Orlando Magic Continue Aggressive Approach to the Offseason

Catching Up with Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman
Jeff Weltman
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- While the thought of the NBA offseason conjures up images of sandy beaches, cocktails, and international travel, for the Orlando Magic front office, it’s been nothing but business.

On top of preparing for the draft, Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and his staff have also been actively sifting through head coaching candidates and creating a detailed list of qualities that they desire for the next leader of their club.

Still, with the draft lottery and NBA combine rapidly approaching and a coaching search heavily underway, Weltman was kind enough to spare some time and provide some insight on a few key topics surrounding the Magic:

Summarizing last season:

Weltman: “Unprecedented. Challenging. Intense. I think I look back on the season and it almost feels like the last two seasons have been one. It’s been so compressed playing this many games in that amount of time. But I look back in amazement that the league was actually able to devise a set of protocols that allowed us to travel, play a full season, and now here we are with the league is (in) the second round of the playoffs. Fans are coming back and it’s amazing that we were able to accomplish it. Obviously, we need to pay great attention to all the impacts – physically, mentally – that that had on everybody involved and continue to pay great attention to that going forward.”

On challenges the injuries presented last season:

Weltman: “The greatest variable that any team will face entering a season is the health of its players. Obviously, it’s our primary concern both for the sake of the team and the individual player’s career. When you’re dealing with a short ramp up and a compressed schedule, I know our performance staff worked very closely with our coaches to make sure that we were trying to manage those minutes responsibly while giving our guys a chance to win. It took an extra layer of attention of understanding individuals’ bodies and needs and melding that into the way that we work and the way that it actually showed up on the court. So, another place – one of many – where there was a great amount of learning, and growing, and communication being implemented to do this thing the right way.”

On his biggest takeaway from last season that will help the team this upcoming season:

Weltman: “My great takeaway was just what an amazing group of players and amazing staff we have. They just continuously rose to challenge after challenge. New protocols, waves of injuries, trades, we just kept rising to the challenge and supporting one another. I would say that the old expression ‘adversity doesn’t test your character, it reveals it.’ Well, I think our guys showed themselves to be a high character group. And I think it’s really important and I believe that bodes very well for our future.”

On Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz’s recoveries:

Weltman: “The first part of any recovery, any rehabilitation, starts with attitude and approach. Our fans know that Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz are about as good as it gets in their approach, their work, their attitude, their team orientation, their optimism, (and) their belief. So, everything has been going well with them. I always kind of try to have it dummied down for my own understanding to say like ‘no setbacks.’ So, no setbacks. Everything is on track. Obviously, we’re not an organization that’s going to put timelines on things like that, but they’re both moving forward very well.”

On the head coaching search:

Weltman: “We need to regroup quickly. This is a very important decision, but one that we have to address in a timely fashion. So, the first line of order is defining our goals and defining the characteristics that we want to see in our next head coach. And that helps us to move on to the next phase, which is compiling a list of candidates. And, obviously from there, we need to interview people and start getting together with them and we’re well underway in that process.”

On getting ready for the draft combine in Chicago:

Weltman: “Chicago is the busiest week of the year in any season. This year, probably doubly so for us because in addition to having all the work of preparing for Chicago, executing a successful Chicago, obviously, we’re also in the midst of our coaching search. So, it’s going to be a lot of work. We’re actually spending a lot of time preparing how we divide our responsibilities for Chicago, preparing for our ability to scout and get to know the players efficiently, while also dealing with the front (and) center issue with our team right now, which is finding our next coach.”

On this year’s draft lottery:

Weltman: “The best thing about the lottery is it will inform us where we’re picking and how many picks we’ll have, but the actual work is the work. We’re already in deep preparation mode in ranking players, trying to gain an understanding of how we see each guy fitting into our team, and watching a lot of video, having spirited debates, (and) start(ing) to establish tiers and ranking systems. So, it really from that end of things doesn’t change. What it will do is it will inform us of how we can more efficiently begin to work. Once we know how many picks we’ll have, where we’re picking, we can kind of put a finer point on that work. And our work will kind of turn a corner after the lottery. But we really don’t approach it any differently than we would if we were picking ten or twenty. It’s our job to prepare thoroughly, get to know the players as intimately as we can, and add the most talented, high-character guys we can to our group.”

On looking ahead to free agency:

Weltman: “These days free agency is right behind the draft, so you can’t execute the draft and then say, ‘now we’re going to look at free agency.’ So, concurrently, while we are evaluating the draft, we are discussing free agents, and we are watching video, and we are trying to project other teams’ positioning in relation to the salary cap, and needs, and direction. And it all filters into what free agents you’re going to be looking at from their perspective. So, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of unknowns and trying to decipher variables that really, you’re not going to have the answers to until you get to that moment. But at the very least, we can understand how we approach each of these players, what they can add to our team, where we’re going to be, how some of them may feed into the other discussions we’re having on trade front or even the draft front. So, yes, you do have to be constantly evaluating free agency as you approach the draft.”

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