HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Orlando is fantasy land, where magic happens.
We get it.
But that’s no reason for anyone there to believe in magic or the make-believe required to believe in such things. The fallout from Dwight Howard‘s departure from Orlando and the Magic has apparently driven folks into fantasy mode. It happens when a franchise and its fan base are dealing with Post-Traumatic Superstar-Departure Syndrome.
Are the Magic looking to hook perhaps the NBA’s biggest fish four years from now?
Yes, it’s difficult for fans to even digest how long a wait that might be.
But wouldn’t the wait for Kevin Durant be worth it?
Now the knee-jerk reaction might be this: Durant? Durant isn’t the kind of kid who would ever abandon Oklahoma City as a free agent (after the 2015-16 season.) He’s the leader of a great, young team now. And surely, the Thunder aren’t about to let him get away.
Absolutely right. But we’ll play along, just to see what kind of rabbit you plan on pulling out of this hat:
People and circumstances change.
Who envisioned Miami striking up a band called The Heatles? Or New Jersey — New Jersey! – being relevant again?
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So this is what “hardball” looks like?
For months — before he changed course at the March trade deadline when he signed away his leverage — Dwight Howard was holding the ultimate card in his game of free-agent chicken with the Orlando Magic.
Now, with his latest trade request to the Brooklyn Nets ignored yet again, Howard’s 4th of July will include few fireworks outside of the ones he lights off in his backyard tonight.
The Magic don’t appear to be in any great rush to acquiesce and provide an escape route for their disgruntled superstar center. In fact, the Magic are reportedly exhausting every possible option to do anything but send him to the Nets, where he can join Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in the Brooklyn Big 3.
If starting a bidding war for Howard is what Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is trying to do, we’ll know by the weekend if he’s been successful. The guess here is that there will be no shortage of fantasy packages cooked up by teams hoping to land Howard. (After all the drama he’s put the Magic through since December, he remains the most dominant low-post force in basketball and no one vying for his services has forgotten that.)
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier on the Dwight Howard front, free agency kicked off and a whole new round of madness began for the Orlando Magic and their superstar center and his season-long trade request to Brooklyn.
And you can stop scanning the list … Howard is not actually a free agent right now. He gave that opportunity up in March when he waived his opt-out clause to remain with the Magic one more season.
Yet somehow, he’s still become the center of attention in the midst of the free-agent frenzy going on now.
That’s why we tracked down Orlando Sentinel Magic insider Brian Schmitz, who has been there ever step of the way since Howard was drafted in 2004, to help us make sense of the story that never seems to run out of plot twists and turns.
While Howard is fighting to escape the Southeast Division, new Hawks general manager Danny Ferry is trying to reshape it by dramatically altering the Hawks’ roster. In his fist eight days on the job he shed $105 million in contracts (trading Joe Johnson to the Nets and Marvin Williams to the Jazz) and put the Hawks in a position to be major players in free agency next summer, when Howard and Chris Paul could headline the crop of stars teams are stepping over each other to sign.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com knows Ferry well, from their shared time in Cleveland (Ferry ran the Cavaliers and Windhorst covered them better than anyone for the Akron BeaconJournal and later, The Plain Dealer), and joins us to discuss Ferry’s master plan.
Check out all that and more on Episode 85 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Brian Schmitz of theOrlando Sentinel and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
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.
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.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With all of the changes in to the script, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the details of the Dwight Howard trade saga as we get closer to next week’s trade deadline.
Howard gave the Magic a list of three teams — the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks — on his preferred list, were they to honor his training camp request and trade him this season.
“I’d say everybody in the league has called us. …but this late, it’s six to eight,” [Magic GM Otis] Smith said before the Magic faced the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
Smith said there was “nothing new to report” about Howard’s situation.
With the trade deadline next [Thursday], Smith wouldn’t get into any specifics about Howard.
“We still have a ways to go. It’s early,” he said. “Usually nothing gets done until the 15th.”
Howard has been talking with Magic CEO Alex Martins, who remains hopeful that the franchise can convince their superstar center to stay.
Howard has an early-termination option in his contract and can become a free agent after the season. He told the Magic he preferred to be dealt to the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic said when Howard presented his trade-request list early in training camp in December that they seek compensation if Howard had made up his mind to leave Orlando.
Smith said he expects some trade activity around the league at the deadline.
This notion that Howard could be traded to a team not on his preferred list means some team is willing to rent Howard’s services. A “Rent-A-Dwight” situation, if you will.
Dwight Howard said Monday that he wants to finish his playing career in Orlando, that he wants to win an NBA championship with the Magic and that he loves the city and its fans.
He even said it on the radio, so it must be true. And most definitely binding.
“I love Orlando,” Howard said on the Dan Patrick Show. “The city has been very good to me and I would love to finish my career here. I want to win a championship and I want to win it in Orlando. … That’s all I’ve been thinking about.”
Howard, the Magic center who ranks among the league’s MVP candidates this season and high on a list of future NBA free agents, has the option to exit his contract after the 2011-12 season. As Bryan Schmitz points out in his BasketBlog for the Orlando Sentinel, that means the team would want to know Howard’s intentions by next February’s trading deadline.
So the crossroads for central Florida and another dominating All-Star big man – a la Shaquille O’Neal back in 1996 – is a little more than 11 months away.
And the fact that Howard stated unequivocally that he wants to keep playing and winning in Orlando means, what, exactly? That he cannot change his mind? That his feelings about Orlando now might not be significantly different from how he’ll feel about the franchise and the market come July 2012?
B-b-b-b-but he told it to Dan Patrick. On the radio! C’mon, Howard could write his intentions in blood at the front gates to Disney World and it wouldn’t exactly be a guarantee to supersede all the enticements and riches to which he might succumb when he hits free agency. Didn’t LeBron James say a bunch of right things a year or more out from his big announcement?
We’re holding out for that moment when the big guy really, officially, locks himself in. By, y’know, crossing his heart and hoping to die.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Frictions isn’t always a bad thing.
Sometimes just the right amount of tension in the workplace brings out the best in everyone.
With Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy tinkering with his rotations, there was bound to be some healthy friction between the free-speaking coach and his players.
Ryan Anderson didn’t like being passed up in the rotation by Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus doesn’t like the way he’s being used, either, hence the shouting match and benching that occurred Wednesday night.
“It’s going to be a tough thing for a few of our guys. The good part is we have a flexibility to play different situations, but to do that, somebody has to pay every night. I guess, as we go along, we’ll see who can handle it and produce. I don’t mind if they are pissed off with me, but I don’t want it translating to their teammates. I need them to stay together as a group.”
As B. Schmitz pointed out, this is the second straight year that Van Gundy’s rotation tinkering has caused friction. Last season Bass and J.J. Redick bristled at the way they were being used.
The fact is, players complain about the way they are used all the time. It’s as common as tattoos and baggy shorts in the NBA. The key is making sure that the friction helps the cause as opposed to hurting the team’s overall performance.
Pietrus seems to understand as much:
“I’m a very competitive guy. What I miss the most is being out there,” he said. “It’s not playing time; it’s getting back that adrenalin that I need. It’s hard for me not to have that.
“It’s why I’m so frustrated. … I respect Stan. Of course. He’s like part of my family.”
Family or not, do you think this tension is good for the Magic?