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‘Work in progress’ Magic takes next step

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Although the Orlando Magic assumed more than $50 million in salaries on four new players this season, there was little return on investment in the first three games. The additions of Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, D. J. Augustin, and Jeff Green were not putting Orlando anywhere near a victory early on.

While they did not expect to also be bringing in a new coach, that necessity was forced on them by the resignation of Scott Skiles after one season. Frank Vogel was given the task of putting the pieces together into a functioning unit.

After two blowout losses to Miami and Detroit, the Magic looked to be on completely different pages from not only their coach, but themselves as well. Biyombo, who signed a free agent contract with Orlando that will pay him $17 million this season, did not play on opening night. He served a one-game suspension for excessive flagrant fouls during last season’s playoffs with Toronto.

After their humbling defeat at the hands of their in-state rival Heat on opening night, the players thought things would be better when Biyombo got on the floor. Wrong. All Vogel could say after the 108-82 blowout in Detroit was his team is a “work in progress.”

Green, signed to a two-year deal calling for $15 million this year, showed some good signs in the second game. Ibaka, acquired from Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo, was not blocking shots (his specialty), nor was he scoring. Augustin, who will earn $7.25 million this season, was providing little production.

After those two disasters, it was off to Cleveland to face the defending NBA Champions. Perhaps that is where the competitive fire of this team was lit. Vogel likes to use the word “compete,” something the Magic did not do in the first half.

Late in the third quarter, Orlando trailed by 20 points, but closed to within three in the fourth. They lost the game by six, but the new additions joined with Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, and Nikola Vucevic to make a game of it.

Their first victory came Tuesday night in Philadelphia, 103-101 following a comeback from an 18-point deficit. Vogel had high praise for his team’s effort.

“That was a great road win that will help us come together,” he said on Wednesday.

The next task for Vogel and his “work in progress” is to play better in the first half.

The next step comes Thursday night when Orlando hosts the Sacramento Kings in the Amway Center.

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

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