fielding repeated questions about diminished expectations. To a man, the Magic pledged they won't be anyone's pushover.
"When you throw the term 'rebuilding' [around], it kind of implies as if you're almost willing to lose," shooting guard Arron Afflalo said. "And I don't think there's a guy in the locker room, management or on the coaching staff that is willing to lose."
The team that will assemble on Amway Center's practice court Tuesday morning for its first practice of training camp consists of 12 new players and only seven holdovers.
But the new-look Magic face similar doubts as the squad that finished the 2012 playoffs without injured star Dwight Howard. It seemed no one outside the organization thought the Magic could beat the Indiana Pacers. Orlando lost the series four games to one, but played Indiana close each game.
Naysayers surround the Magic again. Next thing you know, the players might dust off the motto they adopted last April: "We All We Got."
"I'm not concerned about what's written, what's on the news, what other people's opinions are," Vaughn said.
"I'm not sure who's going to be our leading scorer, and that'll be my approach. I'm not sure how many games we're going to win, and that will be my approach. We will compete every single night and we'll play hard, and the chips will fall where they should."
Hennigan bristled at the notion that the organization purposely will bottom out over the next few months so it can improve its chances of winning the 2013 draft lottery.
"We're going to try to win every game," he said. "We're going to try to win every possession. I think as soon as you do anything but try to do that, you run the risk of creating an atmosphere that you don't want to create."
The remade roster features more interior depth than the one that lost to the Pacers. Meanwhile, Afflalo should be an upgrade over Jason Richardson at shooting guard.
At the same time, none of the Magic's power forwards — and there are a lot of them — can stretch the floor as well as Ryan Anderson, whom Hennigan chose not to re-sign, citing the desire to create salary-cap flexibility for the future.
And, of course, Howard's gone for good.
Questions about Howard's future dominated last December's media day and loomed overhead for the entire season. Players acknowledged after the playoffs ended that the uncertainty and controversy revolving around their superstar had weighed on them.
Monday's media day felt less tense, as if air had been let out of a balloon that had been about to burst.
"We understand what we're trying to accomplish as a team and know that and don't let what other people say interfere with what goes on here," big man Glen Davis said.
"We let that happen last year, and we're not going to let that happen again. We understand that it's going to be tough, and we're going to work extremely hard every day to make sure that we put the effort and work in to win ballgames."
No one denied the team faces a transition period in the months ahead.
"You don't start a season and say, 'I hope we win 30 games' or 'I hope we can get an eighth seed,' " shooting guard J.J. Redick said. "That's not a great mindset. But you also have to understand that we're not necessarily hitting the reset button, but we're rebuilding a culture. We're rebuilding an attitude and an approach. That sometimes takes time."
To rebuild an attitude, they say they can't be anyone's pushover.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun