White board leak erodes what little faith remains with Orlando Magic

May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic already seemed set for a front office change this summer. An accidental leak of an internal white board has now added to the dysfunction.

It all probably started innocent enough.

Patricio Garino, a rookie from George Washington who spent his first season in the D-League, was signing his first contract for the NBA regular season. He was happy and it was a time to celebrate.

As many players do, he took a photo of him signing his contract, smile beaming across his face from achieving his dream.

That photo would set off a Tweet storm, though. In the background was a whiteboard with several trade and free agent targets for the Orlando Magic. It may have been nothing more than brainstorming — a list of all options available rather than specific actions the team would take or targets they would pursue.

But it was there.

Magic general manager Rob Hennigan told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel it was simply a “listing of options” including what other teams brought to the Magic. It was not indicative of any future plans.

But the damage was done. Once again, Orlando’s front office had aired its private communications for the public to see. This was not Stan Van Gundy telling the world Dwight Howard wanted him fired and Dwight Howard walking over. But it is not a good look either.

Not with the whole front office in turmoil with an uncertain future and the Magic asking fans to believe in them and their ability to right the ship. Confidence is at an all-time low as the team goes through a franchise-long playoff and All-Star drought.

The Magic are fighting off a lot of bad press in their front office. It is nearly impossible for this group to get a win.

But the reality is the Magic have gone from one mistake to the next to get to this point. And now those mistakes are seeping beyond the court to the way they are seemingly conducting business.

It is all to say the Magic are in an extremely bad place.

ESPN recently asked its basketball panel to rank the team’s front office, management and coaching. The Magic finished 27th overall, ranking 28th in management.

It is easy to see why. The Magic have missed the Playoffs the last four years — this year became year five, marking the longest drought in franchise history. Their effort to build a Playoff team fell flat on its face after a major remake to the roster.

And now it feels as though things have kind of run to the end of its string.

The Magic have regressed on the court — going from 35 wins to likely somewhere near 30, but not much higher. The team has traded off some young pieces for veterans and it could not get them over the hump.

Every move the Magic have made the last year has seemingly backfired. Acquiring Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo. Moving Aaron Gordon to the small forward. Bringing in veteran pieces like D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green. Going big in a league that is getting smaller and valuing versatility.

The on-court product suffered as much from a lack of clear direction and plan as much as it did from the team’s poor Lottery luck at the beginning. But the team struggled to push its way forward.

Digging a way out is more difficult. And that has consigned the Magic and their fans to a bad place too.

Sports Illustrated ranked the Magic as the third most hopeless franchise in the league. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer ranked the Magic as the team with the least amount of hope for the near future.

"The reason we’re talking about what could happen is there isn’t a lot of hope on Orlando’s roster otherwise. Gordon has shown major flashes. Elfrid Payton had an impressive stretch earlier in the season. Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic can do some stuff. Evan Fournier is useful. But the Magic don’t have that guy yet. That’s what makes the lottery and the draft so important for this club. Nobody needs an alpha more than the Magic."

These are merely unofficial rankings. They are someone’s opinion of the state of the Magic. But perception is everything.

Especially when it comes to selling this team’s future.

Instead of planning a Playoff battle or selling even a modest form of progress, the team seems ready to start completely over. The Magic are relying on Lottery luck to set things right. And that did not work for the better part of the past four years.

Magic fans are tired of having their fate be out of their control. Because the moves that got them here have not worked out. Yet, they cling to the hope of those ping pong balls more than ever.

At least the Magic could only point to bad personnel moves and not anything embarrassing or bordering on incompetence. Well, almost.

Scott Skiles‘ sudden resignation revealed some fracture between coach, management and ownership. Skiles leaving after one year — a moderately successful year — so suddenly was a stain. But one the Magic recovered from to make the obvious coaching hire. The team never devolved into circus sideshow like the Dwightmare year.

At the time, it seemed the Magic could brush the whole incident aside.

Instead, it looks like a symptom of a larger problem. The Magic have been unable to take a step forward on the court. They have been unable to galvanize around a common purpose. And now it appears things are imploding off it.

What was put on that whiteboard behind Patricio Garino does not matter. Every team has its ideas and brainstorming sessions. They may write it down on a similar white board to map everything out. Plans change quickly in this league and every possibility deserves at least moderate consideration.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

What matters is the lack of attention to detail to keep it from going public. The care to keep their plans close to the vest and away from the wild dreams of fans.

Every organization has internal memos and discussions that should not become public because they can be misinterpreted. Rumors feed perception as much as fact and this is a treasure trove of “facts” and idea. The Magic lost control over their message and had to move into damage control.

This is a crisis of Orlando’s own doing.

For a fan base already feeling uncomfortable about the team’s future, it erodes any confidence the team can properly move forward. There, frankly, was not much before Monday.

Monday’s mistake, oversight or whatever it was or wants to be called suggests and calls to the lack of confidence in the Magic’s ability to execute a plan to move the team forward.

At least a draft of their plans — whether it be for this summer or something from before — has created more derision than optimism. Releasing the Magic’s summer plans has led to more questions.

To say the least, there is a considerable lack of confidence in the current front office regime. Magic ownership likely decided its fate long before this mishap occurred.

Next: Did the Orlando Magic leak their free agency plans?

Instead, this incident goes to embarrass the team further and make the future look all the more bleak.