Afflalo Excited About Playing For Orlando

Arron Afflalo was in Barcelona for an NBA clinic last week when the phone call came. Well, phone call might be metaphorical. It was more like a crawl going across the screen or an update going up on ESPN. Afflalo was on the Internet when ESPN reported he had been traded to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard deal. Before that, he had not even followed the Howard rumors and trade discussions.

To his surprise, he found himself in the middle of it all in the end. And now he finds himself with a new opportunity in Orlando.

“It’s exciting for me. It’s a change,” Afflalo said as he was introduced to the media Thursday. “Change always brings mystery, it always brings doubt. But at the same time, from a positive outlook, it brings a lot of opportunity and a lot of room for growth. And that is the light that I feel most of people in the organization are looking at it and that’s the way we’re going to move forward.”

It is kind of hard to call anyone the “centerpiece” of the Dwight Howard deal for the Magic. They were not going after a replacement star it seems and were looking to take a step back by bringing in hard-working, young players to move around in future deals or as potential secondary pieces once the rebuilding is complete. Afflalo seems to fit that mold perfectly, and his three-year $7.75 million salary seems palatable for this rebuilding team moving forward.

Last year, Afflalo averaged a career-best 15.2 points per game last season in an increased role with the post-Carmelo Anthony Nuggets. His field goal percentage dropped only slightly with the increased field goal attempts as he shot 47.1 percent from the floor and shot a 53.4 percent effective field goal percentage. His PER last year was a career-best 14.7. This was on 12.1 field goal attempts per game, a number that is likely to increase this year with the Magic as Afflalo should quickly become one of the team’s best offensive options.

Opportunity has always been something Afflalo has had to grab when it was before him.

He was the 27th overall pick of the Pistons in 2007 and worked his way into their rotation as a rookie because of his defensive prowess. His role for that team was all about fitting into their defensive schemes and making shots when the opportunity presented itself. His offensive game grew slowly, but his defense kept him on the floor. He was traded to Denver in July 2009 and took advantage of that new opportunity, and an increased offensive role, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

Afflalo said he really gained confidence in his abilities during that time playing alongside veterans like Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, Nene and Kenyon Martin. When Anthony was traded, it was just another opportunity to expand his game and his role on the team.

It is safe to say that in his first full year without Anthony, Afflalo was able to do that.

Orlando Deals Howard To Los Angeles

Marc Stein of ESPN.com is reporting the Magic, Nuggets, Lakers and 76ers have agreed in principle on a deal that will send Dwight Howard out of Orlando. He reports sources tell him that a conference call has been scheduled for Friday morning to confirm the trade.

Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM also reports that sources are telling him the deal is done and several other outlets have confirmed these reports.

It finally feels like this deal is moving forward, beyond those “sources say” stage.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports broke the news Thursday afternoon that the Magic and Lakers were in talks for a trade involving, yes, Dwight Howard. We have been here before and we are going here again. Wojnarowski reports this rumor involves the Magic acquiring Pau Gasol and Arron Afflalo, the Lakers acquiring Dwight Howard and Al Harrington, the Nuggets acquiring Andre Iguodala and the 76ers acquiring Andrew Bynum.

Obviously, there are a lot of moving pieces since four teams are involved in this deal. The only reported parts of these talks are the major pieces and not everyone is certain whether Pau Gasol will end up included in the deal. Several reports Thursday night are suggesting that Gasol may not be included in these four-team discussions. There are also reports that Jason Richardson will end up in Philadelphia and rookie Moe Harkless will be in Orlando.

So break down what we know (for super sure, at least): The Lakers will receive Dwight Howard. Howard had pretty much told the world that he will only sign with the Nets or the Lakers after the 2013 season. That severely limited Orlando’s trade partners and what the team could do. Inevitably, the Lakers were going to be where Howard ended up. He has enough leverage left — and Dan Fegan is a superb agent — to get what he wants. So he will.

Orlando, for its part, has been holding out for a package of picks that resembles what Denver got for Carmelo Anthony. The Magic want young players and draft picks. They also want to part ways with several bad contracts — including Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. Orlando is asking for a lot and it appears certain that it will not get everything it wants.

This four-team deal that is reported done is a compromise of some of those values, or at least a recognition that the Magic may have put the bar a little too high. Orlando is not getting a lot of that stuff.

The Magic are set to receive Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless and a first round pick from each of the three teams.

Afflalo is the “centerpiece” if you can call him that. He averaged 15.2 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting last year. He is owed $31.2 million over the next four years with a player option on the final year. This is not particularly horrible for a player of Afflalo’s caliber. He is about who he will be as a player. He is not an elite creator off the dribble, but he can score on his own and hit 3-pointers. Not the centerpiece for a new era, but not a bad player to have. The contract is reasonable and you can live with it.

Harrington is a long-time NBA veteran who is a stretch-4. He does not have nearly the athleticism he used to have, but is still valuable off the bench as a 3-point shooter, if not anything else. He also can post up smaller players. Last year, he averaged 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season, posting a very strong 15.3 PER. You just do not know if Harrington still has much more in him. His last few years have been inconsistent, but he has averaged more than 10.0 points per game every year since 2002. So he can score. But that is his big thing.

Harrington might be on a reasonable contract if he continues to produce at his current levels. He is owed $21.4 million the next three years, but the final two years of his deal are only partially guaranteed. Orlando, it seems, maintains some flexibility when it comes to Harrington’s future.

The Magic also reportedly will get Moe Harkless. I wrote a profile of Harkless back at draft time. He has a lot of potential as a small forward or shooting guard and was a big-time scorer at St. John’s as a freshman. He just needs a little bit more seasoning. He is on a rookie contract.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports also reports the Magic may receive Nikola Vucevic.

So let’s break down what we know by team a bit further:

Orlando receives: Afflalo ($7.75M), Harrington ($6.69M), Harkless ($1.73M), Vucevic ($1.72M) = $17.89M
Orlando sends out: Howard ($19.54), Richardson ($5.4M) = $24.94M

Lakers receive: Howard ($19.54M) = $19.54M
Lakers send out: Bynum ($16.1M) = $16.1M

76ers receive: Bynum ($16.1M), Richardson ($5.4M) = $21.5M
76ers send out: Iguodala ($14.72M), Harkless ($1.73M), Vucevic ($1.72M) = $18.17M

Nuggets receive: Iguodala ($14.72M) = $14.72M
Nuggets send out: Afflalo ($7.75M), Harrington ($6.69M) = $14.44

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Magic will also send Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to the Lakers as part of the deal, sending out another $4.49 million from the Magic to the Lakers. The Lakers would receive $24.03 million in salary and so likely will have to send another player out as part of the deal.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports the Magic will receive Christian Eyenga in the deal. It would not surprise me if Steve Blake or Darius Morris becomes involved in this deal somehow to make salaries work.

That is the way the deal is rumored to set up. There are several problems. First, as many express in their disappointment over the deal, the Magic do not get a “star.” I would argue that is not the point.

The Magic want cap relief and to begin clearing the decks. Getting rid of the final three years of Jason Richardson’s is a good step in that direction. Turkoglu can be bought out after next season. Duhon is also unguaranteed partially for 2014, too. So maybe it is not an awful thing that they are still around. They will be gone soon enough, it seems. The way this trade goes down determines how long the Magic will have to rebuild.

It seems Orlando is putting its eggs in really beginning the rebuilding process in 2014. Next season is a wash. The Magic look like they want high draft picks in 2013 and 2014 to build the team around. Orlando wants to be a good development and drafting team. This deal seems to suggest this is primarily how the Magic will build.

So sorry to say, the Magic are in for some rough years.

What makes it really rough is the Magic committed three years to Jameer Nelson, still have three years for Glen Davis. Orlando also now has 14 players under contract for next season.

What is Orlando thinking in this deal? The team is indeed bottoming out.

The Magic’s draft picks the next two years will be incredibly valuable. When Orlando appears ready to start contending again, it may have the flexibility to do so with Nelson and Davis as expiring contracts.

And, who knows, the Magic may catch fire with another Heart & Hustle-style team in the short term. The long term? It is going to be banking on good drafting, cap flexibility in (at least) two years and some patience.

Orlando’s Leap Of Faith With Vaughn

The storylines are written pretty clearly as the Magic hired Jacque Vaughn to be the franchise’s new head coach. Shaquille O’Neal may have made sure of that when he expressed the feeling of a lot of observers when news came down the Magic were considering Jacque Vaughn, the inexperience, recently retired assistant coach for the Spurs. If there was any hope of keeping Dwight Howard, such an unproven guy could not be the man to lead the Magic.

Maybe it was a sign that Dwight Howard would no longer be part of the team — a shadow that still hung over the franchise even as it introduced its new head coach Monday.

Vaughn though is not concerned with that storyline. He was very on message in expressing what he envisioned for the future of the Orlando Magic. The one thing everyone will have to get over is that lack of experience. Clearly he had done enough already to convince general manager Rob Hennigan, CEO Alex Martins and owner representative Dan DeVos, who all took the stage with Vaughn on Monday at Amway Center.

“Sometimes, life, it’s about timing, it is about luck, but sometimes you have to stick your neck out a little bit and take a leap of faith, create your own destiny,” Vaughn said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. The DeVos family is doing that today taking a leap of faith in my ability to relate to guys, to communicate with individuals, to get a group of men to gather together for a common goal, to have resolve, to compete. I am proud to be a part of that.

“Today, the destiny starts. And I am thankful to be the head coach of the Orlando Magic.”

It is a seeming recognition from Vaughn of the unlikely road he has taken to the lead seat on an NBA bench. After all, it was just three years ago Vaughn was playing and just two years ago that he began coaching for the first time. Coaching seemed to be in his future though. Doc Rivers saw it and Gregg Popovich saw it as they coached him themselves. And Vaughn has played for some great coaches, helping him develop into a veteran point guard in the league.

Vaughn credited Roy Williams, Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich for teaching him to relate with players, teaching him competitiveness and consistency and giving him the chance to be a coach. Popovich offered only rave reviews for him even after just two years as a coach. Hennigan and Martins spoke highly of these influences and continued to say this hire was along with their process and vision for the future of the Magic.

That immediate future is not so clear right now. Dwight Howard questions were asked and danced around (we can address those answers later) and it is not going to go away for the moment. It still exists and everyone acknowledged it.

Vaughn’s job seems to be more about right now is the future and player development, helping bring along the players who will be playing for Orlando in the near future.

It is not clear what kind of style the Magic will be playing. The roster is not quite set and so the playing style is not quite set. We, of course, do not know what kind of coach Vaughn is — that pesky inexperience again.

The immediate future is not so important, as has been made abundantly clear. This is about creating a sustainable culture and franchise for the future.

“I talked to someone earlier, and I told them: ‘Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape,’” Vaughn said. “I believe in Rob and his ability to get good people around me, get good players. I want people who want to be coached, who want to compete, who want to be great. I’m pretty easy.”

This is very much in line with the strategic, process-driven approach Hennigan has been preaching since he was hired. Remember, Popovich, for all his hard-driving mannerisms, has been incredibly flexible with his approach. He has always emphasized defense first, but his offense has always featured what best suits his roster. He has not insisted on force-feeding Duncan while Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili entered their primes. He has now told Parker to take over the team completely and has urged him to up the pace. Vaughn was coaching the Spurs when they were no longer playing at a glacial pace.

Vaughn is a guy who was brought in on his ability to relate to players. He emphasized that he has sat in the same place that his players have sat in. That is what Hennigan and Alex Martins wanted to bring in.

Playing style will be completely roster dependent at the moment. The long-term future is more important than the short-term future for now. That is clear simply in hiring Vaughn.

The Magic believe Vaughn is the person to get Orlando through the next phase of their process. Vaughn very much believes in what Hennigan wants to build. He talked a lot about the process Hennigan is trying to build. And they seem to be in line. That is no surprise, obviously. It is just something different for a Magic franchise that has never really had an overarching goal or culture to build.

Orlando is looking clearly toward its future. Vaughn is here to develop that.

He may not have the bench experience many wanted in the next Magic coach. But he fits the plan Hennigan has in mind. They ask the Magic fans take the leap of faith with them and believe in this young new coach.

It might not even be that much of a leap.

“In Jacque, you have a player who has been a student of the game under some of the greatest coaches that have coached this game,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “Through this interview process, he made it clear to us that this was not a passive relationship. He was taking notes from the days he was playing for Coach Williams at Kansas because I really believe Jacque felt he would be sitting in this seat someday. He has been preparing himself, as he alluded to, for 14 years, not two.

“I don’t think we’re sticking our neck out at all. He is a high character individual who is going to work as hard or harder than anybody else. He is going to put great people around him. His teams will work hard every single night, I’m convinced of it. I think he is clearly prepared for this opportunity. I don’t think we have taken a risk or stuck our neck out at all. He is the right coach for this organization at this point in our history.”

Vaughn Named Orlando’s New Head Coach

The Orlando Magic hired Jacque Vaughn to be the team’s new head coach John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel report. It ends an exhaustive search for Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and completes two of the three major franchise-shaping decisions the team had to make coming out of the 2012 season.

Vaughn has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Spurs. Both of those seasons, San Antonio finished with the best record in the Western Conference, reaching the Western Conference Finals last year. Vaughn also played 12 years in the NBA, including winning a championship with San Antonio in 2007.

Vaughn played the 2002-03 season with Orlando averaging 5.9 points and 2.9 assists per game backing up Darrell Armstrong.

“We are beyond excited to name Jacque Vaughn as our head coach,” Hennigan said in a release. “As we navigated through our coaching search, we quickly saw that Jacque’s spirit and leadership strengths made him the clear choice. We are confident that his diligence, attention to detail and communication style will help establish the bedrock of our culture moving forward. His commitment and passion to building a sustainable program will help steer our organization for years to come.”

Vaughn is an inexperienced head coach, but the hope from the Magic is that his recent experience in the NBA will help him relate to his players and develop them. Orlando is heading toward a rebuild and so those relationships appeared to be at the forefront of the Magic’s coaching search.

The other finalists were Philadelphia associate head coach Michael Curry, a former player and a one-year head coach in Detroit, and Phoenix director of player development Lindsey Hunter, a long-time point guard for Detroit but a guy with no coaching experience.

From those finalists alone, Orlando clearly wanted someone who will grow with the team and help establish the program Hennigan wants to build.

As Robbins put in his report, Vaughn took a similar career path as Avery Johnson, now the head coach for the Nets. Vaughn had a long playing career and then became a head coach under Gregg Popovich’s tutelage. Like Johnson, Vaughn quickly rose the ranks and Vaughn split the assistant coaching duties with San Antonio’s three other assistant coaches.

Vaughn was the Spurs head coach for Summer League and, as you can see from this reported from Jeff McDonald of Spurs Nation, Vaughn took that job seriously even if he was just wearing shorts. Kawhi leonard certainly seemed to be excited about Vaughn’s work as the summer league team’s head coach.

Vaughn will officially be introduced Monday at 2 p.m.

Howard, Orlando On Different Wavelengths

Dwight Howard will not be a member of the Orlando Magic past the 2013 season. That ship sailed a long time ago and is not coming back to port, despite Rob Hennigan’s meeting with Howard to try and rebuild any kind of relationship with Howard. Howard wants out and all the factors that were in play before still remain.

So, Rob Hennigan and the Magic are in a stalemate with Dwight Howard. Hennigan informed Dwight Howard during their meeting that the Magic had not received any acceptable offers and that they would continue to try and trade him.

It seems more and more likely as the days pass that Howard may still be on the roster when the season starts and might not get moved until December or, even, the trade deadline. It was not clear from the reports from the meeting what Howard would do if he is still on the Magic when the season opens. The suggestions from several reports is that he may just sit out (which he could only do with the Magic’s permission… and they may grant it to be rid of the headache and the cloud over the franchise).

From reports coming out of the meeting it became increasingly clear that the Magic and Dwight Howard have two different views of their future right now.

Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM reported Hennigan hoped to persuade Dwight to back off his trade demand and give the Magic some time to build a championship team again. This expectation may have led Howard to believe that Hennigan was going to lay out a concrete plan that would return the Magic to championship contention immediately.

That is a much trickier process because of all the uncertainty surrounding Howard’s future and because of the lack of assets Orlando has to offer other teams. Orlando is on the downslope and both Hennigan and Howard know it.

It is how they want to move forward that the two diverge.

Howard believed Hennigan was coming to sell him on how the Magic would get back to the top. Hennigan had much longer-term plans on his mind, reportedly hoping to build a relationship with Howard and rebuild trust. At an earlier point, that might have been fine but Howard has run out of patience. He wants to win now and has the leverage to demand his team do so or to leave.

Howard right now is not interested in Hennigan’s long-term vision for the franchise or his process or anything else. He knows how close he was to a title in 2009 and 2010 and knows he is entering his prime playing years. It is time for Howard to strike while the iron is hot.

Both sides appear to recognize that Orlando is going in a different direction than the win-now mode it was in for the last four years. Howard wants to remain in that win-now mode and it is clear Orlando cannot make the moves to appease that.

Rudolph reported Howard told Hennigan that there are three options for Orlando — a trade to Los Angeles before the season begins, a trade to Brooklyn in January or a loss of a free agent Howard in July (where Dallas becomes his most likely landing spot).

Things are not that simple, though.

Howard may not quite understand it as he still seems to be a superstar expecting the team to cater to him but Hennigan has been absolutely clear that Orlando will only do a deal that serves the franchise. If no deal comes along, they may very well let Howard walk as a free agent. While Howard may feel Orlando passed on acceptable deals, Hennigan does not. And this is ultimately Hennigan’s decision.

What the meeting Wednesday confirmed was what many understood for a while. Howard has made his decision and wants out of Orlando. What needs to change from Howard, is his (at least public) insistence on landing in one of two places. That is keeping the Magic from making the deal they want for him.

A Denver-like haul is probably not in the cards. But that is the kind of return Hennigan is seeking for Howard, who is still one of the top five players in the league. The Magic’s patience in waiting out the right deal is frustrating Howard. But it is safe to say Orlando is trying to make a trade. The franchise just wants to make the right one.

Howard’s short-term view on things and Hennigan’s long-term view are certainly butting heads. While the relationship seems amicable, it is pretty clear to sense the frustration from Howard’s camp that Howard has not been moved.