Is New Orlando Magic GM Cleaning House to Appease Dwight Howard?
In fact, they have been both the dog and the pony in Howard's own personal show.
You don't like the coach? Gone.
You don't want to sign an extension? No problem.
You want beer-flavored mouth guards and a water bed in the locker room? Let's get it done!
Okay, so that last one I made up, but it doesn't seem to be far from the truth.
And now, it appears that the new team general manager is cleaning house, giving the appearance that more heads are rolling to appease Howard.
In an article in the Orlando Sentinel (and picked up here by iamagm.com), the newly named general manager Rob Hennigan has wasted little time with personnel decisions.
According to the article, Hennigan has fired assistant general manager Dave Twardzik and six of the teams various scouts.
So is this payback to appease Howard?
Orlando as a franchise
Before we get ahead of ourselves here, let's examine the Orlando Magic as a franchise.
They have been responsible for terrible contracts (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu), awful trades (Gilbert Arenas) and questionable draft picks (Fran Vazquez, Reece Gaines).
The only success they have tasted as a franchise was due to winning the number one overall selection and striking it rich with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard—two no-brainer first overall picks.
They failed to put together a strong supporting cast. Now they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to pander to a superstar that probably doesn't want to stick around.
Would anyone blame someone for wanting to fix this dysfunctional mess from the inside out?
Before we start questioning Hennigan's methods, let's examine his pedigree.
He is a young, sharp basketball mind that has spent the majority of his professional career in the middle of two of the best-run franchises—San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
He is extremely young—having only graduated in 2004 from Division III Emerson College.
But he caught on with the San Antonio Spurs, starting as an intern and eventually being promoted to director of basketball operations.
After four years with San Antonio, he headed to Oklahoma City where he spent the last two years as the assistant general manager.
So within 10 years of graduating college, he was already an assistant general manager.
It is easy to draw a comparison between Hennigan and baseball's Theo Epstein—another wunderkind.
Epstein helped deliver two World Series titles to Boston.
Let the man work
While it would be easy to see a bunch of firings and assume that it was because of Howard, the wise money is that Hennigan saw dysfunction and is looking to fix it.
I am not an Orlando Magic fan, but if I were, I would take the long view.
Hennigan knows what a winning franchise looks like; he spent the last eight years with two of the best.
Orlando is far from a winning franchise, but they have made a shrewd move in recognizing this problem, and taking steps to rectify it.
The Thunder weren't built in a day, but rather, they took their one superstar and surrounded him with a great supporting cast.
If Hennigan can convince Howard that he can do the same in Orlando, this franchise might just turn it around.
And if he can't, so be it. I'm sure he has a contingency plan.
But what is the alternative? Spend another year or two being held hostage by an immature, judgment-challenged superstar?
The Magic have taken the first step in what should be an interesting, and hopefully successful journey.
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