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NBA PM: Will HEAT Complete Three-Peat?

The HEAT are four wins away from winning their third-straight title and cementing themselves as a modern dynasty … NBA announces All-Defensive Teams

Alex Kennedy

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BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy and CineSport’s Noah Coslov preview the 2014 NBA Finals by talking about the lessons from the 2013 Finals & the matchup between Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.

Will HEAT Complete Three-Peat?

Back in 1988, Pat Riley trademarked the word “three-peat” several months after his Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship. Riley’s Lakers didn’t go on to three-peat (they were instead swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals), but he has made some money off of the trademark thanks to teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees winning back-to-back-to-back titles. The Lakers did go on to three-peat from 2000 to 2002, but Riley was long gone by that point.

Riley has never had one of his teams pull off the feat, but that may change over the next few weeks. Over 25 years after he trademarked the phrase, the 69-year-old president of the Miami HEAT may finally be able to experience a three-peat rather than just cashing in on other dynasties.

The HEAT have won two straight titles and are one series away from hanging a championship banner for a third straight year. They’ve been to the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, which was the first year that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were in Miami.

If the HEAT win it all this year, a dynasty case could certainly be made since Miami would have the fourth-most titles in NBA history (tied with the San Antonio Spurs) and all of them would’ve been won in a nine-year span.

In order to complete their three-peat, the HEAT will have to take down the Spurs for the second year in a row. This proved difficult last year, considering it took Miami seven games to defeat the Spurs, who were seconds away from winning it all in Game 6 until Miami fought back, forced overtime with a clutch three from Ray Allen and escaped with the win to stay alive.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Wade said. “Obviously, we beat them in the Finals. Last year, [they felt] they had us. But we wouldn’t want it any other way. I think having the four best teams in the NBA all season to represent the Western Conference and Eastern Conference is ideal and perfect for this league.  The two best teams will meet. We’re just happy and excited that we’re one of the best.”

The HEAT discussed the possibility of winning three championships in a row and going to four straight Finals on the first day of training camp, but they haven’t talked about it since. The players and coaches understand the enormity of their accomplishments, and the challenges that come with it, so the team didn’t need to discuss it more than once.

“We talked about it from the first day, we talked about the legacy of this team,” Erik Spoelstra said. “The players that weren’t here that first year, they inherited all of those experiences. But it was only that first day. We’ve never brought it up since then.  It was about now tackling the challenges of the day‑to‑day life of an NBA season.”

Looking back on their stint in Miami, Wade and James are grateful that they’ve had so much success.

“We don’t take this for granted and hopefully our fans in Miami, our supporters, don’t take this for granted neither,” Wade said. “This is not something that happens every day. But we’ve worked as a unit.  We sacrificed as individuals to be in this moment, in this position, so we understand where we’re at right now. But it’s still crazy too. … You get drafted, and you’re just happy to be in the NBA.  You want to make a name for yourself.  Eleven years later, you’ve gone to the Finals five times and you’ve won championships. You just never know how your life and your path is going to pan out.  If you just do things the way that you should do them, the way you feel that it should be done, live with the mistakes that you make, get better from them and just be who you are, great things happen to you.  That’s a prime example for all of us. … Me and [LeBron] meeting in Chicago [at the combine], sitting in a room getting tested by teams, getting tried out, we didn’t know that this relationship that we were going to have was going to turn into this.  You just never know. I think we’ve all put ourselves in great situations, and we’re just going to continue to try to enjoy this moment that we’re in because it’s an amazing moment.  It’s something that, for a lifetime, is going to fulfill us as athletes.  Even when we can’t play this game, we’re going to always be able to talk about this, so we just want to continue to add to what we’re accomplishing.”

“Just to piggyback off what D‑Wade said, we don’t take this moment for granted,” James added. “We’re going to celebrate tonight because it just doesn’t happen every year.  We’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this four straight times, and you just can’t take these moments for granted. It hasn’t really hit us that much yet because I think we’re in it.  I think it will once we’re done and we’re able to look back at what we were able to accomplish as players, as a franchise, I think that’s when it will really hit us. We definitely don’t take it for granted to be in this position.”

After being eliminated, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel referred to James and the HEAT as this era’s Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls (a team that pulled off two three-peats). That statement was repeated to James after the Game 6 victory over the Pacers, and he was flattered.

“Me and D‑Wade grew up watching the great Chicago Bulls team and the great Michael Jordan and the rest of those guys, so any time I hear my name or our team in the same breath with legends and great teams and franchises, it’s so humbling, man,” James said. “It’s like, I really don’t know.  We’re just two kids from the inner cities.  We never thought we’d get to this point. To be able to play the game that we love at a high level for one another, for our teammates, it’s the ultimate [reward].  When you hear the comparisons, you respect it, you’re humbled by it and you just feel like while you’re in the moment hopefully, while you’re playing the game, that you can make an impact enough to where you move on and people will start comparing you to ones that’s in the game at the present time. It’s very, very humbling.”

Miami has grown a lot since their first Finals appearance, when they lost to the Mavericks back in 2011, which is something that Wade pointed out.

“I just remember being kind of a young team and still figuring it out,” Wade said of their first Finals trip of the Big Three era. “Still figuring out at the end of the game where the ball was going, how it was going to get there, what we were doing defensively. But we did our job, and we got to the Finals. It seems like a long time ago. We were still kids, it seemed like, and now just being more prepared for this moment, seizing a moment. There wasn’t a moment, I don’t think inside none of us, that we felt we were going to lose this ballgame [to Indiana in Game 6]. We knew we were going to impose our will. We didn’t know the outcome, but we knew we were going to impose our will here at home. I think we were a little unsure years ago, so that was the difference.”

Miami used that loss as a learning experience, and clearly it has worked over the last two years.

“A really good friend of mine told me that the best teacher in life is experience,” James said. “When you go through so many things, you’re able to learn from it.  You’re able to know how to go about it. Next time you face those trials and tribulations or whatever the case may come, and you’re better prepared for it. So being around a group of guys like this, me being in positions that I’ve been in the past where I’ve failed… To be able to come back from failure and continue to come back and mentally be able to stay strong, it defines who you are as a man more than anything.”

“We have a group that’s earned a lot of trust with each other; there’s a lot of equity of going through pain, of going through joy, of going through everything in between,” Spoelstra said. “I mean, this is your extended family. Even the guys that haven’t been with us for the four years, what we say to them when they join our team is you inherit all of the experiences we’ve had before.  All the pain, all the joy, you inherit that and you’re part of the family.”

Now, Miami is four wins away from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy for a third-straight time and emerging as the NBA’s newest dynasty. The 2014 NBA Finals tip off on Thursday evening.

NBA’s All-Defensive Teams Announced

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, winner of the 2013-14 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, headlines the 2013-14 NBA All-Defensive First Team, the NBA announced today.Noah received 105 First Team votes (223 points) to make his second consecutive appearance on the First Team.

Joining Noah on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are forward Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (161 points, 65 First Team votes), guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (156 points, 64 First Team votes), forward Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder (152 points, 54 First Team votes) and guard/forward Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors (148 points, 57 First Team Votes).

The voting panel consisted of 123 writers and broadcasters from the U.S. and Canada. Two points were awarded for a First Team vote and one point was awarded for a Second Team vote.

Noah, who appeared in 80 of Chicago’s 82 games, ranked sixth in the NBA in rebounding (11.3 rpg), 12th in blocks (1.51 bpg) and added 1.24 steals.  He was one of just three players (Detroit’s Andre Drummond and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis) to average at least 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals.  Behind Noah, the Bulls held opponents to a .430 field goal percentage, second-stingiest in the league. Paul led the NBA in steals (2.48 spg) for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time in his career to earn his fourth First Team nod. George ranked fifth in the NBA in steals (1.89 spg) and was the only player in the NBA to average at least 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals. In his first season with the Warriors, Iguodala averaged 1.50 steals, as the Warriors improved from the NBA’s 19th best defense in terms of points allowed last season to 10th in 2013-14. Ibaka appeared in 81 games for Oklahoma City this past season as the Thunder held the opposition to the third lowest field goal percentage in the NBA (.436).

The NBA All-Defensive Second Team consists of forward LeBron James of the Miami HEAT (57 First Team votes), guard Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets (44 First Team votes), guard Jimmy Butler of the Bulls (29 First Team votes), forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (16 First Team votes) and Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers (15 First Team votes).

The following players also received votes, with first-team votes in parentheses: DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers 63 (14); Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 62 (18); Tony Allen, Memphis, 60 (17); Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 45 (12); Dwight Howard, Houston, 26 (6); Taj Gibson, Chicago, 21 (2); Mike Conley, Memphis, 21 (5); Ricky Rubio, Minnesota, 19 (5); Lance Stephenson, Indiana, 14 (3); P.J. Tucker, Phoenix, 13 (2); Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 10 (2); Kyle Lowry, Toronto, 10 (3); Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix, 9 (1); Marc Gasol, Memphis, 8; John Wall, Washington, 8 (1); Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City, 8 (1); Kirk Hinrich, Chicago, 7 (2); Trevor Ariza, Washington, 5 (2); Avery Bradley, Boston, 5 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 5 (1); Klay Thompson, Golden State, 5; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 4; Chris Bosh, Miami, 4 (1); Luol Deng, Cleveland, 4 (1); Wesley Matthews, Portland, 4 (1); Tony Parker, San Antonio, 4 (1); Nicolas Batum, Portland, 3 (1); Stephen Curry, Golden State, 3 (1); Danny Green, San Antonio, 3 (1); Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte, 3; Shaun Livingston, Brooklyn, 3 (1); Victor Oladipo, Orlando, 3 (1); DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta, 2; Matt Barnes, L.A. Clippers, 2 (1); James Harden, Houston, 2; George Hill, Indiana, 2; Jeff  Teague, Atlanta, 2; Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2 (1); Kemba Walker, Charlotte, 2; David West, Indiana, 2; Arron Afflalo, Orlando, 1; Corey Brewer, Minnesota, 1; Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia,1; Darren Collison, L.A. Clippers, 1; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 1; Andre Drummond, Detroit, 1; Monta Ellis, Dallas, 1; Danny Granger, L.A. Clippers, 1; Draymond Green, Golden State, 1; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City, 1; David Lee, Golden State, 1; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 1; Rajon Rondo, Boston, 1.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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