9:12 PM EST, January 12, 2013
Five months after the most monumental trade in Magic history, it's looking more and more like Rob Hennigan isn't just the Magic's general manager, he's also an expert orthopedic physician, a relentless private detective and a mysterious fortune teller all rolled into one.
Remember when deal went down on Aug. 10 of last year — the day the lights, er, Dwight went out in Orlando? The talk around the NBA was how Orlando got "fleeced" in the four-team trade because the Lakers got the big prize (Dwight) and the 76ers — not the Magic — got Lakers all-star center Andrew Bynum in return.
Locally and nationally, fans and media were astounded that Hennigan not only didn't insist on getting Bynum but was adamant he didn't want Bynum and his balky knees. Five months later and nearly halfway through the NBA season, Hennigan looks clairvoyant. Bynum, a 24-year-old center with 65-year-old knees, still has not played this season because of bone bruises and swollen cartilage in both knees.
When I asked Hennigan earlier this week if he had some sort of inside information on Bynum's medical condition, he answered like any stone-faced poker player would.
"We are very process-driven and believe in preparation based on our values — not on emotion or peripheral noise," he said. "When we make a decision, we pride ourselves in our preparation and research. We have information that we deem essential. I compare it to a pilot's check list. We check off the categories and items on the list before we make a decision."
The Magic, who finally ended a 10-game losing streak Saturday, certainly haven't soared away into the wild blue yonder since the trade, but at least they won't be grounded for years to come with another cap-sapping chronically injured superstar on their roster. Can you imagine the outcry in Orlando if the Magic had traded Dwight for Bynum straight up? Hennigan would be derided as the clown who dealt the best player in Magic history for this decade's version of Grant Hill.
Instead, the Magic at least have some young players and draft picks that someday might help them become a contender again. That's better than having Bynum sitting on the bench in an Armani suit.
In hindsight, the Magic's trade is starting to look better and better, especially with the Lakers struggling and Dwight sidelined indefinitely with a bum shoulder. Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, among others, said recently Dwight doesn't look as "explosive" or "quick" as he did before offseason back surgery.
Don't get me wrong, the Magic would still rather have Dwight than anybody or anything they got back in the trade, but they didn't have that choice. So they dealt him for all the promising young players and multiple draft picks they could accrue. Maybe the Magic should have worked playing rights in the Staples Center into the deal, too. After Saturday's road victory over the Clippers, the Magic are 2-0 there this season.
An argument could be made that right now — as I write this — the Magic's key acquisition in the trade (Aaron Afflalo) has been more productive than any of the other "star" players involved in the deal. Afflalo leads the Magic in scoring, averaging 17.5 points and is in the midst of the best 11-game stretch of his career (21.9-point average after his 30-point effort against the Clippers). He's averaging more points than any of the other marquee players acquired in the deal — Dwight, Bynum and Denver's Andre Iguodala.
And you wonder now if the 76ers — if they had it to do over again — would have just stood pat and kept their young center Nik Vucevic instead of acquiring Bynum. Instead, Vucevic is with the Magic and is one of just 11 players in the league currently averaging a double-double (11.3 points, 10.9 rebounds). Vucevic recently broke Shaq's franchise game record by yanking down 29 rebounds against the Miami Heat.
"Only time can define the success of a trade," Hennigan pointed out.
This is certainly true, but at this point in time Bynum is on the bench with an old man's knees.
The Lakers are a train wreck and wondering if the hobbled Howard will sign long-term with them after the season.
And the Magic have some decent young players and a bunch of draft picks.
So tell me again who got fleeced?
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