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Magic confident entering training camp with mx of rookies, veterans after overhauling roster

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ORLANDO, Florida — Officially, the Orlando Magic will be using "Pure Magic" as its branded, billboard-approved theme for the 2014-15 season.

Unofficially among their players, at least, "No Excuses" could also just as easily be this year's theme.

"I hate when people say, 'Oh, young team,' or stuff like that," forward Maurice Harkless said Monday at the team's annual media day. "It's no excuses...A lot of times last year we didn't know how to win close games. But it only helped us. We learned from it. We know how hard it is to win. I think that's what makes everybody work so hard."

It was a sentiment echoed throughout the day from several of his teammates.

"I just want to win," second-year guard Victor Oladipo said. "I don't care how many games we win — we just need to win. I'm trying to compete on every night. So I think we do that, it'll be a successful season. We gotta compete in this league. We gotta give people a run for their money."

The Magic begin this season having undergone one of their biggest roster overhauls in recent memory.

Only six of the 19 players that will be on the floor when Orlando opens camp Tuesday were on the roster at the start of last season.

Of that group — Harkless, Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn and Nik Vucveic — only Vucevic and Harris have at least three years of experience.

Gone now is franchise staple Jameer Nelson and last year's leading scorer Arron Afflalo. Taking their place is a pair of top 10 draft picks in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, along with veteran offseason acquisitions Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, Willie Green and Luke Ridnour.

PHOTO: Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn, center, answers questions from reporters during NBA basketball media day in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn, center, answers questions from reporters during NBA basketball media day in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

It's a mix of that on paper should mean a few more wins for a team that has won just 20 and 23 games in the first two years of its rebuilding process under general manager Rob Hennigan and coach Jacque Vaughn.

Team officials have been patient, yet pleased with the overall progress, and decided to exercise contract options on Hennigan and Vaughn, extending both through 2015-16.

While the Magic failed to get one of the coveted top three picks in the draft, Hennigan acknowledged that the mix of young talent and capable veterans that he has assembled should lend itself to a higher production on the floor.

"I think patience is an important word as we continue to build the team. It's important for us to keep a long-term vision in place as we go through," Hennigan said. "We have to show improvement. We expect to show improvement with this season. Our fans have been incredibly supportive to that end. We also have to understand that they want to see progress."

And that is probably going to be the earliest challenge for Vaughn, who will be tasked with balancing the new mix of vets and youth. Still, he said he doesn't plan to change much about his approach and will continue to gauge his team's development on a day-to-day basis.

"I'll keep it very simple with these guys — the challenge of being better that next day than you were the previous day," Vaughn said. "Where does that lead us, I'm not sure. But consistently we want to be a team that produces and gives effort."

Frye said he and the other veterans understand Hennigan and Vaughn's methodical approach to development. But he also isn't expecting to have to lean on his patience for an extended period of time.

"I have patience the first week of practice, but I like winning," Frye said. "Everybody he brought in likes winning. I think now there's no excuse. The excuses have to be a skill thing, or a not making shots thing. It shouldn't be, 'Well we're not young or we don't know.'

"I think these guys are very good and they're very talented. And I think we need to put pressure on ourselves to have the expectation that we can compete with anyone."


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

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