The Orlando Magic played hard throughout the first half of their 2012-13 season. They remained united, never pointing fingers at each other, even as the losses piled up. The young players have shown some promise.

With 42 games done and 40 more to go, the team isn't a laughingstock, as some NBA observers predicted it would be.

But have the Magic been successful? That depends on how you define "success."

Coach Jacque Vaughn on Saturday offered a definition that's simultaneously straightforward and complex. He said: "Did we get better?"

The answer to that is tricky at the outset of a rebuilding project.

On one hand, the team appears to be regressing. After beginning the season with a 12-13 record — and defying all the experts' expectations — injuries have played a role in the Magic losing 15 of their last 17 games. The Magic now trail the Boston Celtics by 5½ games for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

"I just want to win ballgames," power forward Glen Davis said. "We've got an opportunity to go to the playoffs. That's what I want to do."

On the other hand, Vaughn believes there's more to success than the team's record.

"Our offense has grown," he said. "We have a locker room filled with guys with great character that's been tested. They've been resilient, and you don't know [if that will occur] until you're put in that situation with a new staff and new teammates. So, for me, those things are just as important as a guy who is better at his crossover dribble right now or his right-hand jump hook.

"Life's not easy, but you can control your thoughts, and they've done a good job of doing that."