After a harrowing season of trade drama, various injuries, and lackluster performances, the Orlando Magic has begun their rebuilding project at the front office. Despite the second first round playoff elimination since the 2009 Finals run, Magic fans have scrutinized the trade making decisions of former General Manager Otis Smith instead of fully placing blame on the players. When Otis Smith and former head coach Stan Van Gundy were relieved of their duties simultaneously, only Van Gundy’s dismissal felt premature. Firing a coach with a continuous .500 record, who teetered on the edge of the championship, and made it to the playoffs every year afterwards is a statement not only of conflicting methods, but of opposite visions.
After all, former head coach Stan Van Gundy could only do so much with the talent he was given, right?
Wrong. A huge amount of responsibility falls on the players to follow direction, focus, and actually be better. Granted, some coaches bond better with different players, but there comes a point where a professional player must take responsibility for not putting in the full effort required to lift a team to greatness. I’m looking at you, Dwight Howard. Not only did the Magic’s record slip from 3rd best in the NBA to the 6th best during the most tense time of the Great Dwight Decision, it continued to fall even after Howard pledged to stay for at least another year. With the seeds of superstar retention at all costs planted, Ryan Anderson’s three point shooting fell off as well as anyone’s ability to offensive rebound.
The Magic’s natural reaction was to bring in a new GM and head coach more willing to cater to lassoing another superstar to compliment Dwight Howard. CEO Alex Martins has narrowed down the general manager prospects, but does not expect to hire until after the NBA Draft Combine. According to a report by Orlando Pinstriped Post, the candidates have been narrowed down to Portland Trail Blazer executive Tom Penn, Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver, and San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey. For head coach, Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw leads the pack with Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen as wingman.
Important to note is the fishing line cast primarily in Western Conference teams. All three GM candidates come from notoriously dedicated fan bases. OKC is now emerging as real contenders, which could lend proper building skills to Orlando. The Spurs have experience with seasoned players constantly pushing limits. Any of these candidates would push the Magic closer to serious contender status, but the true test will be trading decisions and the will of Dwight Howard.
With bad contracts like Hedo Turkoglu’s, 5 year, $53M contract and not a single decent placed draft pick in sight, the Magic must focus on coercing another superstar to buddy-buddy with Dwight Howard, or cut the star Center loose. Fans will not respect Howard no matter how many career seasons he has if he jerks around the rest of the team. Orlando is one of the harshest criticizing basketball towns hungry for new blood, but the new-old blood of, say, Phoenix Suns PG Steve Nash could satisfy their thirst. Nash may only have a few years left in him, but the shot in the arm he can give at the PG position will attract talent new and seasoned.
Whomever the Magic decide to hire as GM and head coach, both positions must be prepared to navigate the waters of instant gratification from fans and diva demands from top players.