Orlando GM Otis Smith gave a strange, impromptu interview on Sunday that was as odd in its execution as it was rare in its setting.
If you've ever covered an NBA game, and utilized access to the locker room and/or the underbelly of an NBA stadium, you're not always likely to cross paths with an NBA GM. In a regular year, an NBA team can play nearly a hundred games once you count a good playoff run and a lame preseason jaunt, and GMs are often on the road scouting or (more than likely) ducking into a luxury suite so as to take in the NBA from a suitable distance away from credentialed punks like us.
Sometimes, though, you will see an NBA team's personnel el jefe wandering the bowels of a stadium before teams tip off. And, sometimes, that man will be in charge of a bit of a hostage situation, when a team's best player has gone all but public with a trade demand that everyone knows about. Such was the case with Otis Smith on Sunday.
The Magic GM admitted that nothing has changed in terms of star center Dwight Howard's thinking, and trade request. That he hadn't expanded his list of preferred destinations (as if that should matter to Smith), and that he still would like to be shipped out before next month's trade deadline.
Here's another portion, via the Orlando Sentinel:
I can't do anything more than I can do, one. Second, my track record pretty much speaks for itself. Until we go all the way down, how can you condemn me? For what? Trying? Condemn me. If trying is a sin, then I have sinned a lot, because I'm never going to stop trying. That's not my makeup. I don't read what you write. I really don't. When I say I don't, I really don't. So I don't know. I get a lot of people saying, "Hang in there." And I don't really know what they're talking about, because I don't read it. And I really don't. [...]
When we made the trades last year, I didn't make the trades last year thinking it was going to turn us around right away. No. As a matter of fact, I think I said, "This trade is going to take some time. It's not going to be one of those things where it's hit or miss." I normally do not trade during the course of the season. It's just something I don't like to do, because it takes a while to get your chemistry back. I knew the team that was on the floor [before the trades] wasn't going to get it done. Also, we'd seen enough in Ryan and Brandon [Bass] to know they could hold that position down. That was enough for us. . . .
You can't take one of these jobs, mine or Stan's, and have thin skin. You have to have pretty thick skin. It's not us; it's the people around us that's affected the most. We signed up for it. No one put a gun to our head and told us to take it. It's our families that are affected the most.
As it is with the Magic organization, this is just completely all over the place.
Why would you have to have thick skin to put up with a gig as a GM or coach if you don't read analysis (which can run both good and bad) from writers?
Why seem strangely defensive about what you're either assuming people are criticizing you about (because you, supposedly, don't read the criticism) if you're really OK with your "track record" that "pretty much speaks for itself"?
Why point to a "track record" that "pretty much speaks for itself" when your team has gone from an NBA Finals appearance in 2009 to a mediocre team 2 1/2 years later with a franchise player that refuses to sign a contract extension while demanding a trade out of town? Why point to that track record when the player in question, Dwight Howard, wasn't even drafted by you?
The oddest bit, which I didn't include in the quote block, includes a reference to Smith's family being a target of … threats? It's hard to tell. Here's Smith:
Smith: No, just all the comments. Just because I don't read it, that doesn't necessary mean that they don't or aren't threatened by it.
Sentinel: When you say "threatened," you don't mean physically?
Smith: I've gotten those, too.
Sentinel: You have. But not your family?
Smith: No, I've gotten those, too.
Sentinel: What do you do in those cases? Do you call the police?
Smith: I just have to be a little extra cautious and let those around me know that the threat is there. But I don't concern myself with it.
Are "fans" in the Orlando area so obsessed with a team like the Magic that they're making threatening phone calls or sending nasty letters to Smith's family? Or is he referring to Internet comment sections on newspaper websites or message boards?
Because, if the latter is the case, then those sorts of threats are in place for just about every public figure out there. From a staff writer cobbling together a "five ways to make the best tuna salad" post to the coach of whatever team just lost an NFL playoff game to a presidential candidate. Stuck behind the wall of anonymity, Internet losers tough guys are everywhere, commenting away. A writer covering a low-end college football team for a small paper or website you've never heard of gets the same grief.
And it'd be easier to know just who Smith was talking about if he bothered to admit that he clearly "reads it." We're not attempting to make light of the morons who have more than definitely gotten weirdly in touch with Smith or his family just because he hasn't found a shooting guard to their liking, but if people are messing with Smith's family? Let's have it out, so we can start going after these morons.
Smith hasn't had a good run in Orlando. His attempt to turn Rashard Lewis into a max-level superstar and dalliances with Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas have more than frustrated Magic fans. And though it's nice to see Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy finally playing Smith acquisition Ryan Anderson, you get the feeling (based on Smith's past moves) that he treated Anderson more as a throw-in during the 2009 deal that acquired the scoring forward more than he treated him as the centerpiece his per-minute numbers suggested he should be.
Stuck with precious little trading options for Dwight Howard, Smith and the Magic have decided to forge forward in the hopes that Howard sticks around this summer once he becomes a free agent, which is an incredibly risky move. Players that issue trade demands don't really tend to re-sign with teams once they're allowed to go elsewhere a few months removed from that trade demand; so even if Smith's trading options are unremarkable, he's still playing a likely unsatisfying game by hanging on to a player he's bound to lose with no compensation returning.
Sadly for Magic fans, this fits nicely with how Smith has run the team over the last five years. In spite of the team's Finals appearance and continued playoff run.
At least he's going on record during this meltdown. Even if he's not making a whole lot of sense.