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Will the Magic summer makeover mean success?

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July 4 is when baseball teams reach the half-way point of their seasons. For the other three major sports, it marks the beginning of the upcoming season. This is especially true of basketball, especially for the Orlando Magic.

The draft is complete. The free agent signing period is underway as are the various summer leagues used to gauge current and available talent.

The Magic hopes they are in the early stages of a turnaround season. Last month’s draft netted them UNLV big man Stephen Zimmerman in the second round, but he will be a project. What happened before and after the draft has set Orlando on a new and positive course.

Orlando has made defense a focal point of the team for the upcoming season. Acquiring rim protector Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City on draft night will cut down on layups and affect close range shots.

Last week they signed Bismack Biyombo away from Toronto. Biyombo is quite simply a Tasmanian devil style of rebounder.

Not only will he clean the glass, but his style of play will energize Magic fans. He poses little threat to nail jumpers – let alone three-pointers – from the field, but will get a large share of put backs.

These two guys alone will further enhance the Magic’s scoring defense. It is one thing to put up triple digits on the scoreboard each night, and it is quite another to keep the other team from doing the same thing.

New coach Frank Vogel, like his predecessor Scott Skiles, preaches defense, pass deflections and steals. Vogel is fortunate to have more tools than Skiles had to carry out the mission.

Vogel was on the bench in April when Biyombo terrorized his Indiana Pacers team in the first round of the playoffs. Biyombo helped the Raptors defeat the Pacers in seven games, which ultimately led to Vogel’s firing.

Early conjecture has Biyombo and Ibaka joining Nikola Vucevic to form an imposing front line. The better scenario may see Biyombo coming off the bench for 24 or 25 minutes as he did in Toronto. At the same time, having all three on the court to protect a lead at the end of games is fascinating to think about.

The Magic also added some offense with the signings of veteran guard D.J. Augustin and forward Jeff Green. Getting Jodie Meeks away from Detroit for future draft picks adds a three-point threat.

With Victor Oladipo off to Oklahoma City, Orlando had to ensure Evan Fournier was signed to a long term deal. That too was accomplished last week.

Roster tinkering is likely not yet complete, but whatever happens, there is reason for optimism when practice begins in early fall.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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