Denton Opens Up the Mailbag: July 19

By John Denton
July 19, 2012

ORLANDO – Already, it's been a chaotic, tumultuous offseason for the Orlando Magic, one that at times has felt eerily similar to a past regular season filled with remarkable highs and lows.

But with new GM Rob Hennigan running the show there appears to be clarity dead ahead for the organization in the coming weeks. Magic fixtures Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick will return next season, while Ryan Anderson and almost assuredly Dwight Howard won't be. But with last season to serve as a classic example, anything certainly is possible with Howard's circumstances in Orlando.

For as many oohs and aahs as he's elicited from fans in Orlando over the past eight years, Howard has brought on as many groans and feelings of indigestion over the last eight months. Since Howard's initial trade demand last December, the franchise has had to ride a wave of mixed emotions, stepped-on feelings and cloudy confusion. Does Dwight want to leave or does he want to stay? Do fans want him here or do they want him gone? Will fans be sporting his No. 12 jersey next fall or dropping it off at Good Will?

The offseason is three months old and there is still plenty of uncertainty remaining for the Magic. Who will be the next head coach among a group of finalists of Jacque Vaughn, Michael Curry and Lindsey Hunter? And who will still be around for one of those guys to coach? And can Hennigan and talented Assistant GM Scott Perry either repair the relationship with Howard or execute the kind of transaction that will reshape the franchise and get the Magic back on the path to compete for a championship?

Those questions, and a few more, will be answered in some of our fan mailbags in the weeks and months ahead. You can submit your questions to John on Twitter at @JohnDenton555 or via e-mail at So without further ado, let's get to the questions:

QUESTION: Does the team that gives up the most picks and takes on the most bad contracts of ORL get D-12? -- Blaine Fallstrom (@LeggomyEggo83)

ANSWER: Well, Blaine you are definitely onto something there. Whereas most fans are focused on what the Magic would get in return in a potential trade for Howard, the concentration should be on what they can get rid of to truly start over. I've said it for years and I'll say it again, sometimes it's better to get nothing in return than it is to get mediocre pieces in return for a superstar. And if you can lump in several extended contracts in the process, well then that makes it even better.

Let's be serious, some of the Magic's complementary pieces serve a great role when paired alongside of Howard at center. But without him in the middle, the pieces just don't fit. That's why the Magic could be looking to get out from under the financial commitments to Hedo Turkoglu ($23 million), Jason Richardson ($18 million), Chris Duhon ($7 million) and Quentin Richardson ($5 million). If teams want Howard, they have to be willing to take on these other contracts.

Shedding the long-term contracts gives the Magic the best chance of hitting the reset button and starting anew. It will free up cap room for future free agents and pieces they can take back in trades and it will likely set the Magic up for a high draft pick next June.

QUESTION: Do you expect Andrew Nicholson to start at power forward any time in the next year or is it all up to ``Big Baby'' Davis? - Mac (@GstackGeorge)
ANSWER: While Nicholson impressed during the AirTran Pro Summer Summer League with his ability to score from the low post and defend with long arms, fans must keep that in perspective. That was against fellow rookies and free agents just trying to make NBA rosters. When he proves he can do it against the likes of Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol, then he'll be ready to start in the NBA.

Davis played phenomenally well late last season and in the playoffs. He vowed after the Indiana series that he was going to work on his game and his conditioning all offseason and come back in a position where he can play 35-38 minutes a game. He desperately wants to be a starter and a go-to player for the Magic, and he should finally get that chance this season. If Howard is still here, Davis will be at power forward. If Howard is gone, Davis could very well be the starting center on Opening Night.

QUESTION: What will happen first - the Magic hiring a coach or trading Howard?
ANSWER: That one is very tricky, but I know that GM Rob Hennigan is in no hurry to rush either process along. There are several factors that go into each decision, so quite frankly a coach hiring or a Howard resolution could still be weeks away from transpiring.

As for the coaching search, Hennigan has his finalists and that threesome will meet with CEO Alex Martins and eventually with the DeVos family in Michigan. Jacque Vaughn and Lindsey Hunter, both former point guards, are thought to be young coaches on the rise, while Curry has a dynamic personality and relates well to today's players.

As for the Howard situation, any sort of trade will likely have to involve a third team because of the Magic's demand that they take back long-term contracts. That's going to be tricky at this point in the game. Don't be surprised if Howard is still a member of the Magic as late as the start of training camp in October.

QUESTION: Will the Magic sign Kyle O'Quinn? - Beach Bum (@FLKeysBeachBum) and INSTA_MAGIC (@insta_magic)
ANSWER: O'Quinn appeared to be the find of the summer for the Magic in the Summer League. He battled inside for rebounds and blocked shots and showed an ability to step off the block and hit the short-range jump shot. And Magic fans had to be excited about the way the small-school kid (he went to Norfolk State) stepped up his game and dominated No. 9 overall pick Andre Drummond in summer league action.

Because he is somewhat undersized, O'Quinn likely projects as a back-up center or power forward in the NBA. But he has proven already that he's a fighter and a worker, he's extremely intelligent and he's not afraid of the moment. As a NBA GM once told me, you want the 11th, 12th and 13th men on the roster to have high character or otherwise they will poison the rest of the roster. That won't be a concern with the loquacious O'Quinn, who is full of energy and enthusiasm. My guess is he gets an invite to camp and will have a shot at making the roster as a utility big man.

As for other young players in training camp, I could see Maalik Wayns getting invited to training camp. The Magic are still looking for a second and third point guard behind Jameer Nelson, and who better to serve in that role than a player who trains all summer under Nelson in Phialdelphia. The undrafted guard from Villanova was a standout for Orlando in the first three games of the Summer League before he headed off to Las Vegas to play for Golden State's summer team. If he doesn't go to Europe, he'll likely be in a camp somewhere in the fall.

QUESTION: I know it's early, but do you think GM Rob Hennigan has done a good job so far? - Swey Torres (@MrSwey22)
ANSWER: In a word, yes. It's possible that no GM in the next 20 years will take a job and be faced with the monumental decisions that Hennigan has had to tackle already in little less than six weeks on the job.

Not only has he had to make the call on the head coaching search, Jameer Nelson's free agency, J.J. Redick's contract guarantee for next season, Ryan Anderson's restricted free-agent offer from New Orleans and handling the draft process, he also faced with having to make possibly the biggest trade in franchise history with Howard. That would be a tall order for any GM, much less the youngest one in the league in his first time running a NBA franchise. He's handled it all with a calmness and professionalism.

Hennigan has great support from Perry, and the DeVos family and Alex Martins believe and trust him fully. He's shown a tremendous maturity and patience in the way he has handled the tasks at hand, refusing to rush into any decisions. I give him a lot of credit for backing out of the New Jersey deal when an avalanche of public sentiment seemed to suggest that Howard would soon be a Net and the Magic would be stuck with paying Brook Lopez $61 million. Hennigan never caved, insisting the Magic would continue to look for a better deal.

The Howard situation will largely shape the legacy of Hennigan's first year on the job the way the healthcare saga has done for Barak Obama's first term as President. Get this one right, and Hennigan will set the Magic back on the path to return to greatness. Misfire - and let's face it, it's extremely hard to come out ahead when trading a superstar player - and the Magic could be facing a long road to recovery.

I'm banking on Hennigan to make the right call. In my eyes, he's batting 1.000 so far by re-signing Nelson, bringing the steadily improving Redick back, passing on an Anderson deal worth $9 million a season and rejecting the New Jersey trade. The kid-GM is off to a great start and he should give Magic fans hope that there are many more good days ahead for the franchise.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



Follow John Denton on Twitter here