A memo to Magic play­ers

After beat­ing the Celtics, see, you can do it!

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Bianchi Sen­tinel Colum­nist

This is an open let­ter to the Or­lando Magic. Not own­er­ship.

Not man­age­ment.

Not the coach­ing staff.

No, this let­ter is to Magic play­ers.

Dear play­ers:

This is on you now.

You showed us what you’re ca­pa­ble of for one game in Satur­day’s night 105-103 vic­tory over the Bos­ton Celtics. Now show us you can do it again … and again … and again.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great you beat the Celtics, but what now? Are you go­ing to build upon this vic­tory or turn back into the team that had lost four in a row, nine of the last 12 and was in the midst of its tra­di­tional postChrist­mas fade into ir­rel­e­vance?

Over the years, fans and me­dia have right­fully heaped blame on ev­ery facet of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. We’ve blamed the DeVos fam­ily. We’ve blamed CEO Alex Mar­tins. We’ve blamed for­mer GM Rob Hen­ni­gan. We’ve blamed the re­volv­ing door of coaches.

Now, it’s time to hold you play­ers ac­count­able.

Let’s be hon­est, fel­las, it’s not man­age­ment’s fault. The or­ga­ni­za­tion brought in a new man­age­ment team last year — Jeff Welt­man, the pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball ops, and gen­eral man­ager John Ham­mond. Welt­man was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing build the Toronto Rap­tors into a team that last year was the No. 1 seed in the East­ern Con­fer­ence and cur­rently sits atop the East again. Ham­mond was in­stru­men­tal in build­ing the Mil­wau­kee Bucks into a team that is cur­rently No. 2 in the East.

It’s not the coach’s fault, ei­ther. Steve Clif­ford is an ex­cel­lent coach and teacher who is re­spected around the league. Then

again, so were Frank Vogel and Scott Sk­iles. The Magic have been turn­ing good coaches into fired coaches for years now.

As for own­er­ship, it has given you ev­ery­thing you need to be suc­cess­ful over the last cou­ple of years. You’ve been given good coaches, good man­age­ment, a mag­nif­i­cent arena and state-of-the-art prac­tice fa­cil­i­ties. You guys have team nu­tri­tion­ists, chefs, mas­sage ther­a­pists. You fly on pri­vate jets and stay in five-star ho­tels.

You make mil­lions of dol­lars (with no state in­come tax) and live in a fun-filled, sun-filled city that mil­lions of peo­ple from all over the globe flock to ev­ery year. There’s a sign at UCF’s ath­letic com­plex that you guys should take to heart. It says we get to “live where the rest of the world va­ca­tions.”

You know what else you’ve been blessed with? A pretty darn good fan base. Don’t ask me how, but the Magic are 10th in the league in at­ten­dance with an av­er­age of 17,903 per game de­spite the fact that fans here have been watch­ing crappy bas­ket­ball for six straight years.

These fans de­serve bet­ter than what you’ve given them. Coach Clif­ford is try­ing to hold you guys ac­count­able, but you need to start hold­ing your­selves ac­count­able. We all re­al­ize you’re not the most tal­ented team in the league, and that’s why you need to play harder, bet­ter and smarter than your op­po­nents.

And that’s what you did against the Celtics. Aaron Gor­don scored 28, Ter­rence Ross had 25, Nik Vuce­vic had 16 points and 13 re­bounds. Bench play­ers Khem Birch and Isa­iah Briscoe came into the game and made con­tri­bu­tions that didn’t nec­es­sar­ily show up in the box score.

And that’s what it takes. It takes ev­ery­body ded­i­cat­ing them­selves to playing with heart, hus­tle, fire and de­sire ev­ery prac­tice, ev­ery game, ev­ery pos­ses­sion. Good NBA play­ers com­mit to playing that way ev­ery day; bad NBA play­ers do it once in a while.

You’ve gotta be­lieve, truly be­lieve, in your­selves. Even though you’re only 18-24 record, you’re still just 1½ games be­hind Char­lotte for the fi­nal play­off spot in the East. It can be done. In fact, you’ve shown you can get it done. You’ve beaten the Celtics twice this sea­son to win the sea­son se­ries for the first time since Dwight Howard was on the team. You’ve beaten the Six­ers. You’ve beaten the Spurs and the Rap­tors.

I’m telling you, you can make a play­off push if you put your mind to it. There’s a poem called “It’s All in a State of Mind” that one of my old high school coaches gave me decades ago. I still have it hang­ing in my of­fice at home.

Let me read you a cou­ple of verses.

“If you think you'll lose, you're lost,

For out in the world you'll find,

Suc­cess be­gins with a fel­low's will,

It's all in a state of mind. “Life's bat­tles don't al­ways go,

To the stronger or faster man,

But sooner or later, the man who wins,

Is the fel­low who thinks he can.” What about it, guys? For what­ever rea­son, your fans have shown they still be­lieve in Magic.

But un­less you be­lieve in your­selves, the win over the Celtics will soon be for­got­ten and you’ll be des­tined for yet an­other lost sea­son.

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