The NBA woke up Wednesday morning to some wild news.
In the wake of Kevin Durant’s earth-shattering 49-point triple-double in Game 5 to give the undermanned Brooklyn Nets a 3-2 series lead in their series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Chris Paul went into health and safety protocols, the New Orleans Pelicans fired Stan Van Gundy and the Washington Wizards parted ways with Scott Brooks. And now Kawhi Leonard might have an ACL injury and will be out indefinitely.
All before 1 p.m. Eastern time.
Those coaching moves will have a direct effect on the Orlando Magic and the direction the team will go down.
A tidy group of four head coaching vacancies ballooned with attractive positions with Zion Williamson and the Pelicans and the dual stars of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal with the Wizards now open for business. The top coaching candidates will have that, plus openings with the Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers to consider as they make the interview circuit.
The Orlando Magic’s head coaching job became a bit less attractive to the top candidates thanks to two more jobs opening up. Their rebuilding situation may well limit who the Magic interest.
It is easy to believe the Magic are now near the bottom of the list of head coaching vacancies. There is a lot of star power that needs leaders and the Magic’s best asset right now is the 14-percent chance they have of landing the top pick in the draft.
Even landing the top pick in the draft is not likely to move the Magic up the coaching vacancy power rankings. Orlando is still a very young team — the fourth-youngest in the team — and it is not likely to be moving into the playoff picture for the 2022 season. The Magic are going to need some time to grow and develop before they are competitive again.
Orlando is going to gamble a bit for sure. There is little chance the team will have its coach in place before Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. But that gamble is still worth it to get the right person.
The Magic are clearly going through their process. The team has reportedly secured interviews with San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd. The team is also reportedly requesting permission to interview Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr.
When it comes to the “higher profile” coaches like Kidd and Hammon, the opening of more secure, playoff-ready rosters might eliminate the Magic from their coaching searches. The Magic and Pelicans are the only two non-playoff teams with openings right now. And one of those teams has Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram already in place ready to win.
The more veteran and higher profile coaches are likely looking for that more than a chance to rebuild.
As an experienced coach with five years at the head of a bench, Kidd is likely looking for a situation tailor-made for him to win quickly rather than a development job.
Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson might be in the same boat. While he has already accomplished what the Magic are trying to do in building a team from its beginning stages to a playoff team, Atkinson probably does not want to get pegged as a coach who specializes in this kind of development and coaching.
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Like Steve Clifford, he probably has other goals for his career than becoming the development whisperer.
Even someone like Hammon is probably looking for a job with more stability and security for her historic first time as head coach.
The point is, everyone knows whomever the Magic hire is going to absorb a lot of losses early on. And Orlando signalled the team is planning to be in it for the long haul in parting with Clifford and making the moves the team made at the deadline.
If the Magic were interested in a quick recovery, they might have kept their All-Star in Nikola Vucevic knowing a high Lottery pick was already secured.
There are very few coaches who make it from the beginning of a rebuild to delivering the team back to the playoffs. Lloyd Pierce struggled to do so in Atlanta before Nate McMillan took over. Brett Brown laid the foundation for the Philadelphia 76ers but could not get them deep into the postseason.
Even Atkinson struggled to adjust when the Nets acquired superstar players. At least, the team he eventually left last season was not the team he originally began coaching.
Orlando is not likely to let the external factors of these other openings affect their process though.
The team is already deep into things with interviews already scheduled and likely more to come. There might be more competition, but the team is still going to review all the information it has in front of it and all the candidates they have at its disposal.
The top candidates though — the ones who may have interviews with multiple teams and multiple offers on the table — are likely to view the Magic’s situation as less than ideal for them. Orlando’s job is certainly pushed down the table.
When given the chance to coach a team with Lillard or Westbrook and Beal or the Magic, which one would you choose? When given the chance to coach a team with playoff and championship aspirations, which one would you choose?
This is the reality of the Magic opting to rebuild.
The team is looking for something different from what many of the top candidates are looking for right now. And with so many open jobs, they have their pick of the litter. Other teams are likely going to be able to move quicker on the team’s top candidates than the Magic will be able to.
The Magic are not scraping the bottom of the barrel, by any means. There are far more qualified coaching candidates than available NBA head coaching jobs.
Orlando will do its due diligience and pick a coach that fits what the team is looking for, even if it is not someone who comes with notoriety, experience, pedigree or fan buzz.
In all likelihood, it will be someone who fits that bill rather than a retreaded former head coach or one of the buzzworthy assistant coaches like Becky Hammon or Chauncey Billups.
That is the situation the team finds itself in.
The addition of the top pick in the draft may change things slightly. Orlando would seemingly then have a brighter long-term future than the Indiana Pacers, who have a playoff-ready team but, unless Caris LeVert develops into one, no elite talent.
What the Magic need to do is continue through their process without concern for what other teams might be doing. These new opening might only increase the urgency to move quickly once the team has found their coach.