Magic and Warriors’ Roots Run Deep

By Noah Sharfman
January 2, 2011

ORLANDO -- Amway Center and the Golden State Warriors’ ORACLE Arena are separated by 2,801 miles along I-40. According to Google Maps, it would take a minimum of one day and 22 hours to drive from one arena to the other, crossing through no less than eight states. So what is the connection between a team from Central Florida and one from California’s Bay Area?

The pipeline from the Warriors to the Magic starts with Orlando’s President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith. After his playing career, Smith worked for the Magic for a brief period of time before landing in the Warriors front office. From 1999-03, Smith filled a variety of roles for the Golden State franchise, culminating during the 2002-03 season when Smith was named the director of basketball operations. In that role, Smith oversaw the day-to-day operations of the basketball operations department and worked in conjunction with the players and basketball staff, forging relationships that have withheld the test of time.

“Otis had a pretty profound impact on those guys in their early years,” Magic Director of Player Development Adonal Foyle said. “Otis was doing what I’m doing now with those young guys. He basically taught them the ins and outs of the league and he has had a pretty significant relationship with Gilbert since then.”

Foyle is referring to the relationships fostered between Smith and then Golden State Warriors Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson, both acquired by the Magic in mid-December. Arenas and Richardson both entered the NBA as members of the Warriors in 2001 and flourished together in their early years.

“It all started for me when I saw them when they were little guys and now they are all grown up,” Foyle said of Arenas and Richardson. “I think definitely there is an impact when you see the progression of guys from where they were as rookies to where they are now.”

Both the Magic and Warriors play an up-tempo offensive style of basketball that places a heavy emphasis on playmaking and outside shooting. Enter Arenas and Richardson for the Magic. Arenas has the ability to push the ball up court and make plays both for himself and teammates, while Richardson is a more than capable scoring threat from anywhere on the court. Together, the Magic’s acquisition of former Golden State teammates has revitalized Orlando’s offensive attack.

Not lost in the acquisition of Arenas and Richardson is Foyle’s own connection to the Golden State Warriors. Drafted by the Warriors with the eighth pick in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft, Foyle spent the first 10 years of his NBA career in the Bay Area.

“It’s so rare to be with a team for a long period of time like that,” Foyle said. “To spend 10 years of your career with one team and go out and do something and set a record is something in itself that is exciting. I just need to make sure nobody breaks my record.”

Foyle holds the Golden State Warriors franchise record for most blocked shots with 1,140, a record that no current Warrior is near approaching. But Foyle is not the lone member of the Magic in the Golden State record book. Richardson set the Golden State Warriors franchise record for most 3-point field goals made, 700, and the most 3-point field goals attempted, 2,001, both records that no current Warrior is threatening.

For Foyle, a former teammate of both Richardson and Arenas, and Smith, a mentor to both players, bringing former Golden State Warriors to Orlando was a simple decision.

“When you are in this business there is a lot of ‘knowing’ what pieces you are bringing in,” Foyle said. “I think from knowing Gilbert and Jason, we have an understanding of who they are and what they bring to a system. Most of this business is a crapshoot but some of it is based on prior experiences where you can say ‘at least I know how this guy is going to respond in situations because I’ve seen him at a different point in his career.’"