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Does Magic CEO Alex Martins really deserve all this criticism?

He inherited the worst soap opera in the NBA

Mike Bianchi

SPORTS COMMENTARY

5:07 PM EDT, June 2, 2012

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There are many who are angry with Magic CEO Alex Martins.

He is getting ripped and ridiculed from all sides.

Many fans want to know why Martins fired Stan Van Gundy, the best coach the Magic have ever had.

Bombastic ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith says Martins has so sucked up to the Magic's franchise player that "he's doing everything but going to the toilet for Dwight Howard."

National NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy, brother of the Stan, portrays Martins as a former team PR flack who doesn't know whether a basketball is "blown up or stuffed."

Personally, I'm not angry with Alex Martins.

In the words of that famous basketball philosopher Mr. T: "I pity the fool."

Yes, Martins makes a lot of money, but he has one of the most thankless jobs in the NBA. In fact, on a list of job appeal, I would put Magic CEO somewhere on the list below gravedigger, Florida schoolteacher and elephant vasectomist.

I don't know whether Martins will end up being a good CEO. I do know before he became CEO, he was the sharp, smooth Magic executive mostly responsible for brokering the deal to get a new arena built that kept the Magic from looking to move elsewhere. I also know that one of his first acts as CEO was to somehow convince Dwight Howard to waive his free agency and give the Magic at least one more season.

I don't agree with how Martins has made all of his decisions, but it's not exactly as if he were dealt a good hand. If this were poker, Martins entered the game and was immediately dealt a jack-high hodgepodge of garbage. When he took the CEO job before the season, he should have showed up at the news conference not in one of his slick business suits, but in a pair of chest waders and rubber boots. He was essentially hired to trudge into the cesspool and try to clean up the muck and manure.

"I knew we had challenges ahead when I took the job," Martins says now. "I felt like I was up to those challenges."

Challenges? Finding a decent backup center is a challenge. Taking over the Magic was the NBA's version of eliminating the federal deficit.

Even the circumstance by which Martins took over is still muddled in mystery. Remember? He replaced former CEO Bob Vander Weide, son-in-law of owner Rich DeVos, who shockingly announced he was "retiring" right before the season presumably to spend more time with Urban Meyer's family.

Vander Weide's "retirement" made no sense. This is a guy who loved running a basketball team and being the Magic's version of Mark Cuban. Then, of course, the reports came out that Vander Weide had drunk-dialed Dwight late one night after he and some of his upper-crust buddies were playing paddle ball and drinking wine.

On the day he "retired," Vander Weide said he would still be a consultant with the organization, come to some games and interact with the team. He has not been seen or heard from since. He has become the DeVos version of Fredo Corleone. He went out on a fishing trip and has never come back. The only thing missing was Rich DeVos himself saying, "I know it was you, Bob. You broke my heart! You broke my heart!"

And, so, Martins was chosen to run the organization, which was sort of like stepping into an episode of "Basketball Wives." The star player wanted the coach fired, and the coach told the media all about it. Dwight wanted more input on personnel decisions and threw GM Otis Smith under the bus. Smith responded by then throwing Dwight under the bus.

The locker room split into factions and became divided. And then Howard, a week before the playoffs began, decided to have routine outpatient back surgery in L.A. That was 46 days ago, and he hasn't been seen by the Magic since.

Then, of course, there is the state of the Magic roster, which is filled with bad contracts for aging players with deteriorating skills: guys such as Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon.

"We have to build a structure and an organization that is going to be sustainable and playing at a championship level over a period of years," Martins says.

So go ahead and criticize Alex Martins if you want.

Personally, I would like to offer him some words of encouragement:

Good luck, dude.

You're gonna need it.

mbianchi@tribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740-AM.