Just three years removed from an NBA Finals appearance and the Magic are now in the midst of all of the wrong kind of attention.
Is Dwight Howard going to be traded?
When will he be traded?
Who is to blame for the demise of the team, either financially or on the court?
Well in response to the final question, I propose that we look no further than General Manager Otis Smith. Sure, Otis was partly responsible in selecting Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor in the 2004 NBA draft—a decision that turned out to be the right one when many people were skeptical of the 18-year-old's ability.
He was also the man who brought in Rashard Lewis, who propelled Orlando to their first Finals appearance since the days of Shaq.
Since then, Smith's decision has been over ambitious and financially crippling to the entire Orlando Magic organization.
Rashard Lewis' max contract didn't turn out to be a big deal at first, considering the Magic quickly became one of the best teams in the NBA, but after only one truly elite season—it became evident Orlando was paying him too much money.
Then, to trade away Courtney Lee after a solid rookie season for an aging Vince Carter, leading only to a quicker playoff exit.
Combine that with letting Hedo Turkoglu walk away, only to get him back in a trade a year and a half later, forcing Orlando to part with big-time trade asset Marcin Gortat—and it seemed like Otis Smith was really on a roll. Or not.
The argument has been made that Otis Smith had good intentions in mind and that all of his trade ideas just didn't work out the way he envisioned them. Well that much is evident. Unfortunately for him, the NBA is a business and it isn't the thought that counts.
The product you put on the floor for an 82 (or 66) game season and the playoffs is what counts.
The only logical solution to the Orlando Magic's problem right now is a committal to being a rebuilding team. The roster needs to be gutted, Dwight Howard needs to be traded and Otis Smith needs to be fired as General Manager.
The Magic is a playoff team right now, but not a contender. And with the cap space available to them right now, there is no way for them to become a contender minus trading Dwight Howard away with several of their terrible contracts such as, Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon—and starting over with the few young pieces they actually have.
They are at a crossroad right now, which many teams face in cycles: You have to accept that you are going to be bad, in order to be good.
In terms of Otis Smith leaving, the ownership of the Magic have to look beyond their ties to the GM and understand the severe mismanagement of funds and personnel that Otis Smith has orchestrated over the past three or four years.
The Magic's stance, according to ESPN's Marc Stein, that they would rather get quality veterans for Dwight Howard than young players and draft picks, so as to remain competitive, is very questionable.
Sooner than later, the Orlando Magic need to make up their minds. There is too much indecision from the ownership on down.
Dwight Howard needs to be moved, or else 10 years of ineptitude may soon again follow.