My distaste for Otis Smith as GM of the Orlando Magic is well-documented.
I remember sitting in my living room with my brother, talking about how miserable of a GM he was—the same season he won GM of the year. In that season, he paid Rashard Lewis basically double what Dwight Howard was making.
Smith’s money decisions have been so awful that using the amnesty clause on Agent Zero only brought the Magic a little way back inside the luxury tax. Some $62 million came off the books, and they can’t even do anything with the money they saved.
It looked good for the Magic, a smaller-market team, to land someone as high profile as Lewis—but this was before Orlando had their current scheme of launching threes and dumping to Howard, or letting him pick up the boards and put them back.
The Magic in an interesting little pickle here—Howard maybe, kind of, probably wants out—and many are left wondering why: Why there was no championship with the best big man in the league. Why the Magic didn’t do more.
There were many notable free agent deals over the past four seasons that Smith never pulled a trigger on. Now those decisions will cost the Magic their most beloved player ever.
Dwight Howard is Orlando. He graced the front of the ESPN The Magazine Fan Issue for a reason—the things this guy does for a community are unheard of. He does everything the suits say a pro athlete shouldn’t do and then some.
He is available everywhere. You can see him driving down the road, and he doesn’t mind smiling and waving. He stops for photos. He’s a normal, down-to-earth superstar that Orlando is going to miss horribly.
And when that time comes, the city should get Otis Smith’s head on a pike to display outside the new Amway Center. That giant house was built for a giant star, not a middling bunch of so-so’s.
Smith Ignored Howard's Tips
These players are the talent. Sure, they wouldn’t be nearly as well off if they didn't have management to govern them and teams, but they would still play.
One could argue—especially after this waste of a lockout everyone just endured—that the owners wouldn’t be as well off. They would be suffering. In a pinch, athletes could work out TV contracts, likeness rights and all that stuff. They would just find the wisest of the bunch and have them do it.
If the owners were forced to pick up the other side of the coin, teams would most likely be battling for a No. 1 pick that would be a fight between a thrice-retired Michael Jordan and a slightly-paunch, but fiery, Mark Cuban. (Sorry, Danny Ainge.)
I am the product of working for a few companies that don’t give a rat's backside about their employees. Would you blame them if every workplace was like a pro sports league?
I think it would work wonders: Don’t take care of your people, risk no one working for you. Everyone leaves. The only people you can employ are recently released convicts, nuns, the homeless and people from Detroit. Think your company will succeed? Going to play the “nah” game on that one.
So it really upsets me when I read that Dwight Howard—the only reason Orlando’s franchise is even mentioned on a semi-regular basis—gave Otis Smith roster tips and recommendations that Smith just didn’t feel like entertaining.
You mean, the man who is the reason you sell those tickets (Remember the 2003 season? Twenty-one wins? Remember how empty the stadium was? Because I do.) and pretty much the sole reason you sell any jerseys AT ALL (except for those random people whose first names are Nelson) comes to you.
He's a player on the court who KNOWS what his team needs, and wants to help you do your job right, and you don’t take every word that comes out of his mouth like a melodic symphony handed down to you by God Himself?
Players, Not Suits, Know the Team
In normal working scenarios, each CEO, every owner and every manager once worked under someone else. Using sound logic, you can make the case that there are at least a few people in most companies that are smarter or better suited for a better job than the person that currently holds the position.
There are a few exceptions to this logic.
- You run a company where your employees speak another language entirely, and are probably not in the country legally.
- You run a daycare or work at a lower-education school, like K-12 (And even here, we may be pushing it sometimes. I definitely had teachers that were dumber than myself. Especially the two that have been arrested for meth abuse since I left high school.)
- You are the manager, CEO, and owner of a very successful dog-walking service.
See what isn’t on this list? Pro athlete. Don’t think for one second a suit in a booth somewhere knows what his team needs better than the head coach, at least, and definitely not as well as the players on the court themselves. They talk, you listen. They are the reason you have a job.
No, it doesn’t make a difference that Smith used to be a player—the game has changed. He isn’t playing now.
For Lack of a Stapler
Lets rationalize for all the working stiffs out there. Let’s say I need a stapler for my paperwork, but I can’t get one. I am the player here, so I go to the office on the 30th floor to tell the big boss I need a stapler. He either listens, gives me a stapler, and we move on with a great relationship, or shakes me off and sends me back to the 2nd floor, where I continue to submit work that isn’t stapled.
I get more and more upset as each day passes. I do the work of any three of my peers, and he knows it. He knows he can’t replace me if I walk, but he isn't prepared to listen to my request. Pages go missing because they aren’t stapled. He mucks up an important client interaction because he lost a page in the shuffle. Still no stapler.
Now I have job offers from other, larger companies that will give me as many staplers as I want, pay me more and get me away from those who withheld the supplies in the first place. Remind me, why I would stay?
Dwight is so stuck on Orlando because he loves the city, the people, the market. He’s said it time and time again. Know what he has never said? That he loves the front office. That he loves Otis Smith.
He loves the people that pay his salary, and Smith’s salary. The people can only do so much.
I would leave for a stapler. I would move to a greener pasture where I could staple whatever I wanted to wherever I wanted—and Howard should too. The people have to understand that until a front office change is made, this is what will happen and the Magic seem content to let the front office remain intact.
Unfortunately, it may take one of the league’s best players leaving to do that. It always burns a bit more when you know it all could have been avoided if Smith would have listened, and given Howard a few staples for the team.