GM Rob Hennigan's Interview on Magic Drive Time

Rob Hennigan

By Dan Savage

Oct. 22, 2015

ORLANDO – The regular season is right around the corner, which means it’s a busy time for players, coaches, general managers and anyone involved with an NBA organization.

Yet somehow, Magic Drive Time’s Dante Marchitelli still found a way to get GM Rob Hennigan to hop on his show. And even more surprisingly, Dante still has a show – just kidding Dante.

In all seriousness though, Hennigan discussed a variety of topics on Magic Drive Time, including the team’s trip to Brazil, the Magic’s development this preseason and the keys to success moving forward.

Here is the complete interview:

DM: What did you think of the team’s trip to Rio? Obviously a great trip from the business side of things and a chance to go down to Rio, a booming market to build that Orlando Magic brand down there, but also from a team standpoint an opportunity to bond and to grow.

RH: It was a great trip Dante, it really was. From start to finish, certainly the business component that you speak of was very important to us. We have a lot of fans down in Brazil and we’re hoping to continue to expand that awareness and that footprint. I think we were able to do that. And also, from a team perspective, we got a lot of good work in. It’s funny, I think it was 95 degrees in the gym we practiced in for two days, which sort of made it like an old-school high school practice. I think guys got good work in and they got to sweat it out a little bit. Certainly, when you take a trip like that, I think the guys, the players, have a chance to spend more time together than they otherwise maybe would, just because they’re forced to [laughs]. And so, from a team bonding and a team chemistry standpoint, I would say we come back to Orlando more bonded than we were when we left.

DM: How does today’s NBA player respond to a 95-degree gym [laughs]?

RH: Good question. They responded pretty well because they didn’t have a choice [laughs]. But it’s funny, I think if you would ask any player, ‘if you have to operate in the extremes would you rather a cold gym or a really hot one?’ I think most would rather have the really hot one.

DM: What have you seen from this group? How have they met your expectations and what you were hoping to accomplish in the preseason?

RH: I think we’ve seen lots of things. We’ve seen some good things, we’ve seen some bad things and we’ve seen some mediocre things. On the whole though, what we’ve seen most is a real commitment to trying to do things that Scott [Skiles] and his staff want. We’re playing with pace and I think our defensive mentality has gotten better as our preseason has progressed. That has been important to us and that’s encouraging. And I think our offense is something that you see in spots that we look like a well-oiled machine and then maybe in spots we don’t. That’s perfectly natural and quite frankly that might be something we have to live with in the early part of the season as guys are getting adjusted to a new style of play with new schemes and terminology and what have you. That won’t be a perfect science here in the early going, but the fact that the guys are working at it will be good for us in the long run.

DM: Coach has been impressed and certainly you have to with the energy and effort these guys have brought to practice and a lot of times it’s translated to games. Guys don’t like playing defense for the most part, right [laughs]? Guys don’t love it, right [laughs]? But that’s an important part of this team moving forward.

RH: No doubt. I think the big thing is embracing that mindset every day. It’s not always going to be perfect, but the more that you can make it second nature and the more you can build it into your routine day-to-day, the more you can rely on it. A lot of those things when it comes to defense is just trusting your teammate and being attentive to the details that the coaches are teaching and so far I think we’ve seen some positive strides there.

DM: On the offensive end, moving the basketball seems to be a focus. If that can get instilled, how much will that help this group?

RH: That will help a lot, Dante. The game of basketball is kind of predicated on that [laughs]. Especially with our team and the way we want to play, we have to do it with our depth and our versatility. The ball has to move. It has to be a hot potato and move around the perimeter and change sides of the floor and all that. So far it’s been good. Once the regular season starts, teams will certainly try and take that away and it will be on us to make sure we execute well in that regard.

DM: You made a move [recently], waiving a couple of guys in Keith Appling and Jordan Sibert. How difficult is that still? Is it hard to tell a guy, ‘your dream, for right now, is kind of on hold,’ and how do you navigate that?

RH: Well, it’s never an easy thing. It’s part of the business and they’re decisions that every team has to make. But when you get to know guys like Keith and Jordan, you get to see them every day and you get to know how hard they work and how bad they want it, it’s certainly not easy. They were fantastic for us. The good news is they’ll continue to be part of our program as they go and play for the Erie BayHawks, our D-League affiliate. So, they’ll still be part of the program and we’ll be following their development closely as well as being an active participant in helping them develop. But it’s never an easy thing.

DM: Your roster stands at 17* now, how will you make those final decisions? Do you think you’ll have a 15th guy? Have you made that decision yet? Or how will you view these last games with these final two or three roster spots?

RH: I think we’re going to take this next week to sort of cement that in our minds. I think there’s a chance we could keep 15, there’s a chance we don’t. A lot is going to depend on the next couple of days and certainly the last few preseason games. We’ll have to make a decision here by this weekend at the latest and we will. I’m not sure yet. Don’t know.

DM: You have a year in the books with Erie. How has that relationship been? And how do you see that continuing to develop here in the future?

RH: Erie has been really, really interesting. It’s a unique investment from our standpoint. The way the NBA is going, the way the rules are set up, you have to be able to find players, who fit certain niches and certain roles and can do it economically and fit the team’s strategy or financial situation. The NBA Developmental League is perfect for trying to harvest those role players, guys who can help you in certain ways. Year two, we’re excited about continuing to put in place our development plan for a lot of the guys up there. Certainly the proximity makes it a little bit difficult at times, because it’s not like Erie is a two or three hour car ride away. You have to jump on a couple of planes to get there. But, all in all it’s been a very good thing and we look to continue to bolster it.

DM: We’ve talked about embracing the postseason. You hear people say ‘somebody needs to have a breakout year.’ Does that need to be the case? Can they do it as a whole? Are you expecting certain guys to make leaps? How do you view that?

RH: I think we are expecting all of our players to make leaps individually. One of the things about having a young team, we feel a lot of our guys are going to get better, year after year after year for the next several years just based on their age and their work ethic. Yes, every one of the guys has to take a jump individually for sure, but I think the important thing is really coalescing and coming together as a team. I think the more we can do that, the more guys can really buy into each other, that’s where the fruit will really start to be seen this year.

* NOTE: Since the recording of this interview, the Magic have also waived Melvin Ejim and Greg Stiemsma.

Listen to more episodes of Magic Drive Time right here.

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