NBA AM: The Orlando Magic’s Next Move
What’s Next In Orlando?: As expected, the Orlando Magic pulled the trigger yesterday, parting ways with head coach Stan Van Gundy and team president Otis Smith.
The story is the Magic decided to fire Van Gundy, after which Otis Smith and the Magic “mutually” agreed to part ways.
The Magic are said to have held meetings yesterday and will continue them again today to assemble a list of possible front office candidates. The hope is to begin the interview process almost immediately. Sources close to the process say many of the same names that have been linked to the Portland Trail Blazers GM job are expected to get interviews – Pacers GM David Morway, former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, former GM and current Pacer executive Kevin Pritchard are said to be under consideration.
Magic CEO Alex Martin is said to be running the search for a new basketball operations leader and that the existing scouting and support staff will continue to work the draft and possible free agency until a hire is made.
Sources close to the process say that there is a desire to get a real basketball leader to oversee the Operations side of things, but the Magic would like to keep current director of player development Adonal Foyle in the mix as an eventual successor to whomever the Magic hire.
Foyle has had an ever-increasing role with the Magic front office as Martins tried to figure out what was real and what was not last season and Foyle became a trusted adviser in that process.
In that scenario, rumors of a Donnie Walsh hire make a lot of sense.
Sources say that Walsh is one of the executives the Magic would like to meet with, however at this point the Magic are trying to get interviews set up and it’s unclear if the 71-year old Walsh has real interest in Orlando.
The Magic would like to get an executive in place before hiring a coach, so there is some urgency to get their house in order quickly.
In Related: Magic CEO Alex Martins said yesterday that Magic star Dwight Howard was not involved at all in the decision to fire Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and that Howard “never asked me to make this decision.”
Martins admitted that there was a real rift between his star and his coach and that was a key reason for the change.
“Yes, their relationship was a challenge, but Dwight Howard never asked me to fire Stan Van Gundy,”
“Strategically, he’s as good a coach as I’ve ever been around,” Martins said.
“There are other parts to the job in terms of relationships and how you go about those relationships, relating to players, relating to everyone. Strategically, we may not be able to find anybody better, but there is another part of the job that I do think that, as we look for a head coach, we’ll be focused on in terms of how the coach relates to his players.”
With the Magic clearly in re-tool mode, their next move is to try and convince Howard to sign a long-term extension, something Martins also addressed with the media yesterday.
“I think the decision’s up to Dwight now,” Martins said to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think Dwight needs to decide where his future lies. It’s been well-documented as to what our desires are. Now Dwight needs to decide what his are.”
Chris Bernucca of SheridenHoops is reporting that Howard’s camp is unmoved by the Magic’s changes yesterday and that being traded remains the first option for Howard.
Howard’s camp has maintained that after things regarding Van Gundy’s future went public, the trust between Dwight and the organization was shattered beyond repair and that a trade is all but inevitable.
The Magic remain hopeful that the right front office hire and the subsequent coaching hire that will follow would help bridge the gap, however sources close to the process in Orlando say that the hard fast ‘We Won’t Trade Dwight’ stance has softened and the Magic will explore Dwight’s trade value in and around the draft if he will not commit to the Magic on an extension.
Howard’s recent back surgery will play a role in how much value Howard can return in trade, especially with his full recovery still several months away.
Orlando’s hope is that the right front office and coaching hires, tied to an aggressive roster upgrade and a maximum contract offer will combine to keep Howard in Orlando.
That’s the plan as it stands now. Time will tell if that’s the plan that actually gets executed.
A Big Offseason For The Clippers?: The off-season started in earnest yesterday for the LA Clippers, who held exist meetings with their players and started what looks to be a major off-season for the franchise.
The first order of business will be trying to keep as much of the core from this year’s team intact as possible, while also trying to secure upgrades and improvements.
Clippers’ star Blake Griffin is eligible for a long-term extension, a deal which could be worth as much as five years and roughly $90 million depending on where the final salary cap numbers land.
The Clippers are expected to make the offer, although sources close to the process say it’s not a ‘slam-dunk’ that Griffin takes the deal. Blake is not at all unhappy with the Clippers or his situation, so that bodes well for an eventual deal. Sources close to the situation say Griffin’s future will in some ways be tied to that of All-Star Chris Paul who has one more year on his deal. The Clippers are hopeful they can get Paul to sign a long-term deal and remain with the franchise. Reaching a deal would likely lock in Griffin too. If Paul refuses to extend in LA, look for Griffin to weigh his options and possibly pass on an extension, although with what looks to be $90 million on the table, that seems unlikely.
Would-be free agent Nick Young is likely gone, according to sources. Young agreed to waive his Bird Rights in order to be traded from Washington at the trade deadline, so the Clippers are limited in what they can offer Young financially. Young would like to remain with the team, but he is looking for a payday that the Clippers may not be able to compete with.
Clipper guard Mo Williams has indicated that he would not be opting out of his final contract year, worth $8.5 million, but sources close to the process were adamant yesterday that Williams would be hitting free agency and locking in a long-term deal somewhere he could start. If Williams remains in his deal, he could be an interesting trade chip, which might be why Williams is looking to cash in $8.5 million for one year into a multi-year year with a team more committed to him as a starter.
Williams has said all season long that he likes being a Clipper, so he will have some control over his future with the team.
The Clippers do hold a team option on head coach Vinny Del Negro. The team is being somewhat non-committal on that option, but sources close to the situation said yesterday they expected the Clippers to explore new coaching options and that Vinny was likely gone. The Clippers have ten days from the end of the season to decide what they want to do, but Clippers president Andy Roeser hinted yesterday the team would not need all ten days to reach a decision. Del Negro and owner Donald Sterling are expected to meet this week and a final decision on Del Negro would likely follow. The Clippers organization has been very pro-Del Negro, pointing to his willingness to play the company line, to follow the plan laid out by management and to adjust to what’s been a chaotic season.
However, if the Clippers can upgrade at the coaching spot, they have that option without owing Del Negro money.
The Clippers won 60.6% of their games this season which is the best season percentage-wise in franchise history.
The Clippers have $57.7 million in salary commitments to seven players for next season, so they will have a minimal amount of cap space.
Keeping their core together seems to be the goal – it will be interesting to see if the Clips can get Chris Paul an extension done with Paul.
That’s would truly be the icing on the cake of the franchises best season.
Not Finished Yet: Rasual Butler has played ten seasons in the NBA. That’s fairly rare for the 53rd pick, almost as rare as seeing a veteran like Butler grinding hard in the gym in May.
Most NBA veterans are relaxing and taking time away in May, but Butler, who turns 33 today, plans to keep playing and knows that in order to make a difference he has to keep working.
Butler has been a regular at Impact Basketball in LA, putting in several hours of drills and skill work while putting in several 5 on 5 runs with the would-be draft prospects trying to hone their own games.
Butler is one of 13 players drafted in 2002 that are still in the NBA – Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Drew Gooden, Nene, Amar’e Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Jared Jeffries, Tayshaun Prince, Roger Mason Jr., Dan Gadzuric, Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes and Luis Scola.
Butler has heard from several NBA teams, so he knows there will be options in July and he plans to be ready when those teams come calling.
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