Denton: Hennigan, Magic Gear Up For Thursday's Draft

By John Denton
June 27, 2012

ORLANDO – While there continues to be uncertainty about the Orlando Magic futures of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and the team’s next head coach, new General Manager Rob Hennigan is absolutely certain about the kind of players he will be seeking in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

``We’re looking for players who love basketball and are committed to being a part of something that is greater than themselves,’’ Hennigan said. ``We want guys who are going to work, be disciplined, humble and hungry to improve.’’

Hired last week as the Magic’s new GM, Hennigan has been working tirelessly around the clock the past six days to connect with the team’s current players and also prepare for the Thursday’s NBA Draft. The Magic own the No. 19 and 49 picks in the draft, but because the process is so ``fluid’’ – Hennigan’s description – there could be some movement higher or lower in the first and second rounds for the Magic.

Hennigan has been in talks with Howard and his representatives about the superstar center’s future in Orlando, but he has chosen to keep those conversations private.

Hennigan made it clear that it’s his first choice to have Howard, a five-time All-NBA selection, return to the Magic for next season. He is under contract with the Magic through next season, but the Magic would prefer that Howard commit to them long term via a signed contract extension.

``We’re going to continue to evaluate where we stand and analyze all of the details, options and scenarios. I have communicated with Dwight and his representation,’’ Hennigan said. ``(The talks have gone) pretty good. We’ve communicated, we’ll continue to communicate. And for the time being I’ll keep the details and specifics of those conversations confidential.’’

Hennigan acknowledged that he had heard the rumors of the Houston Rockets working to acquire draft picks in order to make a play for Howard, but called such talk as ``chatter.’’ He said that while the uncertainty over Howard’s future with the franchise has necessitated that there be several contingency plans in place, it will have no effect on whom the Magic select in the NBA Draft.

With the No. 19 pick, the Magic could be in position to draft Andre Drummond (Connecticut) or Fab Melo (Syracuse) to give them more depth at center. Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger could be available after plummeting because of concerns about his back. Point guard Marquis Teague (Kentucky) or shooting guards Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut) or John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) could also be options for a Magic team that needs more playmakers on the perimeter.

``It’s relative as to what is available to us when we pick. The draft is a fluid thing and it sort of evolves. We’ll be prepared for it,’’ Hennigan said. ``We have certain players that we have targeted and we’ll hopefully have a chance to select them.

``At this point we just want to draft a good player who is a good human being and embodies exactly what we’re trying to build,’’ Hennigan continued. ``If the player we pick is about the right things, and he will be if we pick him, he’ll be able to mesh into the roster regardless of the position.’’

Hennigan joked on Wednesday that he took an extended lunch break to visit the beach, which was clearly false since he’s rarely left his desk the past six days. He already had a good start on his draft preparation while serving previously as Oklahoma City’s assistant GM/Player Personnel Director and he’s spent the past few days putting the final touches on Orlando’s draft strategy.

Hennigan has also spoken extensively with Nelson and Redick, standouts last season on a Magic team that made the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season – the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference. Nelson, 30, has until Friday to decide whether or not to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Nelson is due $7.8 million next season, but would prefer a new contract with more long-term security.

``He has a decision coming up on Friday, and we hope that he decides to stay in Orlando, and we hope he is wearing a Magic uniform next season,’’ Hennigan said.

As for Redick, the reserve shooting guard’s contract for next season is nonguaranteed, meaning the Magic could waive him before July 6 and make him an unrestricted free agent. Redick said recently that he hopes to remain with the Magic and feels if he isn’t traded on draft night that he will be with the team next season.

``We’ve been in touch with J.J. He clearly has been someone who’s been an integral part of this organization for a while,’’ Hennigan said. ``We look forward to continuing to get to know J.J., and we’ll continue to evaluate everything, and we’ll make the best decision that we feel puts our team in a position to succeed.’’

As for the dizzying pace he’s been working the past few days, Hennigan said he knew what was ahead of him when he accepted the position as the Magic’s GM. He’s been working to restructure the team’s basketball operations department, has started contemplating candidates to be the Magic’s next head coach and has been building relationships with the incumbent players. And beginning with Thursday’s draft, Hennigan will start to make his imprint on the roster.

``The last several days have been busy to say the least, but that’s something that I anticipated,’’ Hennigan said. ``We’ll sort through everything in time. To me, the draft is a lot of fun. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of preparation. There’s a lot of pressure because you don’t want to work for 364 days and screw it up on the 365th day. We’ll be ready for whatever comes our way.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com and follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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