Today marks the beginning of Jameer Nelson's annual Building Magic team-bonding week, which he hosts at his own expense in his hometown in Philadelphia. Nelson explained what Building Magic entails in a July interview with Paul Forrester of Sports Illustrated (brackets Forrester's):
We're trying to piece it together because our team was in transition. For the most part, the big guns have committed -- Vince [Carter], Dwight [Howard] and Rashard [Lewis]. After those guys have committed, no one can really back out unless they have some type of serious issue.
This year we're doing it from the 16th through the 22nd of August. We do it at the same facility every year, same gym at Haverford College. We'll work out with my trainers -- conditioning drills, weightlifting, stuff to get your body right. The basketball stuff we do is later in the afternoon. We do that for about 2-3 hours.
Afterward, we'll mix up the nightlife. We always do a dinner. Other days we'll do paintball or bowling, maybe go to the movies.
It goes to show that Nelson takes his team captaincy role seriously, and believes strongly in camaraderie's role in contributing to a successful team. Perhaps this edition of Building Magic will prove to be more important this season than in prior seasons, given Orlando's heavy roster turnover from its Eastern Conference Championship-winning team last season.
And if you believe some of the national NBA writers whom the Orlando Sentinel surveyed earlier this week, said roster turnover could prove to be the Magic's undoing this year, or at least a hurdle for them to overcome. Several writers cited the roster shuffle as a reason for not ranking the Magic above the Boston Celtics or the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference (the Magic didn't receive a first-place vote from any of the 11 panelists). To wit:
"It's hard to see them having the same blazing start they had last year with all the changes. Let's put it this way: If this year's team does what last year's team did, it will be a bigger surprise than last year's team doing it, which was only the biggest shock in the league last year."
"The Magic lost three starters off last year's Finals team, including a biggie in Hedo Turkoglu. It will take them some time adjust to adjust to Vince Carter (and vice versa), as well as new reserves like Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass."
"Vince Carter is a better individual player than Hedo Turkoglu. But the loss of Turkoglu represents one of those, well, glue guys who displayed a knack for big plays at big times."
"Continuity tends to win championships. There is little doubt Orlando improved the talent level of the team, but can the new guys fit in as effectively as last year's team did?"
Theoretically, Nelson and his teammates have a golden opportunity to address these writers' (and fans') concerns about team chemistry in the next seven days. It'll give them a much-needed head start, as we're still 74 days away from opening night.
And if nothing else, the players will come away with a new polo shirt. The last time I saw Hedo Turkoglu, during the team's last official media session of the season (my reports here and here), Turk wore a white polo shirt with "Building Magic" stitched on the left breast.