51Q: Is Scott Skiles, typical player development enough to satisfy Magic?

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The Magic were likely to get better this season no matter whom they hired as coach.

Orlando had an average age – weighted by playing time, holding someone’s age constant as of Feb. 1 – of 24.3 last season. In the previous decade, 86% of teams with an average age below 25 improved the following year.

It’s just hard to keep a young team down.

Young players improve. Young players are typically bad, helping their team add talent through the draft. Young players typically make less money, leaving their team cap space to add depth.

The Magic fit that model perfectly.

They should get internal improvement from Nikola Vucevic (24), Victor Oladipo (23), Tobias Harris (23), Evan Fournier (22), Elfrid Payton (21) and Aaron Gordon (20). They drafted Mario Hezonja No. 5. They splurged a little in free agency on C.J. Watson and Jason Smith after giving Channing Frye a lucrative contract the previous summer.

They also hired Scott Skiles.

Skiles is a hard-driving, defensive-minded disciplinarian who produces immediate results. Twice, he has taken over losing teams.

The Bulls promoted him midway through a 23-59 season in 2003-04. The next year, they went 47-35.

The Bucks went 26-56 in 2007-08. Then they hired hired Skiles and went 34-58.

He gets players to play hard and focus on defense, a simple path to a turnaround. His tight style might produce a lower ceiling – his best record is 51-31 with the 2000-01 Suns – but his methods raise the floor. Skiles’ worst full season is 34-48 – better than the Magic’s 25-57 last year.

Put it all together – the internal development, Hezonja, the rotation-level veterans, Skiles – and I absolutely expect Orlando to improve this season.

But will it be enough to satisfy the team’s brass?

Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“Last year, our hope was to turn the corner,” general manager Rob Hennigan said. “This year, we expect to turn a corner. Our goal is to make the playoffs, and our expectation is that we’ll compete for a playoff spot throughout the entire season. It’s important for us to be playing games that matter at the end of the season. We expect to be in the mix.”

The Magic, who’ve missed the playoffs the last three years, have talked a lot about winning now. Their actions have been mixed, making it difficult to determine just how patient they really are.

The bar to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is low, and the Magic could clear it. I expect them to fall a little short, but it’s nowhere near impossible.

A postseason berth would unquestionably be a quality year for Orlando. Likewise, notching fewer than last season’s 25 wins would be problematic.

But if the Magic fall between those outcomes – which is most likely – will that be enough to keep the front office happy?

Skiles and crew will probably have to land closer to the playoff side of that scale. Can they do it?

WNBA suspends Riquna Williams 10 games for domestic violence

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NEW YORK (AP) The WNBA has suspended Los Angeles Sparks guard Riquna Williams 10 games for a domestic violence incident.

The WNBA handed down the suspension Tuesday. Williams was arrested on April 29 and charged with two felony counts, one involving the assault of an individual with whom she was in a relationship and the other involving a threat to another person with a firearm. Her criminal case is ongoing.

The league conducted its own investigation and consulted with a panel of experts in the field of domestic violence. Among other factors, the WNBA said it took into account the nature and seriousness of the allegations, including the involvement of a gun.

The WNBA also will require Williams to participate in counseling.

Williams’ suspension will begin with Thursday’s game against the Dallas Wings.

Report: Bulls signing Luke Kornet for guaranteed $4.5M over two years

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Just three 7-footers have averaged 3.5 3-pointers per game and made 35% of them each of the last two seasons:

The Bulls will now have most of them.

Markkanen is Chicago’s top young player. Kornet will join him with the Bulls next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’m a little surprised Kornet got more than his minimum ($3,383,360 over two years). But it’s worth taking a flier on him.

In addition to his outside shooting, Kornet has shown good timing as a shot-blocker in two seasons with the Knicks. The 24-year-old must get stronger and improve as a rebounder to play major minutes.

But the Bulls won’t have to press him into action. They also have Thaddeus Young, Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as bigs.

Pistons claim Christian Wood off waivers

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The Bucks waived Christian Wood late last season to ensure avoiding the luxury tax. The Pelicans claimed him. Wood had played well in limited minutes with the 76ers, Hornets and Bucks and in the NBA’s minor league since going undrafted in 2015.

New Orleans gave him his biggest opportunity yet. In 24 minutes per game over eight games, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pelicans filled their roster for next season and waived Wood.

Detroit will take advantage.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that the team has claimed forward/center Christian Wood off waivers.

Wood’s $1,645,357 minimum salary is unguaranteed until the regular season. So, Detroit could still waive him before the season. But it seems he’ll at least go to training camp and get a shot at a regular-season roster spot.

The Pelicans also could’ve kept him through the preseason then waived him before the regular season. They seemingly did him a favor of allowing him to get somewhere he has a realistic chance of sticking.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt for the Pistons. Markieff Morris and Thon Maker appear to be first in line is backups.

But don’t be surprised if Wood earns playing time. At minimum, the 23-year-old should provide nice depth at both power forward and center.

The Pistons have also now acquired four members of last year’s Bucks – Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Tim Frazier and now Wood.

Knicks: Reggie Bullock has spine injury

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Reggie Bullock had his agreed-upon salary cut by more than half with the Knicks. He’ll reportedly miss at least a month of the regular season.

All because of a mysterious health issue.

The Knicks have finally disclosed what’s happening.

Knicks release:

Reggie Bullock underwent successful surgery today at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation. The team will plan to provide an update on his rehab and progress around the start of training camp.

Bullock is a good shooter from the wing. New York could use him. Many teams could use him.

But Bullock must get healthy first.

At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect much from him any time soon. The best indication: how eagerly his agent praised the Knicks for their handling of this situation. Again, Bullock settled for less than half his initially agreed-upon salary.