NDIANAPOLIS — The Orlando Magic have completed one of the most bizarre seasons in franchise history, a season that essentially began with the sudden “retirement” of CEO Bob Vander Weide and ended Tuesday night with a 105-87 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of the teams’ first-round playoff series.
This offseason could be every bit as tumultuous.
Here is a quick look at the issues the Magic will face in the days, weeks and months ahead:
1. The futures of Stan Van Gundy and his assistant coaches
Van Gundy has compiled a 259-135 regular-season record and a 31-28 postseason record as the Magic’s head coach, but it’s widely assumed that he has coached his last game for the franchise.
This season brought the news that superstar Dwight Howard wanted Van Gundy to be fired, followed by Van Gundy’s public confirmation. It’s difficult to see them coexisting together for another season, despite Howard’s claim he has talked often with Van Gundy during the postseason.
Magic CEO Alex Martins, who spearheaded the effort to retain Howard for 2012-13, has said all basketball-operations employees, including Van Gundy, will be evaluated during the offseason.
Van Gundy is under contract for 2012-13, and he has said he wants to return as the Magic coach. But, at the same time, he has acknowledged that the past season was the most difficult of his coaching career. Does he really want to go through another year of a possible Dwightmare?
A segment of the organization believes the Magic front office will part ways with Van Gundy after five seasons.
2. Dwight Howard’s future
By waiving his early-termination option on March 15, Howard now is under contract with the Magic for the 2012-13 season. Still, it’s very possible that he will ask for a trade this offseason. He was furious that Magic officials, especially Martins, did not publicly defend him when Van Gundy, in response to a direct question, said Howard wanted him fired.
Howard’s agent has maintained that Howard’s herniated disk got worse in the days leading up to Howard’s surgery. And Howard himself has said he simply could not play through the injury. Still, the entire episode has created additional tension between Howard, his teammates and the franchise.
Magic Owner Rich DeVos has said the team wants to keep Howard long-term. You can understand why: Howard is the game’s best center, and you don’t let a difference-maker go unless you have to let him go.
The Magic will ask Howard to sign a long-term extension, but how long will the franchise wait if he waffles?
3. Otis Smith’s future
Smith acknowledged Tuesday night to the Orlando Sentinel that he hasn’t decided whether he wants to return for 2012-13, even though that is the final year of his contract.
It might not be his choice.
He faces valid questions about many of his personnel moves in recent years. Although his acquisition of Rafer Alston in the middle of the 2008-09 was a great move and his trade to acquire Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson netted Anderson, there are some moves that have backfired.
Fran Vázquez still hasn’t joined the team and may never do so. Smith signed Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson to long-term deals, and they haven’t produced at the level they were expected to produce. The Carter experiment fizzled. The trades of Dec. 18, 2010, backfired badly, as the team saddled itself with Gilbert Arenas (who will still receive $43 million over the next two seasons not to play for the Magic) and lost Marcin Gortat.
Smith also is under contract through the 2012-13 season.
4. Jameer Nelson’s future
The Magic’s starting point guard has a player option for 2012-13, and he has until June 15 to exercise that option. [Note: After Smith said on May 9 that Nelson had three days from the date of the team's final postseason game, the Magic corrected Smith, saying that Nelson had until July 15.]
Returning for one more season has one major advantage: It’ll guarantee him about $7.8 million in salary.
But returning also has disadvantages. He could be traded because he will be in the final year of his contract, and he won’t be able to block a trade. In addition, and he doesn’t know yet who the coach or the general manager will be.
5. Ryan Anderson’s future
Anderson will become a restricted free agent in July. He can sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Magic will have the right to match any offer.
Orlando spent heavily to match Dallas’ offer sheet for Gortat in 2009 and Chicago’s offer sheet forJ.J. Redickin 2010, and Magic officials, including the DeVos family, like Anderson.
But Anderson understandably will keep his options open. How much will the Magic be willing to spend on a player who is heavily dependent on having teammates create space for him?
6.J.J. Redick’s future
Redick has one more season on his contract, but it’s fully unguaranteed. The Magic have until July 7 to decide whether they will bring him back. Redick has said he wants to return.
7. Upgrading the roster
The Magic, of course, would love to improve their roster. The team needs a player who can create his own shot, and it needs better defenders. That said, the team is hamstrung by its salary obligations, even if Nelson decides to become a free agent and isn’t re-signed. Even if Nelson, Anderson and Redick don’t return, the team still would have to find absurdly creative ways to clear enough cap space to offer a max deal to, say, Deron Williams.
That said, what if Monta Ellis decides he wants out of Milwaukee? The Magic probably don’t have the trade pieces to acquire him. Remember, players who can become free agents, like Anderson, for example, cannot be traded after the preceding season’s trade deadline.
8. Von Wafer’s future
Wafer has two more seasons left on his deal, but both seasons are fully unguaranteed.
9. Earl Clark’s future
Clark showed some promise when he received more playing time because of Howard’s injury. But he has a player option for next season, worth about $1.2 million. Would he consider going elsewhere?
10. Could Fran Vázquez sign?
The Magic used the 11th overall pick in 2005 to draft Vázquez, but the 6-foot-10 big man still hasn’t played a second in the NBA. But that might change. He and his agent have said that the NBA lockout prevented Vázquez from joining Orlando last summer and that Vázquez has interest in the Magic. Do they really mean it? Or are they using the possibility of joining the Magic as leverage to secure a better deal in Spain?Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun