New coaching staff. New general manager. Twelve new players.
No wonder the Orlando Magic face their most critical, most intriguing October in years.
The new-look Magic will convene for the first time Monday, when organization holds its annual media day. Training camp will begin Tuesday morning, as Jacque Vaughn and his five assistant coaches run the first practice of their Magic tenure. On Sunday afternoon in Mexico City, the team will start its schedule of eight preseason exhibitions.
What do the Magic need to accomplish in the month ahead? Here's their to-do list.
Vaughn already has spoken one-on-one with each player, but the upcoming days will give the entire roster a better sense of what he wants in practices and games. Those who know Vaughn well think he will be detail-oriented, and Vaughn has said he will project a "calm" demeanor. But since this is his first head-coaching job, it will be interesting to see how his coaching style coalesces.
Setting a tone
The vast majority of NBA analysts predict the Magic will struggle this season. General manager Rob Hennigan and Vaughn want the team to establish an identity as a hard-working, blue-collar club that is never satisfied with losing. Vaughn and his coaches have a role in that, but that tone has to come from returnees such as point guard Jameer Nelson, big man Glen Davis and shooting guard J.J. Redick and incoming veterans such as shooting guard Arron Afflalo.
"I think as a competitor it's hard because oftentimes people almost want you to be worse so that you can eventually get better," Redick said. "I know the guys we have in that locker room. That's not going to sit well with them, so I expect us to be very competitive, to be a group that plays extremely hard. I like our core group of guys and I like our young players, and as long as the coaching staff and the team is on the same page, I think we'll be fine."
Just how different is this roster? In all, the Magic will return players who accounted for just 46 percent of the team's minutes last regular season. Somehow, the team needs to build cohesion.
The Magic have 17 players with guaranteed contracts, and two others, Armon Johnson and DeQuan Jones, are on the team to fill out the roster for October. NBA rules stipulate that a team can have no more than 15 players on its roster — including players assigned to the D-League — at the start of the regular season. It's possible the team will make a trade or buy-out contracts before the season begins.
The Magic want to accelerate the development of rookie power forward Andrew Nicholson and rookie big man Kyle O'Quinn. (Swingman Maurice Harkless, a first-round pick acquired from Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard trade, is recovering from offseason surgery.)
Sorting out at center
Gustavo Ayón and Nikola Vucevic, a pair of second-year players, likely will compete for the starting center spot, and Davis probably will return to the power forward spot.
Turk on track
Hedo Turkoglu displayed toughness when he played last postseason shortly after surgery to repair fractured bones in his face. Now it's time for the 33-year-old small forward to prove he can still contribute.
Coaches won't want to overwork Nelson. With fellow point guard Ish Smith recovering from an offseason surgery, the Magic will spend plenty of time evaluating combo guard E'Twaun Moore at the point.
Reason to watch
A team's win-loss record in the preseason means nothing, but the team needs to show its fans that it will play hard. Fans can tolerate a rebuilding project if players give their best effort.
This is self-explanatory. Last year, some players, including Nelson and Davis, returned from the lockout out of shape. There are no excuses this year.
email@example.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.