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.

Uncovering The Process In Orlando

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports the Magic are entering their next stage of interviews for a head coach with Magic CEO Alex Martins.

Jacque Vaughn was excused from coaching San Antonio’s Summer League team in Las Vegas on Friday and was expected to interview with Martins while he was in Las Vegas for the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting. Robbins reports one or two finalists will then meet with owner Rich DeVos in his Grand Rapids, Mich., home.

This is the same process the Magic used in hiring Rob Hennigan as the team’s general manager.

It begs an important question. If Hennigan is the head of basketball operations, why does it seem like the Magic’s upper management is so involved in this selection process? Undoubtedly, Rich DeVos and Alex Martins should have some say in who is going to end up coaching their team. You would think it would be more of an approval with the basketball operations making the final decisions.

An interview process this involved though suggests that part of the process Hennigan talks about will include some input from the higher management.

It is not odd to see major decisions get the stamp of approval from ownership. After all, it is their money the general manager is spending. It feels like, however, that a process this involved is something different.

There is no doubt that there was something of a disconnect between management and ownership last year. Reports had Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith ready to move on from Dwight Howard when he requested his trade last December. It was ownership, represented in Alex Martins, who put the breaks to that believing they could convince Howard to stay.

It may have worked until the Stan Van Gundy press conference in early April and the aftermath of Howard’s injury. Or it may not have. Really only Dwight knows.

The Magic were a dysfunctional franchise last season because management and ownership were not on the same page. Perhaps they have not been for the last few years. An over-involvement of ownership in the basketball operations may have placed the Magic in the quagmire they are in now trying to trade Howard … and finding few offers that meet their satisfaction.

It appears something ownership wanted was to bring someone in with basketball knowledge that would get everyone on the same page. Whether that means involving them in every minute decision the team makes or not will remain to be seen. It is clear that major decisions — like selecting a head coach or trading Dwight Howard — they will have input in for now.

As I suggested earlier, it appears from the finalists the Magic have selected for their head coaching position, the franchise is looking for someone who will not rock the boat and will buy in to what the team is trying to do. They are trying desperately to get everyone on the same page and move forward with a new identity for the franchise.

That identity includes players who want to be in Orlando and will buy into whatever program the new coach and Hennigan want to build.

The equation forgotten here is finding the player to be the centerpiece of that rebuilding project.

It may not come in the Dwight Howard trade. But it is becoming clear from the way the Heat did business and the way Dwight Howard wanted to do business that the star player has to have a say in the way the team is built.

It was widely reported and continues to be reported that one of Howard’s complaints with the franchise was that he felt like he was constantly ignored. He felt the team was not bringing in the players he had requested and that the team had backed itself into a corner by ignoring his requests for teammates and making moves they thought would appease Howard (or something to that effect, who knows what the actual story is at this point).

There is no telling now whether acquiring Steve Nash, Chris Paul or Monta Ellis would have done the trick and gotten Howard to commit long term. It is widely believed (at least on ESPN) that acquiring an elite point guard like Nash or Paul would have done it.

To build a dynasty, the team has to be a partnership between ownership, management and top player.

That is the golden package in San Antonio between Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and Tim Duncan. That is the package that persuaded LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade, Pat Riley and Micky Arison in Miami. And that is what Carmelo Anthony is allegedly trying to build in New York as Henry Abbott of ESPN.com related a few days ago.

It is yet to be seen who the Magic will turn to be the foundation of their new basketball family. It seems with Hennigan and his “process” and a young coach who will not rattle the cage like Van Gundy did at times, Orlando is looking for ownership and management to have a bit more control.

Maybe that will create an atmosphere that attracts the next crop of superstar free agents to Orlando. Maybe it will not.

The Magic have gone the way of the “primadonna superstar.” Dwight Howard may not have been one of those when he was drafted or as he matured. But he became one with the way he handled his impending free agency and trade requests. The constant back and forth has turned off fans and left everyone ready to move on.

In other words, Orlando was not a family anymore. It was a bickering, squabbling mess full of internal strife. The exact thing Abbott believes the elite players are trying to avoid as they empower themselves in new ways.

It is not far-fetched to think that the Magic are looking for a bit more control and a bit more peace in the next iteration of this team. Perhaps they are looking to establish the program for when that next star comes so they can explain the process to the next star and include him in that process. Or, perhaps, the Magic are trying to establish a franchise or a process that gives the management the power to control the franchise’s future, wresting it away from the player-driven trend emerging around the NBA.

The process for the Magic is still developing. It is going to take much longer than this summer to do so. Winning a championship will take finding that partner in a star to build around — one that believes in what Hennigan is building — and then the patience from all sides to let the process work, so to speak.

Right now, management and ownership are heavily involved. They are working together to make sure they get this decision right and are on the same page moving out of the Dwight Howard era. Whether such a close partnership will attract the next star to come through Orlando, only time will tell us that as Hennigan’s process develops and evolves.

Magic Re-Sign Nelson For Three Years

One of Orlando’s co-captains will remain in a Magic uniform.

Jameer Nelson tweeted, confirming what he told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, that he has come to an agreement with the Magic and will remain in Orlando. Nelson would not disclose the length or amount of his deal, but Robbins reports it is a three-year deal.

“I was prepared to go where I needed to go to continue my career, and I think I kind of expressed that to the organization,” Nelson said to Robbins. “But I also told them that I would love to come back. Genuinely, I love the city. I love the organization. I’ve learned a lot from the people in the organization. The DeVos family means a lot to myself and my family and it means a lot to me that they always put out a winning product.”

It was pretty much understood by all sides that Nelson wanted to remain in Orlando and Orlando wanted to retain Nelson. It was just a matter of dollars and cents.

Nelson opted out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him around $8 million, so he could seek more long-term security. With the Magic certain to trade Dwight Howard, Nelson did not want to become simply a tradeable expiring contract.

Also, at 30 years old, this appears to be Nelson’s last opportunity to get a long-term deal.

The three-year deal should give him some stability and long-term security.

The amount the contract is worth has not been revealed and the Magic cannot discuss the signing until the league’s moratorium is lifted July 11 (per team policy, they usually do not release contract information).

David Pingalore of ClickOrlando.com reports the contract is worth $19.7 million and the third year will have some option attached to it. This means, over the life of the contract, Nelson took a pay cut from what he would have made if he played the final year of his previous contract for a few years of stability in Orlando.

That was clearly important to Nelson as mentioned earlier. Nelson has played all eight years in his career in Orlando.