The month between the start of training camp and the start of the regular season will be crucial for new Magic coach Scott Skiles, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Skiles, who held his first full practice today, needs to change the team’s mindset, improve a defense that ranked 25th last season and establish a new identity, among other priorities, Robbins writes. Two of the main objectives will be to work in second-year player Aaron Gordon, who is limited at the start of training camp by a fractured jaw, and to help rookie swingman Mario Hezonja get comfortable with the NBA game.
There’s more news out of Orlando:
- Hiring Skiles to take over a team with a young, talented nucleus has some in Orlando dreaming of the playoffs, Robbins writes in a separate story. The author notes Skiles’ track record of turning teams around quickly. In his first full season as the Bulls’ coach in 2004/05, the won-loss record improved by 24 games. When he took over the Bucks in 2008/09, their record improved by eight games in the first season and another 12 in the second season. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, and our expectation is that we’ll compete for a playoff spot throughout the entire season,” said GM Rob Hennigan. “It’s important for us to be playing games that matter at the end of the season.”
- Evan Fournier is hoping for an extension, Robbins tweets, with Fournier saying it would be “awesome” if it happens before the November 2nd deadline. Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors examined Fournier’s extension candidacy earlier this month.
- Hezonja was called the team’s best new addition by Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders in the site’s season preview of the Magic. The Croatian star, who was taken fifth overall in this year’s draft, impressed the coaching staff with his performance during summer league. Taylor said the rookie has shown an ability to pass, drive, hit open three-pointers and throw down some “highlight-reel dunks.”
- Keith Appling‘s two-year minimum deal comes with a $100K guarantee, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.