Stay or go, Howard fallout and offseason decisions will drastically shape franchise
In midst of vital offseason, firings of coach, G.M. mean there’s no looking back for Orlando Magic
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 16:05
Following the emergence and disappearance of Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando Magic fans patiently waited in the wings for their hometown franchise to find a player worth building an entire team around.
In 2004, they were rewarded with one — a high-school center from Atlanta had the Magic and their fans rallying around the franchise’s first real shot at a championship banner since the loss of O’Neal in the summer of 1996. With the No. 1 pick of the draft, the Magic wisely selected Dwight Howard, a move that has paid off tremendously yet has essentially fallen short of expectations.
The repetition of history is casting itself upon Orange County during this young NBA offseason. While the Southeast Division-rival Miami Heat continue to embark on their postseason banner chase, the Orlando Magic make questionable and untimely moves to their staff and personnel.
It begins with the dismissal of head coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith. While it is understandable CEO Alex Martins felt it necessary to let go of Smith, a GM with a knack for signing overpriced role players, the firing of Van Gundy has fans standing on opposite sides of the tracks that run over Church Street.
Some believe it was time to move on from Van Gundy in order to retain Howard, and others know it was Howard’s modus operandi to have the team oust his head coach, giving him the reins.
Except reports still largely indicate Howard doesn’t want to be here.
Van Gundy has a proven track record of success. In five seasons with Orlando, the team made it to the playoffs 100 percent of the time. With a .641 winning percentage, he ranks in the top five in the league of current NBA coaches and above the likes of newly re-signed coaches Mike Woodson (Knicks) and Vinny Del Negro (Clippers).
So, why let go of Van Gundy?
Martins will never give the media or fans the real answer, but it is safe to assume that the relationship between Howard and his coach had gone too sour, leaving the front office with limited options.
On Tuesday, the Magic waived shooting guard Von Wafer, whom Smith received in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Glen Davis to Orlando from Boston for Brandon Bass. Wafer’s contract was unguaranteed and he decided to try and play for a team where he would be given more time on the floor.
Where the Magic go from here is uncertain territory and Howard’s contract drama is far from over. Whoever fills Smith’s shoes will have more pressure than his predecessors to make moves for the future and as it has been made clear, Howard must stay. Unless he doesn’t. Then what?
If the Magic want a championship sooner than later, their draft choices must be flawless or a trade for Howard must be made.