The promotions of Otis Smith, Bob Vander Weide and Alex Martins cement the Magic’s financial future. Those three have been making the majority of the business decisions for the last four or five years and have ushered in a championship caliber team and the move to a new arena.
It is a good time to be a Magic fan and these three men have done a whole lot to do that. Arguably the big difference for Orlando is how Rich DeVos has opened up his pocket book.
In the Tracy McGrady days, the team splurged in trying to acquire McGrady, Grant Hill and Tim Duncan in one summer. The Magic only got McGrady and Hill. But as Hill struggled to recover from a serious ankle injury and McGrady blossomed, DeVos decided to wait out Hill’s contract and did everything he could to avoid the luxury tax. It kept Orlando from realizing its full potential and probably irked McGrady to the point where he wanted a trade away from his hometown team.
If you would have told 2002 Rich DeVos that by the end of the decade his team would have the second highest payroll in the league, he might have laughed at you. But it is no laughing matter. At a payroll of approximately $89.9 million, the Magic are second only to the two-time defending champion Lakers. Smith has not been shy about spending money — even with Rashard Lewis’ “albatross” contract on the books — especially after Orlando reached the Finals in 2009.
He has done this though with the complete blessing of DeVos and Vander Weide, the two men who ultimately pay all the bills. Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel related why DeVos had this sudden change of heart and decided to open his pocketbook. The main reason: DeVos’ short window to see his team win a championship.
Robbins writes: “About three years ago, Vander Weide sat down with his father-in-law, Magic Owner Rich DeVos, and asked DeVos if he was willing to accept the financial costs of building a potentially elite NBA team. “Vander Weide recalled: ‘I wanted to do that, because at the end of the day, I may work in this business for three more years, four more years, five more years, but I’m going to live the business as a family for hopefully the next 25. “‘Rich DeVos, at 84, having someone else’s heart inside of him 12 or 13 years ago may not have that same opportunity. So, when I go to him as our chairman, it’s on the basis of, ‘How quickly do you want to push this opportunity?’ He just simply said, ‘You know what, I’m loving the team. I don’t want to lose any of the talent we have. Keep building.””
Fans could not ask for much more from an owner. He is committed to seeing this team through for the moment and wants to see a championship. It is no surprise then that he is willing to keep spending.
Why didn’t Orlando resign Matt Barnes then? That is a very complicated question that had something to do with money, something to do with team fit and, maybe, something to do with DeVos’ preference for clean cut, good citizen players. But do not expect the spending to continue.
Orlando, despite moving into the new arena, will have to face the realities not only of the economy but also the fact that it is in a small market. There may not be the revenue stream to keep up this type of spending even with the new arena. The other thing facing Orlando is the new collective bargaining agreement. All those fun Bird exceptions, mid-level exceptions and salary cap rules you have spent the last 10 years memorizing will probably all be changed next summer.
Vander Weide told the Sentinel: “After this year, chances are it’s a whole different world as far as what kind of business we operate, because we’re at the end of the term of the collective bargaining agreement. I don’t make comments as to what that will look like. We’ll deal with it when we have to.”
That could be behind the motivation to get Brandon Bass more playing time and the selection of Daniel Orton. The Magic need to be sure the investments they made on Bass and backup center Marcin Gortat pay off or else those two players should be shipped out. It could also be why Orlando was reluctant to commit long-term salary to Emeka Okafor in any Chris Paul deal. As good as Okafor is, you never know how he will take to the offense Van Gundy runs or how he would play alongside or backing up Dwight Howard.
As DeVos said he likes this particular group and wants to see it go as far as it can. And he is going all in to see it happen.