Denton: Magic and Lakers in Similar Rebuilding Position

Jacque Vaughn

By John Denton
March 23, 2014

LOS ANGELES – Both the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers were left to begin anew following the separate defections of all-star center Dwight Howard, and on Sunday coaches Jacque Vaughn and Mike D’Antoni talked about the process of rebuilding teams through young and inexperienced players.

Orlando had 20 wins last season and entered Sunday night with 19 victories as it attempts to stockpile young, promising assets through the draft and via trades. At 22-46 before Sunday, the Lakers have their players talking about simply trying to eclipse having the worst record in franchise history.

``(They) probably should have had the conversation a little earlier,’’ D’Antoni cracked sarcastically.

For the Magic, the measuring stick for the season has been not necessarily wins and losses, but incremental growth for young players. Vaughn had praise for several young players the past few days, talking about Kyle O’Quinn’s development into a NBA starter, Maurice Harkless’ newfound consistency and Victor Oladipo’s fearlessness.

Vaughn said that in time, when those players fully mature are ready to lead the Magic on a nightly basis, Orlando will become a consistent winner again. Vaughn stressed that there are no shortcuts to success and that’s why he’s tried to keep his approach the same every day of the season.

``There are stages to this thing; it doesn’t just happen,’’ Vaughn said. ``I’ve been around some great teams and they had great players on the teams who not all of the time did what the coach asked.

``At the core, I’m about winning and that doesn’t change,’’ Vaughn continued. ``It’s all geared toward getting the most out of your team, whether that’s the first game of the year, playoffs or now. It just doesn’t happen overnight. Just like my days in San Antonio, it didn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot that goes into it. That’s the process that we’re involved in right now.’’

The Lakers, who have been without aging stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash most of the season, are strangers to rebuilding and dragging up the rear in the Western Conference. The Lakers need to go 9-5 the rest of the way to avoid having the team’s record since moving to Los Angeles more than four decades ago. D’Antoni said the struggles of a season filled with injuries and youthful mistakes have taken a toll on everyone in the Lakers’ organization.

``It’s painful for everybody, but everybody has the same objective. You play the cards that you dealt with, you do the best that you can and you hang in there and try to give (the young players) confidence,’’ D’Antoni said. ``You use each game – we’re out of the playoffs obviously as is Orlando – to improve these guys.

``Oklahoma City, when they were in Seattle, did the same thing and they have some very good players who are playing at a high level now,’’ D’Antoni said. ``You just do your job and players have to do their jobs.’’

FEELS LIKE HOME: Arron Afflalo didn’t play many games at the Staples Center when he was growing up as a child in nearby Compton or going to UCLA, but the massive arena feels like home to him because of the amount of family he usually has at each game.

Afflalo had his mother, father, sister and best friend on hand Sunday night to cheer him on. They were also in attendance last season when Afflalo played in Los Angeles twice and scored 30 points against both the Lakers and Clippers at Staples Center.

``They want to come out and cheer you and watch you put on a show, so hopefully I have the energy level to do that,’’ said Afflalo, who played big minutes a night earlier in Utah. ``I’m in constant communication, through good tiems and bad, with my family. Family can be a great support system and they are for me. Over the years, just playing in the L.A. atmosphere, it’s a good environment to play in. You get out here and you enjoy the L.A. lights a little bit.’’