The Magic will be dealing with the aftermath of the Dwight Howard trade for some time. This was not a deal “made for tomorrow” or for a culture of instant gratification, as Magic general manager Rob Hennigan put it during his press conference, this was a deal made for years down the road. For the team the Magic want to be. This was about tearing down the building and beginning to rebuild the foundation — the culture and identity the Magic franchise wants to have.
Orlando officially traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, sending Howard along with Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark in the four-team deal. The Magic acquired Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and Christian Eyenga. Orlando also got three future first round picks, two second round picks and a robust $7.8 million trade exception.
If you talk to Rob Hennigan though, the most important thing Orlando got in this trade is flexibility.
“Clearly there is a lot of raw emotion that comes with a trade of this magnitude,” Hennigan said during the press conference announcing the trade at Amway Center on Friday. “Any time you’re trading one of the best players in the league, that is a hard pill to swallow. Especially when we live in a world of instancy and immediate gratification.
“But what we’re trying to build here is the antithesis of that. As we went through this, we really challenged ourselves to stay flexible. We challenged ourselves to keep long-term planning at the forefront of anything that we decided to do. It was time for this organization to move forward.”
The instant gratification part is certainly what Magic fans are having the toughest time swallowing at this stage. It is going to take time to build. Hennigan explicity said that when describing the goals of this trade and where Orlando goes from here.
Hennigan did not expressly address the other rumors or other offers that the Magic may have considered. What he did say was that this was the best offer he felt was on the table. He said somtimes what is offered in theory and what is offered in fact are not the same thing. Magic fans may not ever know if that universally beloved Rockets deal was ever on the table. Hennigan said with all the offers that were actually on the table, this was the best one.
The question is whether this deal provides the flexibility Hennigan continuously touted.
Arron Afflalo is as underrated as a 26-year-old on the second year of a four-year contract can be. Afflalo seems reasonably priced at just north of $7 million per year for the next three years but he will be 30 when his contract ends. Al Harrington is a veteran who has had a strange looking career as a scorer but not much of a defender or rebounder for a power forward. He has three years left on his deal too, although the last two years are only partially guaranteed.
Heading out, Orlando got rid of Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon, but still have Hedo Turkoglu (two years at more than $22 million remaining) and Quentin Richardson under contract.
Flexibility will come, but when? And how patient will Magic fans be waiting for that flexibility to pan out?
These are important questions Rob Hennigan and the Magic have to think about.
“Well, I don’t have a crystal ball. But I can tell you next season and, really, subsequent seasons will be about getting better every day,” Hennigan said when asked about how far back the team might regress. “It will be about punching the drum on trying to improve individually and as a collective team. It’s about trying to do the best we can, trying to improve internally, trying to develop and trying to create habits. From there, we will continue to find methods to improve the team and we feel confident that we have a lot of flexibility and assets to do just that.”
The plan is not quite fully developed it seems. The Dwight Howard trade was a major piece, but it is not the only piece. Orlando still has work to do to put itself in position to get back into contention. And it will take time and patience.
In the meantime, Hennigan again emphasized the culture he wants to build in Orlando. One that is at least partially realized it seems in the players the Magic acquired.
Hennigan said that fans can look forward to the Magic acquiring players who “are going to bring their hard hats” and play with energy and effort. And as Jacque Vaughn has repeated numerous times, Orlando wants players who want to be in The City Beautiful. There is a big cultural change Hennigan is beginning to endeavor upon.
There is still a stadium to sell and a championship to go after. Accomplishing both those goals on a nightly basis feels very very far away. And it is. The Magic are at the bottom, doing the due diligence it takes to rebuild and climb back up.
Orlando has a lot more assets to use now. The Magic are not backed into a corner like they were before the Dwight trade. But they will not be able to move quickly to rise back up. Afflalo and Harrington are not huge commitments, but they are big commitments. Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis also have three year deals and J.J. Redick will be a free agent next summer if he wants to stay in Orlando.
Hennigan still has work to do to complete the roster for 2013 — the team has 15 guaranteed contracts and only one point guard.
Hennigan talked a lot about the flexibility that comes with this deal. It does exist. Just not immediately. Orlando is asking its fans for some patience. The journey is just beginning.