Alex Martins was always a behind the scenes guy.
His career with the Magic started there as a public relations director. He would be the one shuttling players to and from interviews in the early Shaquille O’Neal days. You were not supposed to know he was even there.
He went from Orlando to New Orleans and then from New Orleans to business school before returning to the Magic’s front office. He was in an entirely different role, but still behind the scenes as he slowly climbed the ranks of the Magic’s front office.
Martins was front and center really for the first time as the point man between the Magic and the city and county as they tried to secure funding for the Amway Center. Since that point, Martins has been front and center as the Magic’s business-side representative.
After the Bob Vander Weide incident, Martins became the head of the Magic’s day-to-day operations. He is the point man between the Magic and the DeVos family — a little bit more, but essentially their mouthpiece and representative constantly in Orlando.
Martins was thrown into a crisis when he assumed that position thanks to the Bob Vander Weide incident, but Martins was already very present within the team. He had a reportedly strong relationship with Dwight Howard already, but in his new role he had been working double time to use that relationship to try and get Dwight Howard to stay in Orlando and sign long term.
The rumors were that Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy were ready for a Howard trade and that one with the Nets and Trail Blazers was completed and awaiting ownership approval when the word came down from the DeVos family through Martins that they would try to keep Howard in Orlando. That was the rumor at least. Smith and Van Gundy are gone, only Martins and Howard remain.
This new job came with a higher public profile. And now with the GM search active (and reportedly moving on to finalists, who will meet with the DeVos family) and the Dwight Howard situation still unresolved — along with the promise of resolution before next season begins — Martins is facing public scrutiny from the fans in a way he never has. Yes, Martins faced public scrutiny when he was the face of the arena deal, so he has experience in these matters, but sports fans want different things for sure.
It is just more difficult to replace the guys at the top and remember that Martins job has as much to do with basketball operations as it does with the franchise’s business operations.
It is difficult for Magic fans to know how to view Martins and his role with the team. After all, many of us care only about what he does on the basketball side and that is not necessarily how he is judged (although I imagine it is a good part of it). Martins has already had a deep impact on this team and he is going to shape the next decade of this franchise with his decision on who to hire as general manager.
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel asked his readers earlier this week whether they blamed Martins at all for the mess the Magic were in. To show how far into the background Martins was, he finished behind Otis Smith and Dwight Howard in that poll, but he was still ahead of Stan Van Gundy. Still, Bianchi felt Martins was getting too much blame in the national media as someone “sucking up” or “appeasing” Dwight Howard.
As Bianchi notes, Martins was dealt a pretty poor hand and a crazy situation to handle. Martins is not the one to blame for the Magic’s mess — after all, if Otis Smith had not pursued trades that put the Magic in salary cap hell and into the middle of the Eastern Conference, Howard would be happy and on a winning team.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to criticize his handling of it all. The goal has squarely been to keep Howard in a Magic uniform, despite the stated intention for the franchise to do its best to trade Howard. And he has done that, patiently waiting Howard’s every word and whim. The only change was that the Magic stood steadfast on having resolution at the trade deadline at least for the end of the year. They got that in his waiver of his early termination option.
Ultimately, Magic fans’ opinion of Martins may be determined on what happens this summer. Whether his GM hire gets a good deal for Howard or can convince him to stay. Martins has long contended that he and the DeVos family believe Howard wants to be in Orlando and that the franchise only needs to do enough convincing to get him to sign a long-term extension.
The latest rumor confirms what many likely suspect. A source told WESH News Channel 2 in Orlando that Howard “hurt by all the negativity surrounding him (and) doesn’t understand why he’s blamed for everything that happens inside the (Magic) organization.” The source told WESH that Howard loves Orlando and doesn’t want to be traded (h/t Andrew Melnick of Howard the Dunk).
The patience for that plan is running slim though. The Magic are done waiting on Howard to back up his commitment and loyalty with a long-term contract. And as the face for ownership, it is Martins’ public perception that is on the line.