One thing became clear as the Orlando Magic studied Jeff Weltman and John Hammond. They were men who left deep, positive impacts at their previous stops.
The NBA is a transitory business. Players, coaches and executives all make their way around the league. And often their success is predicated on the relationships they make. Often those are used to get their next jobs — just as Jeff Weltman and John Hammond from their time together with the Detroit Pistons and then the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Orlando Magic have always sought a type of person when they acquired a player or a front office executive. They want high character people running the organization. That has helped them gain a good reputation around the league as a franchise (off the court, as much as on the court).
As Weltman addressed the Orlando media for the first time Wednesday, he said he did not feel the need to hunt for a better title or a bigger job. He was happy with the Toronto Raptors working with Masai Ujiri, a man whom Weltman helped land his first front office with the Denver Nuggets.
But the Orlando opportunity was a unique one to him. It became one he wanted to take and leave the comforts of his life in Toronto to pursue.
As the Magic made this decision, Magic CEO Alex Martins said Wednesday they did not hear a single bad word from other executives, league employees and agents about Weltman. It further confirmed their decision to hire him. Both he and Hammond are two of the most well-thought of executives in the league.
Weltman’s loss was apparently felt immediately in Toronto when Ujiri did not have his former general manager to yell at Monday. As Weltman related, a little internal disagreement and debate are going to be the norm for how he runs his ship in Orlando.
But truthfully, Ujiri told Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun he will miss Weltman’s presence in the front office.
“I think he has paid his dues,” Ujiri said. “An unbelievable person, a great basketball mind and the time has come. We all have to live with it. It’s sad sometimes but I think eventually it was going to happen somewhere, somehow.
“I tried to fake it (by giving Weltman the) GM title last year and give him a raise and everything but it didn’t fake anyone out I guess. But a phenomenal opportunity for an unbelievable person.”
The amount of support for John Hammond, the eight-year general manager for the Bucks, has also been nothing but complimentary.
Hammond has had more than 30 years of experience in the NBA. He had helped the Bucks make four playoffs in his eight years, including two of the last three. Both he and Weltman helped draft Giannis Antetokounmpo. They set the table for one of the best young cores in the league.
Both the Bucks and their young star offered nothing but congratulations for Hammond’s new gig (even as the Bucks now start a search for a new general manager).
Bucks center Thon Maker also took to social media to express his gratitude for the opportunity Hammond and the Bucks gave him when they surprisingly selected him 10th in last year’s draft.
The Bucks too issued a statement thanking Hammond for his years of service.
It certainly seems like these gestures all came from the heart from both Ujiri and the Bucks players and staff. It seems to confirm what the Magic said they learned in researching Weltman and Hammond.
The Magic seem to have checked off the first step. They got two experienced quality leaders to head their basketball operations. Now comes the hard part of building the team back up.