Submitted by Max Saindon for Hoops Talk Nation
Things were looking great in March. The Orlando Magic were rolling, they were a top three team in the Eastern Conference, and Dwight Howard decided that he would remain with the team for another season. Then just about everything that could go wrong went wrong.
First Howard lost the season to back surgery. It’s not his fault he needed the surgery, and it’s nothing to grow angry with him about. Dwight Howard for eight years as a Magic player had never suffered serious injury or needed extended periods of time off, but it happened and the timing was not good. Playoff tickets were already on sale when the news broke about his condition and how it needed to be fixed, and as soon as he was done for the year the word “contenders” left Orlando for the rest of 2012.
What followed was quite the suprise. After what everyone predicted would be an easy sweep for the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, the Dwight Howard-less Magic, made sure to put up a fight. Most of those predictions were quickly shut down as the Magic stole game one in Indiana, behind the brilliant coaching of Stan Van Gundy. The Magic would go on to lose the next four games and the series but they did bring games down to the wire as Glen “Big Baby” Davis led the charge, and the NBA’s Most Improved Player Ryan Anderson struggled without Howard on the floor.
The Orlando Magic for the second straight season were eliminated in the first round, although it happened with superstar Dwight Howard rehabilitating in Los Angeles. In the following weeks Stan Van Gundy would be fired from the team and Otis Smith leaving under his own will. The greatest coach in Magic history is gone, along with the general manager responsible for backtracking from the 2009 NBA Finals run. And to add to that, the Dwight Howard uncertainty is building again as the organization does not want to go through another “Dwightmare.” Can’t blame them.
So now what?
First and foremost, the Magic need a general manager. With the Eastern and Western Conference Championships starting this holiday weekend and the NBA Draft Lottery approaching on Wednesday, somebody needs to be running the phones with goals in mind. The coaching search needs to end sooner rather than later as well, before all of the promising and available coaches are with other teams. Filling the general manager and head coach positions are only two challenges the Magic face at the moment, the biggest challenge doesn’t even compare.
What to do with Dwight Howard?
Trade him for an assortment of lottery picks and young talent to speed up the rebuilding process? Swap him to a contending team for other experienced veterans and keep the title hopes small but alive? Try to get that extension out of him before the start of training camp? Let the dominos fall on the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline? Or keep him through the 2012-13 season and go title-or-bust?
That will be a big decision for the Magic’s next general manager and current owners. Obviously Dwight will need to be spoken with regarding the future of the franchise and what his intentions are, and if he is willing to sign that extension. Seems unlikely, and the team doesn’t want to go through another season filled with drama off the court. It’s hard to please Howard at this point, there’s no cap space to sign big name free agents like Deron Williams and there isn’t valuable trade assets that could help bring in a second star player. All we can do is watch and wait to see what unfolds in the next month leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft, which is loaded with talent.
All we can do is watch and wait. There’s a long summer ahead in Orlando.