Storyline: Magic Front Office

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OrlandoMagic.com: A couple of your young guys, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, are eligible for their contract extensions. How do you approach that and how much do you need those two players to make another huge jump this season? Jeff Weltman: “I won’t speak publicly about free-agency issues about our own players. We’re in contact with their agents and if something gets done, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. I’m really eager to get to know them as basketball players. I’ve gotten to know them a little, but they are two sensational kids who are extremely talented and their hearts are in the right place in terms of being just about winning. How does that look out on the court and in our locker room? I’m eager to see how that works, but I’m happy to have them here and I’m eager to see how they develop this season.’’

Orlando owns the sixth, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks in the draft and it is hopeful that it will emerge with one, if not multiple, difference-making pieces. It’s the Magic’s first draft with Weltman and Hammond calling the shots and they feel the franchise is in a good spot despite the time crunch they have been faced with of late. “In a typical year, all we’d do right now is listen, talk to teams, figure out what’s out there and discuss what our options are,’’ said Weltman, who was hired on May 22 and officially brought Hammond on board a day later. “By this time, in a typical year, everything (in the evaluation process) would be behind us, but since it’s a new group, we’re still watching video and comparing notes on players and putting in extra work. … We’ve been in the office late every night.

A reporter asked Weltman why he hired Hammond. “Because he’s better than me,” Weltman answered. “What can I say? I’ve known John forever. I’ve worked with him. I’ve seen the guy. I can’t say enough good things about John Hammond. But I don’t want to gush about him because you guys will see for yourselves. And ultimately, we’re going to do a lot of talking here today, and then we’re going to walk out, and it’s up to us to prove it.”

Griffin’s contract expires at the end of June, and the Cavaliers could choose to hold onto Griffin past the end of the team’s playoffs run and the NBA draft on June 22 and forbid him to engage Orlando until the cusp of July 1 free agency. For Gilbert, it could be a stall tactic in hopes of making Orlando grow tired of waiting on Griffin and eventually offering its job elsewhere; or Gilbert could be planning to relent and let Griffin discuss the Orlando job with officials at the end of the Cavaliers’ playoff run. So far, Cleveland hasn’t made a substantive offer to Griffin, league sources told The Vertical.

The Orlando Magic have started to interview candidates to head their basketball operations department, Magic CEO Alex Martins said Wednesday. But Martins cautioned that the hiring process could take a long time. “As we’ve said from the outset, we don’t expect a quick decision or a quick resolution due to the fact that there are some executives involved in the playoffs that we’re interested in speaking to and most likely we will not be granted permission [to speak with them] until those teams have been eliminated from the playoffs,” Martins said.

Magic officials have not spoken with Griffin, the Cavaliers’ general manager, because the Cavaliers have not completed their postseason yet. It would border on professional negligence if Magic CEO Alex Martins and the team’s owners, the DeVos family, already have made up their minds to offer Griffin their top basketball operations position without speaking with him first and, at the minimum, understanding how he would try to improve the Magic’s roster.

Magic interested in David Griffin

The Orlando Magic’s search process for a new top basketball executive could extend until the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff run, which would allow Orlando to gauge the interest of general manager David Griffin, league sources told The Vertical. The Magic are researching multiple possible candidates to replace former GM Rob Hennigan, but the possibility of Griffin does intrigue Orlando CEO Alex Martins and top Magic officials, league sources said. Griffin’s contract expires at the end of the season and talks on a new contract with Cavaliers ownership have been stalled for months, league sources said. There’s an increasing belief among league executives that Griffin could be lured away from Cleveland, league sources said.

Out of the postseason following a highly disappointing 29-53 first season with the Magic, Vogel said the failures over the past seven months will drive him throughout what figures to be a busy offseason. “I do believe in balance in life and I do want to get away from it and let it go a little bit, but it’s going to sit with me all summer,’’ Vogel said candidly last week upon the Magic’s season wrapping up. “When I get back to work, I’m going to be very driven to do all of this studying and evaluation of our team to get this thing back going the right direction.’’

In the wake of firing general manager Rob Hennigan, Magic CEO Alex Martins admitted that former coach Scott Skiles was right about the failed GM and should have stuck around until the team figured out what to do about it. Skiles quit after only one season because he did not like the roster Hennigan had put together or the lackadaisical culture Hennigan and assistant GM Scott Perry had cultivated among its core of young players. “Scott certainly had his concerns; I don’t think that was any secret,” Martins said when I asked if he should have listened to Skiles instead of Hennigan. “He made that very well known. He and I had several conversations about things during his tenure here.”

From talking to people close to the situation and listening to Martin’s public comments, it appears Skiles felt Hennigan and Perry coddled players and undermined the coaching staff’s ability to instill accountability. Skiles is a no-nonsense basketball lifer who didn’t like the work ethic of his young players or the culture created by the inexperienced Hennigan. “The culture is the atmosphere and the expectations you set up around your basketball team,” Martins explained on our Open Mike radio show Friday. “How are those expectations communicated? How are you holding everybody accountable? What is the true message about the level of commitment we expect? … What do we expect from them [players] day in and day out?

“In terms of being prepared for the draft, I have no concerns about that whatsoever because I have a very high amount of confidence in Matt Lloyd and his team to prepare us for the draft,’’ Martins continued. “He’ll have everything lined up and prepared for when we do hire a GM, including if it is him. … Frank (Vogel) will be a big part of that (NBA Draft) preparation as well and he’ll work closely with Matt over the next several weeks in leading the Basketball Operations staff.’’

“I’m not pushing for that (GM job) because I’m a basketball coach,’’ Vogel continued. “It’s a difficult thing to do both because you have to separate your emotions. A lot of times, the coach wants to trade a different player every other game and obviously you can’t do that. I like the coach/GM dynamic of them viewing things from afar, them studying the league differently than I do and them taking an entire year studying the NBA Draft versus a coach finishing the year and trying to cram it all in. There’s an important separation there.’’

Sources tell the Orlando Sentinel that Magic officials have interest in former NBA All-Star and former Magic player Grant Hill to work as president of basketball operations. But it’s unclear if Hill has interest in the job. Joining the Magic would require Hill to divest his small ownership stake in the Atlanta Hawks. If Hill doesn’t have interest, candidates for the general manager job likely would include Detroit Pistons associate general manager and former Magic player Pat Garrity and Golden State Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk.
7 months ago via ESPN

The simpler move for Orlando, of course, would be to hire an on-the-rise executive to take over basketball operations and work with first-year coach Frank Vogel. Ex-Magic forward Pat Garrity, presently in Detroit as part of Stan Van Gundy’s cabinet, has emerged as a potential target to come aboard in precisely those circustances and inherit Vogel, who appeared to be absolved from blame for Orlando’s 25-45 misery this season when Hennigan conceded that the roster was overloaded with big men and traded Serge Ibaka to Toronto just eight months after surrendering Victor Oladipo, No. 11 overall Domantas Sabonis and a first-round pick to bring Ibaka in.

Hennigan was very candid recently when I asked him about the barrage of criticism he is facing. He said he fully understands why fans are so upset about a team that now has the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. “First and foremost, the criticism is warranted,” Hennigan said. “I don’t know if it’s welcome because no one likes to get criticized, but the job we have and the job we’re trying to do is certainly subject to that. Our fans, quite frankly, deserve to be upset and deserve to be frustrated. … I think the proverbial hot seat comes with the territory.”

Rob Hennigan on the hot seat?

Hennigan’s seat as general manager couldn’t be any hotter now that the season is going seriously sideways. As the pressure to win increased, he scrapped a rather pedestrian youth movement and brought in promising veterans this summer. The result: After roughly a month of disjointed, disheartening play, the Magic look closer to making a fifth straight lottery appearance than their first playoff appearance since 2011-12. A big build-up has been replaced by a big letdown, leaving fans and season-ticket-holders sad, mad – or worse – indifferent.

If this thing doesn’t turn around – and the odds are long with a dreadful offense that has forced coach Frank Vogel to already make three starting-lineup changes – the Magic will have no choice but to fire Hennigan. They will need a new set of eyes on the job site, yet another blueprint to sell. That’s the way it works in sports – and Hennigan knows it. The Magic could be in the toughest spot imaginable now that Hennigan has played the only two hands you can play in a rebuild. The Magic can’t tank again in hopes of landing that cornerstone star in the lottery (you can’t purposely torture your fan base anymore). And they certainly haven’t been winning enough to be front-runners to attract that cornerstone star via free agency, although this is their best option beyond pulling off a franchise-changing trade.
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Gordon Hayward’s horrific and saddening injury not only robbed the Celtics of a standout player and fresh face of the franchise, it has also put the organization in a roster quandary and perhaps changed season expectations. “When KG went down in ’09, we weren’t sure that he was done,” Danny Ainge said. “We were sort of thinking that he might come back, he’s not too far away, and that made that a challenging year. We weren’t sure what to do because we were trying to buy time, and in Gordon’s case, he’s most likely out for the year. So that’s a different scenario.”
Storyline: Celtics Front Office
Ainge said he will be patient in making roster moves and he doesn’t necessarily feel there’s immediate pressure on the organization to react to such adversity. “Right now there’s no deal we’re doing right this second,” Ainge said. “It’s next man up, opportunities for the guys that [were not] going to get these opportunities all of a sudden play with no Marcus Morris and no Gordon Hayward. That’s 65 minutes a game right there. Until we find a deal that we like, we’ll do all we can to be patient.”
“A lot of our players and coaches had planned on Gordon being a big, big part of our season, our planning, end-of-the-game situations. Yeah, you’re losing a key guy, the most versatile of all of them, play four positions and play with all sorts of different lineups, could lead our second unit of young guys and a guy that could be on the court and finish the game with Kyrie [Irving] and Al [Horford], so yeah, there’s a lot of adjusting on the fly. Brad [Stevens] has a very difficult job ahead of[ him and so do our players. But like I said, I believe there’s a lot of good that could still happen this year for us.”