Jeff Weltman made the first major move of his front office tenure. He said he is trying to create flexibility and there are more decision points to come.
Everyone expected Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman to remake the team in the course of his tenure. It was clear what the Magic had did not work — going from 29 wins last year to a pace of 27 wins so far this year with an 18-36 record.
Yes, injuries played a role in that. Weltman will readily admit that as will just about everyone in the organization. But it is also clear the team needed to make some change.
Weltman event admitted that to some degree in his press conference following Thursday’s game. Part of the reason the Orlando Magic ultimately traded Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns was their hesitance to commit long-term money to maintain the core.
That was the only move the Magic were able to make. Weltman continues to repeat his line the team will not make the changes fast, they will do it right. But undoubtedly the change is coming.
The return for Payton was probably not what most hoped. As Weltman said in his press conference — which you can hear in its entirety on Friday’s episode of Locked On Magic (below) — the team really needed to consider creating financial flexibility.
With the odds increasing the Magic were not going to bring Payton back, moving him became the only option. So Orlando went out and got something for their young point guard.
Weltman is banking on his staff’s creativity and ability to use that space effectively. That is, of course, what everyone should hope for when they step into the front office.
That was the message he had for Scott Anez of ESPN Orlando on ESPN Afternoons on Friday. He told Anez the Magic simply had to make a decision on Payton and the decision ultimately fell toward flexibility.
"“The fact of the matter is with Elfrid, we were looking at a window where this was the last chance we were going to have to deal with Elfrid before he hit free agency. Once he hits free agency, we had to determine if he was our starting point guard of the future. Are we prepared to lock in financially to the team that has not had, for our purposes, enough success in the past five or six years to say this is the team we want to have for the next five or six years?“At some point, you have to create flexibility. You have to allow yourself some wiggle room so you can bet on yourself and your creativity. I am betting on my staff to do this thing the right way. I believe we will get there.”"
That would suggest the Magic are truly prepared to move forward with Aaron Gordon as a part of the team’s future. But Payton no longer fit in the team’s plans. Those questions will arise again for Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier in the near future too.
Slowly but surely, Weltman will answer that question for the Magic. And the team will change. Payton was really just the first domino to fall. The first decision point for the team.
What the Magic do with their newfound flexibility will be the other question. But they are not quite there yet. Orlando will likely still have to work on the margins for the time being.
Jeff Weltman also commented on Jonathan Isaac‘s progress as he returns from injury during the radio segment.
Jeff Weltman said Jonathan Isaac is “doing great.” He said that after the injury flared up again, it felt like Isaac was “running on fumes” to get back quickly. And that is not how the Magic wanted to proceed with him. They know he has a lot of development to go through and a lot of improvement to make.
So the team took a pause and used this time to recondition him and strengthen his body to absorb more of the NBA wear and tear. Weltman said Isaac has indeed put on some weight, up to 221 pounds from 210. He said when they bring him back, he should be more game ready.
When that is, nobody seems to know. It will be some time after the All-Star Break. But Weltman said Isaac is in a good place right now.
Finally, he said the team’s recent good stretch of play is a sign of the way the Magic would like to play moving forward. The team has come together through the dog days of the season and is developing the culture the team wants to build.