Tobias Harris, one of the Orlando Magic's key young players, said this morning that the players' goal next season should be to make the playoffs.
Following the Magic's shootaround, Harris was asked whether he thinks about the potential of the Magic's young nucleus.
"I definitely think about that a lot," Harris answered.
"We're definitely a young unit coming together out there on the floor. We've been making great strides out there, so I definitely think about what the future can be for us as players on this team, and I think we'll be a really good team in the future and coming up. This season is winding down, but going into next year, our goal should be nothing less than the playoffs, and that's got to be our mindset also."
Magic fans should welcome Harris' attitude.
Any team that has lost as many games as the Magic have lost this season faces a danger: that it has become too accustomed and too accepting of losing.
If the young players adopt Harris' attitude next season, that would be a sign that the youngsters haven't fallen into that trap.
An improvement in the team's record also would mean that the young players are making strides.
If the Magic's rebuilding effort is going to work, the youngsters need to improve and develop into assets — if not for the Magic in the years ahead, then as potential trade pieces.
There would be an unwelcome side effect to making the playoffs next season.
It would take the Magic out of the running to win the 2014 draft lottery.
That draft is expected to feature at least two potential perennial
Acquiring one of them would enable the Magic's rebuilding effort to take a quantum leap forward. Right now, despite the improvements Harris and Nik Vucevic and Maurice Harkless have made, the Magic still lack a transcendant star, a player who will be a certain perennial All-Star.
Magic decision-makers will have to decide how they want to approach 2013-14.
Is there a palatable way for them to continue to develop their current nucleus of young players and simultaneously contend for a top lottery spot?
The Magic could take the same route they've taken this season.
They could trade away solid veterans Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis or Jameer Nelson and devote even more playing time to players like Harris, Harkless, Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn. Or when the veterans have nagging injuries, the team could continue to follow ultra-cautious timetables for their return to the court.
That would serve a dual purpose: It would accelerate the youngsters' development, and it would give the team a boost for the lottery.
"The idea is to construct a fascinating failure with an accent on a stellar future," Brian wrote. "This is a good thing — or could be."
But would Magic fans accept another season with this level of losing?
And at what point would all the losing weigh down young players and begin to impede their development?
Jacque Vaughn and his coaching staff have remained remarkably positive this season, and the team's morale has remained high. But would another season of comparable losing hurt morale?
These are questions that the team's youngsters can't concern themselves with. After all, they don't make team policy.
Instead, they need to spend their upcoming offseason trying to improve as much as possible, and that's why Harris' comments should be welcomed.
"We're a young unit," he said. "Right now, in the games that we've played and being a young team and having young guys out there, it's tough to close out all these games.
"But, at the same time, we're making the right strides. Going into next year, [making the playoffs] has to be our mindset. We can't settle for nothing less than that. I believe as a team if we want to be the best type of team, you have to set your goals really high. So that's my goal as a player and that's my goal this summer going into the offseason: getting myself ready and getting my game to be the best that it can be."