Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Sentinel’

Change Has Cost Magic Dearly!

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.

Poof! Magic’s Howard Done For Season?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Orlando Magic is down a big man right now with Dwight Howard rehabbing his sore back. But there are reports coming out of Orlando now that suggest the herniated disc in Howard’s lower back could cost him not only the remainder of the regular season but also whatever postseason run the Magic have in them.

The initial report comes from the same place that gave us the Howard-Stan Van Gundy controversy a few weeks ago, Orlando’s WKMG Channel 6  sports director David Pingalore.

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has a different take and reports that a final determination on Howard’s playoff availability has not been made:

Howard received an epidural last Friday after he sought a second opinion from Robert Watkins, a spine surgeon based in Marina del Rey, Calif. The injection was intended to help Howard manage the pain and begin rehabbing.

Howard’s camp is adamant that the All-NBA center wants to return for the postseason.

He will be re-evaluated on or around the end of the regular season. Depending how he responds to treatment, he could play in the playoffs.

Conflicting reports surrounding Howard are not uncommon in the Magic kingdom this season. In fact, they’ve become the norm. But there’s no question that the Magic sans Howard in the playoffs looks like a much more vulnerable team for someone to take on in the first round.

Again, there has been no official confirmation of Howard’s status for the postseason. So anyone assuming anything right now might want to take a step back and wait for something concrete from the Magic … or we can just wait for Van Gundy to confirm it at the Magic’s next shootaround.

(Jeff) Van Gundy Blasts Howard, Magic

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — And you thought we were done with the Dwight Howard-and-the-Magic mess.

Not if Jeff Van Gundy has anything to say about it, and did he ever on Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi‘s radio show the other day. The former coach and current ESPN analyst lit into the Magic for pandering to Howard and his wishes, suggesting that there is some sort of agreement between Magic brass and Howard to out his brother, Stan Van Gundy, down the line.

He made sure to mention that his opinions are all his own and that he doesn’t discuss the Magic with his brother before telling Bianchi:

“To me, only the most gullible fans would believe that this was about loyalty,” Jeff said of Dwight’s decision. “I think it was about power and control. … I don’t know what they agreed to, but anybody who doesn’t think senior management and Howard have come to an agreement on either trading players to get people he (Dwight) likes or changing the coach or changing the general manager or changing the marketing of him. … Whatever they agreed to, there’s been an agreement made.

“… What the Magic senior executives are doing right now is unbecoming. The groveling and begging is hard to read and watch. His (Dwight’s) opinion should matter, but the strong organizations stand for something rather than fall for anything.”

Uh, where do we begin with this nonsense?

If the Magic are beholding to Howard in the ways that Jeff Van Gundy believes, what would be the need for some secret agreement? Howard could have ordered the Magic to send Stan Van Gundy packing (as well as GM Otis Smith, too) and start fresh now rather than wait until, what, next season?

Laughing off the loyalty theme Howard played up during his news conference announcing his sticking with Orlando for another season is predictable as well. But when did these things become about anything other than power and control? When the players have it (and the true superstars almost always do), it’s an issue.

Bottom line? If Howard had an issue with Stan Van Gundy that might have caused him to leave town, the Magic coach probably would have been fired a long time ago if that’s what it took to keep Howard happy and in Orlando.

And finally, if my brother decided to criticize my bosses, the organization that employs me and the star player who has helped put food on my table and secure my family’s future without discussing it with me, that next family dinner would include some serious fireworks.

Trade Chatter: Rent-A-Dwight?

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.

Now comes word, via Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, that the Magic have a list of “six to eight” teams they are talking to about Howard:

“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.


Stern Warnings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s been a while since we’ve heard from NBA Commissioner David Stern in this space. He was such a huge presence ’round these parts during the lockout that we felt it necessary to give him a little break in the aftermath of the deal getting done and the season starting.

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel helped remind us what an entertaining interview the Commissioner can be with this interesting, to say the least, Q&A.

They talked Dwight Howard, a little lockout recap, quality of play around the league right now, Stern’s future and the difference between a “big market” and “small market” team, and more.


Dwight Howard=Key To Lakers’ Future?

LOS ANGELES — If there is a rift between Dwight Howard and Orlando’s hometown newspaper and it somehow leads to Howard’s eye wandering this way come free agency in 2012, basketball fans here in Southern California already have the welcome routine down.

As both Howard, writers at the Orlando Sentinel and anyone else that knows anything about the history of the league have already pointed out, this wouldn’t be the first time a Magic superstar center has packed up and relocated to Hollywood. (Shaquille O’Neal‘s how-to-bolt-and-win-titles-in-LA pamphlet is available on

As we documented here before, one enterprising Orlando fan already has taken a proactive approach to prevent any kind of Howard exodus with the campaign.

But if something as simple as Howard’s testy tweet from the other day …

Y does it seem like the writers of Orlando sentinel are tryna push me out of Orlando with dumb articles. It’s annoying. Can I enjoy my summer and get ready for next season in Orlando. Pls. Same thing u guys did to Shaq. Smh

… can set off the sort of firestorm that it did, the next 10-12 months will be a living nightmare for Magic fans worried that Howard will bolt for the big stage that this city provides.

Lakers’ fans are licking their wounds after having their three-peat bid swept away by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, so they need something to feel good about. They need to believe that bigger and better days are ahead now that the Phil Jackson era is over. They need to believe in the dream of Howard in purple and gold. They need to believe that he is the key to their future.

And make no mistake about it, the buzz is real. People won’t stop talking about him out here. I got into a heated debate yesterday with an L.A. native who insisted that not only does it make sense for Howard to pick up where Shaq left off, but that Howard (like every other player in the league) “loves LA, is interested in buying a house here and wants to be a Laker.”

He believed what he was saying so wholeheartedly that he almost had me convinced that what he said was true.


Workplace Tension In Orlando

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.

But with Van Gundy committed to tinkering, in anticipation of the playoffs, Magic players will have to live with whatever Van Gundy decides to do (as Stan Van explained to my main man Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel):

“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?

Let’s go to the polls: