It seems like twice a day we bring up certain teams as the very model of how NBA squads have gone wrong in their pound-foolish buildup to the current lockout. But the Orlando Magic? Above all, they seem to be the super, super model.
The team's current GM, Otis Smith, inherited both Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson from the previous GM. He then attempted to sign Florida's Billy Donovan to coach the team before "settling" on Stan Van Gundy. Later that summer, he signed Rashard Lewis to a massive seven-year, $122 million deal. Somehow, two years later, those same Orlando Magic made the NBA Finals.
In a rare show of economic restraint, Smith then declined to bargain against the eight-figure deals both Portland and Toronto offered Hedo Turkoglu. He traded for a cheaper star in Vince Carter that at worst matched what Turkoglu brought, and the Magic responded by winning just as many games in 2009-10 as they did the year they made the Finals. A whimpering postseason exit and slow start to 2010-11 resulted in two massive deals that sent out Carter's expiring contract and Lewis' mess of a deal for both Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas' Worst Contract Ever. Orlando then responded by losing in the first round earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Howard kind of fumed a bit, behind that smile. Nothing incendiary, but enough to make the man pine for the days of Vince and roses.
He's still a bit mournful, as he discussed with AM 790 in Atlanta recently, as noted by Sports Radio Interviews:
"I wanted to be more part of the process a little more. I had to step out on the court and I wanted to make sure that the people I played with wanted to go out and play hard every night. My only issue was the fact that I didn't really have a chance to be involved, but I think with the guys that we brought in we still have an excellent chance of winning, but we all have to be on the same page. I do miss a lot of the guys we traded. You know Marcin Gortat…I think he was very key since last season. Also Mickael Pietrus and Rashard Lewis and also Vince [Carter]. All of these guys are very key in our success and to see them go on the personal side it hurt, but I understand the NBA is a business and we have to keep going."
The Magic were 16-10 at the time of the trade, on pace to win 51 games. They ended with 52 wins, but not before adding $113 million more in payroll between Hedo and Gilbert. Carter's expiring contract matched up with Jason Richardson, and Gortat's middling deal works for probably less than he's worth. So, about $113 million, for another win spread out over 82 games. And a first-round exit. I'd be upset too.
And if you're not already upset, check out Howard's thoughts on when this whole lockout business will really start to hit home:
"I think guys will really start to worry when it's time for training camp or right after training camp when it's usually pre-season and probably November is when guys will I don't think worry, but probably want to know what is going on."
Not worry, but "want to know what's going on." Fantastic.
Enjoy your unpaid vacation, Dwight. And keep blaming the players for the mess you've made, Orlando.