HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —
Let the Orlando Magic be the cautionary tale for any team embracing change, on their roster, this time of year.
Roster building in the NBA is a living and breathing thing, one that requires constant attention but not necessarily constant action. The Magic know this better than most, having not only flipped their roster several times in the past eight years but also swapping out the people in charge of roster building more than most.
Our main man Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel lists the count of “high-profile people who have parted ways with the franchise since December” at 17. That’s since Christmas time folks! And that number could grow in the coming hours, days and weeks depending on what happens in the Draft tonight, with Dwight Howard and others in free agency and trades.
But as Schmitz points out, the Magic are not exactly experiencing change anyone can believe in right now:
The casualties so far include one CEO, one head coach, six assistant coaches, one GM, one assistant GM, six scouts and one player-development director.
An entire basketball operations department could go on Craigslist.
The Magic have fired so many folks, they’re making Donald Trump look benevolent.
The 30-year-old kid in the hall, freshly appointed GM Rob Hennigan, whacked the last eight himself after taking the job last week. We probably can stop the concerns whether his tender youth might cloud his decision-making, so my last crack about Rob’s age will be the fact he no longer will be allowed to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall.
It’s a new launch for the Magic, and frustrated fans have no choice but to embrace the unknown. They’ll be saluting or blaming strangers, beginning with tonight’s draft, and that seems perfectly fine with the faithful now that Otis Smith isn’t near a contract and a pen anymore.
And the biggest change hasn’t even happened yet, speaking of Dwight Howard.
Hennigan fielded more questions Wednesday about Howard’s future than whom he might pick at No. 19.
Hennigan deflected the inquiries like a hockey goalie, including mine: What are the chances Dwight will be traded Thursday night?
“You know what? I don’t want to comment on that,” Hennigan said. “We’re going to continue to evaluate everything we can, analyze all the details, any options and scenarios. I don’t know the answer to that.”
Hennigan knows the answer, and a draft-day deal for Dwight is possible. He just can’t go there yet about Howard.
The Magic’s direction depends on Howard’s direction, and what we do know is this: Dwight hasn’t told the club he’s dying to sign an extension.
For fans, there could be some tells in the Magic’s poker game regarding Howard. If J.J. Redick is dealt on draft-day and Jameer Nelson opts out Friday, Hennigan won’t have to keep pretending publicly that there’s a chance Howard is coming back.
Hennigan’s job will turn into a rebuilding project.
There’s that “R” word that no fan of any team wants to hear at Draft time.
Any “rebuilding project” comes with a fair amount of pain for all involved. For a Magic franchise that played in the The Finals in 2009, it has to be a particularly painful way of heading into the summer.
Even worse for Magic fans, this might only be the beginning of an excruciatingly painful chapter in franchise history, depending on just how much change is ahead.