After his first season as an NBA head coach, Jacque Vaughn surveyed the results of his work with the Orlando Magic. And as his second season with the team begins, he's implementing at least one substantial change based on his experience.
"Have I made a conscious effort to not have some shootarounds? Yes. Will that continue throughout the course of the year? Probably, yes," said Vaughn prior to Sunday's 87-86 victory against the Detroit Pistons.
"Like I said [in training camp], I took a scope of all the things that we did last year: what I liked, what I didn't like, what I thought was efficient, and that's what I'm about," Vaughn said. "I'm about being efficient. I don't have to stroke my own ego and check boxes off. I just don't. I don't have to do what other coaches do."
It'd be easier to understand Vaughn's new approach to game-day preparation if Orlando were a team of veterans whose bodies would probably benefit from extended rest over the course of a long season and playoff run. But Orlando, as Ed Kupfer illustrated Monday on Twitter, is the league's fifth-youngest team, and nobody expects the Magic to push for the playoffs. So why the reduction in the number of shootarounds? Vaughn has an answer. He believes that his players will be more focused on the days that there are shootarounds scheduled.
"I think it demands a focus level on those practice days," Vaughn said. "So I think you have to be very efficient and you have to have a certain amount of communication that's going to translate over to game time."
In keeping with the premium Orlando places on secrecy, Vaughn wouldn't commit to naming a starting lineup for opening night against the Indiana Pacers on October 29th. Though fans and media widely suspect that only the power forward position is up for grabs--with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, and Nik Vučević entrenched in their respective positions--Vaughn said that not every position is sewn up.
It's possible that Tobias Harris, who emerged at power forward after joining the Magic via trade from the Milwaukee Bucks at the deadline, could start at that position until Glen Davis returns from injury. But Vaughn sidestepped that question Sunday. "He could come off the bench or start for us," Vaughn said of Harris, who averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 appearances--including 20 starts--for Orlando after the trade. "Honestly, I haven't made that decision yet."
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel spoke to Harris about the uncertainty surrounding his chances of starting. "He grew quiet when asked and said all the right things when pressed," Schmitz writes. "His expressions spoke volumes."
The lineup Vaughn ultimately tabs to start, the coach said, will not change on a nightly basis; he doesn't believe in swapping out starters based on a given night's matchups.
"I won't go game-to-game, no," he said. "I think guys need to have a rhythm when they're going into the game. That helps guys out throughout the course of the season."
With two preseason games remaining and just eight days to go before opening night, Vaughn still has plenty of questions left to answer. And we won't have any idea until later in the season if holding fewer game-day shootarounds will improve his players' focus.