Denton's Action and Reaction: Aug. 15

By John Denton
August 15, 2012

ORLANDO – For every action there’s a reaction. With there still being plenty of rumblings throughout the NBA over the Dwight Howard trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, let’s make this a special Orlando Magic version of action/reaction:

ACTION: Former Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy gushes glowingly about Howard and instead blames Magic management for his firing from the team following a successful five-year run.

REACTION: Huh? No, really, huh??? Clearly all of the time sitting on his back porch in Lake Mary and attending Major League Baseball games this summer has damaged Van Gundy’s memory of his rocky final season with the Magic.

Believe me when I say that I have the utmost respect for Van Gundy as a head coach and his intelligence is off the charts. But this Van Gundy reaction is merely bitterness and Stan Van trying to clean up the perception that he can’t get along with star players (See: Shaq and Dwight) so that he can ultimately get another job. So much for Stan being the straight shooter he touted himself to be for years, I guess.

In his final months with the Magic, Van Gundy privately blamed Howard plenty for the tumultuous nature of last season. In fact, Van Gundy’s mood as it concerned Howard changed dramatically after March 15 when Howard waived his opt-out clause because Van Gundy knew it likely sealed his fate as the Magic’s coach. He and his staff were well aware that they were essentially dead men walking because the Howard circus would result in a him-or-us scenario – and coaches never win that battle when teams are asked to pick between star players and X-and-O men.

Van Gundy’s bitterness now stems toward the Magic firing him and attempting to work things out with Howard. For years, Van Gundy had gushed about the Magic’s classy and professional way of doing things and called the organization one of the best in all of sports. And now all of that has changed in the eyes of Stan (and Jeff) Van Gundy?

Van Gundy did himself no favors by practically bragging after the Magic’s playoff elimination that he didn’t care if he got fired or not. And publicly disclosing that he knew Howard had asked for him to be fired dramatically hurt his cause, too. The funny thing in that whole circus was that the firing request from Howard had actually happened months earlier and was hardly a first-time occurrence.

But at the time Van Gundy sensed he was about to be fired and wanted the basketball world to know that Howard wanted him out. Van Gundy was never allowed to tell the world that Shaquille O’Neal was behind his ouster in Miami years earlier, and Van Gundy wasn’t going to go away quietly this time around.

Van Gundy will ultimately get another head coaching job in the NBA – likely after a stint with ESPN – and he will do exceptionally well again. His ability to prepare teams and break down foes is unmatched throughout the NBA. But his inability to reach to star players and his willingness to torch the Magic on the way out the door should serve as red flags for future employers.

ACTION: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and Rockets GM Daryl Morey talked about the persistence and diligence of Magic GM Rob Hennigan after discussing trade options regarding Howard for weeks.

REACTION: Kupchak said during Howard’s introductory news conference in Los Angeles that he had grown increasingly frustrated in trying to work a deal with the Magic because of Hennigan’s unwillingness to do certain deals. Kupchak even said he thought the chances of a trade were dead because of Hennigan’s unwillingness to bend on the Magic’s wishes.

Give Hennigan credit for refusing to cave on the Magic’s demands. No the Magic didn’t get an all-star player in return for Howard, but their haul did include a promising young player in Aaron Afflalo, future cap space by unloading Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark and Howard and five draft picks.

Some critics have panned the Magic for taking back draft picks that almost certainly will be near the end of the first round. But had the Magic executed the trade with the Brooklyn Nets a month earlier, those picks too likely would have been late first-rounders. Let’s face it, any team that Howard plays for is going to be a contender and their draft position is going to be near the end of the first round.

Hennigan said a potential deal with the Rockets caved in when Houston ended up getting Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik via deals signed after massive offer sheets were extended. A lot of rumored deals were reported, but the Rockets were never going to give up picks, prospects and take on some of the Magic’s contracts all at once. Several variations of the deal were proposed, but Hennigan never found any to his liking. Morey, who has worked hard to re-tool the Rockets, was effusive in his praise for Hennigan on a Houston radio show.

``In this (trade between the Magic, Lakers, Nuggets and Sixers), Orlando really liked the players they were getting in that deal. That’s all that matters and I think Rob Hennigan is an unbelievable executive and going to be in the league for a very long time,’’ Morey said. ``He made the best deal for Orlando and that is all there is to it.’’

Morey went on to say that he felt like the Rockets were exceptionally close to pulling off a deal for Howard, but Hennigan’s insistence on doing what was best for the Magic’s rebuilding plan won out. Said Morey: ``I do feel like it was close, but (the Magic) did their diligence and they were searching for something they thought they liked even more and they liked this trade better than anything we could offer. I promise you Rob knows what he’s doing and he thought this was best for Orlando and I think people will see over time that he’s a very good executive.’’

ACTION: Philadelphia president Rod Thorn said that the Magic turned down a deal that would have shipped Howard to the Sixers for Andre Iguodala.

REACTION: Thorn told a Philly radio station that the original construct of the trade was simply between the Magic, Sixers and the Lakers. But the Nuggets were brought in on the deal because the Magic didn’t think that Iguodala fit into their rebuilding plan. Iguodala, who won a gold medal as a reserve for Team USA in the London Olympics, is set to make $14.7 million next season and he has a player option for $15.9 million for the 2013-14 season. He can opt out of the deal after this year and become an unrestricted free agent, but he would be unwise to sneer at a deal that will pay him almost $16 million.

Some of the Magic’s reasons behind shying away from Iguodala: While he is a good player, he’s far from being a great player; his massive contract would have eaten to the Magic’s salary cap space for the next two years; and at 28, Iguodala’s best years are already behind him as the Magic build for the future.

So remember Magic fans, just because the Magic did not receive an all-star player in return it wasn’t because they couldn’t execute a transaction for one. There’s a method to the madness, and the Magic weren’t about to take on a player who isn’t a dramatic difference-maker who is hauling in an obscene $30.6 million over the next two seasons.

ACTION: The Magic are reportedly one of three teams looking into signing oft-injured center Greg Oden for next season.

REACTION: Who better to replace a former No. 1 overall pick, 7-foot center than a former No. 1 overall pick, 7-foot center? Well, that is if Oden were actually healthy and even thinking about playing this season.

Oden hasn’t played since the 2009-10 season and recently underwent surgery on both of his ailing knees. He has been through three micro-fracture knee surgeries in the past five years. And because he has had so much trouble staying healthy, he sounds like a player who isn’t so sure he still wants to play again. And he even talked recently about someday fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a middle school gym teacher because he would – get this!!! – have weekends off and would be required to only wear sweats to work. What, is he still a college freshman?

``I would love to play (in 2012-13), but I’m not going to rush anything,’’ Oden told the Tribune-Star in Terre Haute, Ind. ``I need to take a year off. What I told (agent) Mike (Conley Sr.) was, `Look, I want to get back with a team. I want to play. If there’s a chance that later on in the (NBA) year, if I feel good or if I’m healthy enough to play, I would love to play this year.’ That’s the conversation we had. I think some people kinda blew that up and took his words and kinda changed them around. I know I need to get healthy first before I do anything.

``It’s not like teams are out there telling people they want me, because they’re not right now,’’ Oden continued. ``And I’m not out there telling people I want to go to a certain team. I want to go to a place where I can get healthy and with somebody who can believe in me and my skills — somewhere it could be a good fit for the both of us.’’

Could that place possibly be Orlando, where the pressure would be off and Oden could focus on rehabilitating his knees and his sagging NBA career? The terms of the deal would have to be just right, but I could see a scenario where the Magic might have some interest in taking a flyer on Oden’s future. Of course, the Magic and no team would be willing to commit multiple years or much guaranteed money to Oden by not knowing if he’s even healthy enough to play again.

San Antonio, Indiana and Orlando are rumored to be looking into Oden’s progress, but it seems more likely that no team will take a chance on him until at least midseason when he’s healthier and back in a basketball frame of mind. If he can play again, where better for the shot-blocking No. 1 pick to try and revive his career than in a place where Howard, also a shot-blocking No. 1 pick, once ruled the paint?

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.



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