It has been a while since we talked about the "Process" as Rob Hennigan describes it and how the Magic are going to build themselves back up. Frankly it might be a while before we talk about it again. The beginning of the season is a re-evaluation of what the team has on the roster and keeping a careful ear to the ground to see if a move can be made for the next step.
This summer was about clearing the deck some while still maintaining a strong, professional locker room. This is an odd team for a rebuilding team because of the mix of young players expected to play a part in the future — Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo and Andrew Nicholson — and veterans who might not be — Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis.
The future remains very mysterious about where the Magic will go next. Rob Hennigan, though, likely has principles he will follow that are fluid and will change depending on the circumstances and what opportunities become available.
James Harden may have been one of those opportunities and the Magic passed on it, much like Hennigan's former employers in Oklahoma City did. There is probably some frustration among Magic fans hoping that the Magic would be able to make a play for one of the top-rated free agents this summer that Harden found his long-term home in a trade for Houston (particularly since Houston pretty much offerend the package Houston was rumored to have offered for Dwight Howard).
But making trades to make trades or rushing the plan or the process to placate short-term wins is not what Rob Hennigan sold when he came in.
If it is not part of the process and part of the plan, it is not something Hennigan should pursue. Not sticking to a structure is what got the Magic into this mess to begin with — or at least initially, who knows what Dwight Howard was actually thinking in 2009 about his long-term future in Orlando.
You only have to look to the family of management that Hennigan comes from in light of Oklahoma City's recent trade of Harden to get a better idea of how Hennigan might run this franchise.
Tom Ziller of SBNation did an exceptional job stating how Sam Presti's decision to break up Oklahoma City's core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden was really a callback to the San Antonio way of building. Considering that Hennigan is from the same family, this might be important for Magic fans to understand moving forward:
But in this league, when you work in a small market, you can't afford to focus on just this season. The very health of the franchise relies on sustainable success. It's amazing how everyone falls all over themselves to credit the San Antonio Spurs for putting together more than a decade of elite play … and immediately criticizes the Thunder for taking the long view. This is a Spursian move. No, San Antonio never had to trade Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan. But the franchise's braintrust has made exceedingly difficult decisions repeatedly, and always with the long view in mind. Having three stars who get along and the best coach in the league has helped, too. But sustainability is the key. The Thunder made a really difficult, painful decision now to ensure that they have the opportunity to make good decisions over the next 10 years as Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka enter their primes.
The decision to extend Harden or trade him for some value was a difficult one. No doubt about that. But it appears it was a decision necessary to maintain the health of the franchise in the long term.
Orlando has already made such a decision with Ryan Anderson.
Anderson is undoubtedly a great young player. His 3-point shooting ability is an amazing weapon that the Magic could honestly really use this year. Anderson is a much better version of Al Harrington, a player Orlando kept on its roster.
But faced with the decision of committing four years and approximately $34 million to Anderson, Hennigan had to make a tough decision. What if Anderson struggles like he did in the Playoffs without Dwight Howard? What if Anderson is getting bought high and striking it rich and does not perform at the previous levels? What if Anderson does?
These were incredibly difficult decisions. But what Anderson and Harden shows is that while the franchise has to reward players and show loyalty — see Jameer Nelson (whose three-year, $25.2 million deal could be very friendly next year with 2014-15 partially guarnateed) — it also has to protect its long-term future. If the bidding gets too high, Orlando has to walk away.
That is what Presti did with Harden. That is what Hennigan did with Anderson. And that is what they will continue to do.
Orlando will have another difficult decision to make this season at the trade deadline when it comes to J.J. Redick. Certainly orlando would like to retain the fan favorite and the team's best shooter, who has developed from a disgruntled former college star into a true professional and reliable sixth man. But if the price is too high, the Process and the constructs of Orlando's plan will win.
That is what Oklahoma City does. That is what San Antonio does.
Everything is directed toward that idea. That is what Orlando will likely do with Hennigan as general manager.