Heading into the fourth season of their rebuild, the Orlando Magic are poised to take a big step forward. With a new, well respected veteran head coach in Scott Skiles, and a group of young players continuing to grow individually and collectively on and off the court, the Magic have high expectations heading into the season.
Given that Orlando has only three players with four-plus years of NBA experience, the Magic will be looking for some of their young core to step into key leadership roles as the season begins.
During the team's annual media day, three of those key young players talked about needing to become leaders for the team. Nik Vučević, the Magic's reigning top scorer; Tobias Harris, whom the Magic gave a $64 million extension in the offseason; and Victor Oladipo all look to take on bigger leadership roles.
Vučević, who stands alongside Andrew Nicholson as the Magic's longest-tenured players, made it clear he plans on working to become more of a vocal leader this season.
"I definitely feel with the level that I play at, I have to be one of the leaders on this team, [and] be more vocal," he said. "I think I’ve been improving each year over, and I think it’s something I really need to improve and try to do this year.
"The guys respect me on this team now more with the level of play I’ve been playing at the last couple of years. I’ve earned some room to do that. I’m definitely going to try to lead this team not only in scoring but on the court as well as off the court."
While Vučević took a more direct route talking about needing to be a leader, Harris said leadership needs to grow out of a group effort. "We all have to be a collective effort of leadership, and I think one of the biggest things is we have to hold each other accountable as teammates on the floor," said Harris.
The third member of Orlando's core group seems like the one most poised to step into the role as a centralized leader. Since he entered the league two years ago, Oladipo has talked at length about needing to step up and become more of a leader for the team. Entering his third year, the athletic guard knows it's time for him to step up and help his team with his actions as well as with his play.
"No question," he said when asked if he thought now was the time to take ownership of more leadership responsibility. "The first year you could say I was a rookie, the second year you could make the excuse I changed positions and it was kind of shaky and I had a slow start and I got injured. The times for excuses around here are done. It’s just the time to get it done here."
Rob Hennigan, the Magic's general manager, also faced questions about leadership.
"I think that’s an interesting storyline for our team this year," he said. "Who’s going to start to fill that leadership void? Maybe one guy, it maybe several guys. I think that’s something we’ve got to let develop naturally."
Taking on a leadership role is a big step forward in the development of all young players. While it's unclear is whether one of Vučević, Harris and Oladipo will take on a bigger role than the others, one thing is for certain: the Magic have a good group moving forward, and the sky's the limit, especially with increased leadership.
Stay tuned to Orlando Pinstriped Post for more Magic media-day coverage.