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Magic forming an identity. On purpose, though?

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

In evaluating Magic president Jeff Weltman’s first offseason last year, I wrote it could take him years to put his stamp on the franchise. He inherited a roster so gummed up with bad contracts for at-least-half-decent veterans. There was no quick fix, up or down.

One year later, and Orlando has an identity.

I’m just unconvinced it’s one Weltman deliberately pursued.

The Magic are building a jumbo frontcourt, a rarity in today’s NBA. Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Mohamed Bamba are all promising, and they might – might – fit together. They’d comprise one of the league’s largest 3-4-5s.

But Orlando might have just stumbled into this experiment.

Isaac, the No. 6 pick last year, was already on board as a long-term piece.

The Magic might have hoped a better-fitting player – like point guard Trae Young, who went No. 5 (to the Hawks, via the Mavericks) – slipped to No. 6 this year. But Bamba was the top prospect available, and drafting him was far better than reaching for a lesser alternative.

And Gordon re-signed for a bargain rate. His four-year, $76 million deal is worth $38,093,280 less than a four-year max would have paid. Plus, his salary descends – from $21,590,909 this season to $16,409,091 in year four. Better to get those higher costs out of the way now, when Orlando is capped out anyway. This is one of the most team-friendly contracts of the summer.

So, this plan might have just fallen into the Magic’s lap. But they’re rolling with it now.

Orlando swapped center Bismack Biyombo for center Timofey Mozgov, who’s worse than Biyombo and will earn $1.28 million more over the next two years. Why? The deal allowed the Magic to acquire Jerian Grant, a worthwhile flier point guard. Neither center was likely to play much in Orlando, anyway.

I like the Magic’s second-rounders: Melvin Frazier and Justin Jackson. I like how Orlando got cash for accepting Dakari Johnson in a trade with the Thunder then got cash for flipping Johnson to the Grizzlies for Jarell Martin. I like the Magic’s new coach, Steve Clifford, who replaces Frank Vogel.

The Magic got plenty right this offseason. They just didn’t have clearance for a major takeoff. As much as they have fallen into a style, they were still hamstrung by the problems Weltman inherited.

And it’s far from guaranteed Isaac, Gordon and Bamba will complement each other. Orlando could have to move at least one, and timing a trade will be imperative.

But there’s plenty of time to figure that out. For now, the Magic are still in asset-acquisition mode, and they did well with that this summer.

Offseason grade: B

Report: Warriors project at least $100 million revenue increase with new arena next season

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The Warriors’ player costs this season are in line to be about $195 million (about $145 million in salary, about $50 million in luxury tax).

If they re-sign Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to max salaries, keep everyone under contract, sign their own draft picks and fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary free agents, the Warriors’ spending on players next season would project to hit about $355 million (about $173 million in salary, about $182 million in luxury tax).

But maybe Golden State can afford it.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Internally, the Warriors project a nine-figure increase in revenue when they move into the Chase Center next season, sources said.

The Warriors already make so much money on their home games. That’s a whopping increase – one that could alone increase the league-wide salary cap a couple million dollars.

But this figure doesn’t say how much more money will reach Golden State ownership. Revenue differs from profit. The Warriors could have greater expenses, including revenue-sharing obligations, in their new arena.

Still, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a windfall for the Golden State, one that could go a long way not just in affording stars but also keeping complementary players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

The salary cap promotes competitive balance. But big-spending teams still have an advantage.

2019 NBA All-Star jersey leaks

AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
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NBA All-Stars wore black and white uniforms last season, and it appears this year’s All-Star game will feature a similar look.

Josman Suri:

I love All-Star jerseys integrating a player’s NBA team, which comes more naturally now that All-Star teams are selected by captains rather than East vs. West.

But these are pretty bad. They look cheap and generic.

Perhaps, the red-white-and-blue borders are a nod to All-Star jerseys from 1991, when the game was last held in Charlotte:

AP_910210042

(AP Photo/Susan Regan)

If so, I appreciate the attempt to connect historically. But the link is pretty weak.

The Hornets have iconic colors in teal and purple. I’d rather see those integrated into the All-Star uniforms.

And I fear the white versions could look even worse. A black-and-white version of the Lakers’ looks too plain in the above photo. That version of a team’s logo could look even blander against white.

Dennis Schroder on trade from Hawks to Thunder: ‘I wanted to be in a winning-mentality organization. You just can’t go out there and try to lose’

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Dennis Schroder expressed his dismay last offseason with the Hawks’ losing.

Safe to say, the point guard was happy to be traded to the Thunder.

Schroder, via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

“I wanted to be in a winning mentality organization,” Schroder said bluntly, not the first time he’s brought up the different direction he had from the new Hawks, who are 13-30 entering Tuesday’s game. “You just can’t go out there and try to lose.

“I’m a competitor and I try to give everything out there. I want the organization to feel the same way. Right now with our organization, all the players in the locker room, all of the coaches, they’ve got a winning mentality. That’s what makes it fun, when you go out there and go to war with your brothers. There’s nothing better than that.”

Atlanta beat Oklahoma City by 16 last night, turning Schroder’s comments on their head. But that was only one game. Obviously, the Thunder are far better than the Hawks.

Atlanta is doing right by itself by rebuilding. But aggravating veterans should be a consequence of tanking. It’s a natural check on the practice.

Though Hawks players aren’t trying to lose when on the court, management built a team less-equipped to win now with the clear intent of landing a higher draft pick. It’s a miserable situations for veterans who are capable of contributing to a winner – which tends to make those veterans lose interest, which makes the team lose even more, which furthers management’s goals.

Schroder escaped that in Atlanta, maybe in part by complaining about his situation. I don’t blame him for continuing to call attention to the stark differences in philosophy between the Hawks and Thunder right now.

Bulls cost Lakers fans free tacos

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The Bulls have lost eight straight, but they showed late fight against the Lakers last night.

Or maybe more accurately, Lakers fans.

Fans at Lakers games receive free tacos if the Lakers hold the opponent under 100 points. With five minutes left, the Lakers led Chicago 92-76. Tacos appeared imminent.

Then, the Bulls went on a run. It was probably initially about trying to win the game. Chicago even cut its deficit to just five points with 35 seconds left.

But, by the end, it appeared to be about taco-blocking.

While coming the back, the Bulls kept fouling the Lakers, increasing the number of possessions – and therefore points – in the game. The taco race became tight.

Chicago had 98 points when Jabari Parker stepped to the line for two free throws with 21 seconds left. He missed the first then intentionally missed the second, allowing Lakers fans a sigh of relief.

Down eight with 19 seconds left, the Bulls intentionally fouled. After the Los Angeles free throws, Chicago essentially had one more chance to prevent tacos.

The Lakers’ defense tightened, obviously aware of the stakes. Shaquille Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but after an offensive rebound, got the ball back and drew a foul on a 3-pointer. He made his first two free throws to send Los Angeles fans home without free tacos, though at least their team won, 107-100.

What a wild run, especially by a team without much scoring punch.

Here are the Bulls’ points per 48 minutes by segment:

  • Season: 100
  • Under Jim Boylen: 97
  • First 43 minutes against Lakers: 85
  • Final five minutes against Lakers: 230