Denton: Trade Fits With Hennigan's Long Term Goals

By John Denton
August 10, 2012

ORLANDO – While acknowledging the "raw emotion" that understandably comes from dealing a superstar the caliber of Dwight Howard, General Manager Rob Hennigan said that the Orlando Magic made the best trade possible on Friday and one that fills the most of the franchise’s long-term needs.

In acquiring six players (Aaron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Mo Harkless, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic and Christian Eyenga), five draft picks (three first-rounders and two second-round selections) and a whopping $17.8 million trade exception for the next calendar year, the Magic have the tools and the avenues with which to quickly recover from losing a five-time All-NBA player like Howard, Hennigan said.

The Magic could be facing a season or two of rebuilding if they don’t use the trade exception next season, but the franchise figures to be approximately $30 million under the salary cap in the summer of 2014 with which it can use to pursue multiple elite free agents.

``Clearly there is a lot of raw emotion that comes with a trade of this magnitude,’’ Hennigan said. ``Any time you are trading one of the best players in the league, it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when we live in a world of instant (demands) and immediate gratification. But what we’re trying to build here, in a lot of ways, is the antithesis of that.

``We challenged ourselves to stay flexible and to keep the long-term planning at the forefront of all of this,’’ Hennigan continued. ``It was time for this organization to move forward. We were able to acquire some hungry, hard-working players who are committed to a team concept. Today is about establishing some avenues that we can create toward building future success and long-term success that our fans can embrace.’’

Hennigan said many of the reported deals for Howard were not truly available to the Magic and he had to separate ``theory’’ from ``reality.’’ He said he’s spent every day on the job since being hired working on the Howard saga, including July 25 when the star center reiterated his demands to be traded out of Orlando. The fact that Howard only wanted to play for the Brooklyn Nets, and then later, the Los Angeles Lakers, somewhat hamstrung the franchise’s options. But he said the Magic ultimately settled on a transaction that they could feel good about because it satisfied a lot of the aspects the team was seeking.

``We exhausted talks with a lot of different teams and we felt this was the best decision for us,’’ Hennigan said. ``We feel this was the best deal for us considering the circumstances. There were options that we looked at and explored and there were a lot of permeations that we looked at, but at the end of the day you look at what’s available in theory and what’s available in reality and sometimes those two things aren’t the same. We felt like of all the options we explored, this was the best one for us.’’

The Magic also dealt reserve point guard Chris Duhon and reserve power forward Earl Clark to the Lakers along with Howard. Veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson was also involved in the four-team, 12-player blockbuster, going from Orlando to Philadelphia.

The 76ers also received all-star center Andrew Bynum in the deal. Hennigan said that the Magic studied the possibility of acquiring the 7-foot Bynum, but they ultimately backed away from such a scenario because of a variety of situations. Bynum has had a star-crossed seven seasons in the NBA, looking stellar at times, while also battling knee injuries and run-ins with coaches. He also can become a free agent at the end of next season, and the Magic weren’t eager to go through that situation once again.

``One thing we always do is our research,’’ Hennigan said of studying Bynum. ``We’re very comfortable with the research that we’ve done and the decision we made.’’

Hennigan said he took the trade proposal to the DeVos family, owners of the Magic since 1991, and legendary chairman Rich DeVos, ``was very supportive’’ of the mega-trade with the Lakers, Sixers and Nuggets.

Hennigan, who was hired in May to replace Otis Smith, said he could understand fans being upset over the trading of Howard, arguably the best player in franchise history and its all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots. In his attempts to build a winning culture in Orlando, Hennigan said it was necessary to acquire players who wanted to be in Orlando and wanted to be a part of what the Magic are building.

Hennigan admitted that the Magic might have to endure a retooling period while they restock the roster with talented players through the draft, free agency and with trades. But he said the Magic will ultimately be a better organization in the long run for executing a trade that provides future financial flexibility and some promising young players.

``Are we taking a step back? Absolutely, we are. But we’re taking a step back with a vision to the long-range future and with some ingredients that we’re encouraged by in the future,’’ Hennigan said. ``I don’t have a crystal ball, but next season and subsequent seasons are about getting better every day. It will be about punching the drum on improving individually and as a team. It’s about trying to do the best that we can and trying to create habits. We feel we’ll have the flexibility and assets to do that.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, hired last week, asked the Magic fanbase for patience throughout the rebuilding process, but he promised that the team would be filled with players who will compete every night. Vaughn wanted nothing to do with the talk that the Magic might need to bottom out in order to stockpile top draft choices, vowing that his teams will be trying to win every game next season.

``I want to compete every single night. That’s what puts you in a position to win or lose,’’ Vaughn said. ``You give yourself a chance when you compete. We have a group that will compete. My thinking is being consistent and I will lead by example. There will be no panic and there will be no chaos. We’ll be a team that competes every night and that’s the reason people will enjoy and embrace us.’’

Hennigan said that while Friday’s trade might vault the Magic into rebuilding mode, fans of the team should know that it was done with the best long-term interests of the organization in mind. He feels the combination of the trade exception, draft picks, young players and salary cap flexibility that the Magic can build a team that is successful and sustainable for years to come.

``I’d tell (Magic fans) that we didn’t make this decision for tomorrow. And we didn’t make it for this coming season. We made it give us a chance to build something and grow something over time that is not only sustainable and will give us consistency,’’ Hennigan said. ``I understand the immediate gratification component and we all live that way. But if you are trying to build something over time that has some real sticking power to it, you have to think more long-term than short term.

``We’re satisfied with the decision that we made. It was a basketball decision and it gave us a mixture of flexibility, good young players who can develop with us and draft picks that we can utilize to help improve the roster over time,’’ he added. ``I can assure you we’re happy with the net result of this trade.’’

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