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The Inbounds: Hennigan’s Rainbow

Jul 19, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Earlier this month, it seemed like new Magic GM Rob Hennigan was trapped, and succumbing to the pressure. Word spread that the Nets were that magical word, “close” to a deal for Dwight Howard, in one of the most complicated trades maybe ever proposed, involving up to 14 players being swapped. The result was shady and never clarified the particulars, but some elements indicated that the Magic would have received Brook Lopez in a max-deal sign-and-trade (had Lopez agreed to such a deal), picks from the Nets, and theoretically one other team. So the haul would have included a very talented center that comes with a huge series of concerns long-term, on a max contract, poor draft picks, and only would have sent out Jason Richardson and potentially one other contract.

It was an impressive full-court press from Billy King just to get the Magic talking and move the trade to that point. King did everything you do when you want to exert pressure, including making it seem like there were no other options than to take the Nets deal.

In short, Hennigan was “close” to vomiting in a trash can and calling that the Dwight Howard trade.

The most important move of his career, just weeks into his tenure, and Hennigan seemed set to fail in every conceivable way. Writers, columnists, fans, and bloggers like me sharpened our knives to carve apart the decision while facepalming with the other hand.

The deal fell apart.

Throughout the process, all the talk about the deal came from two sources: reporters with sources close to the Nets and reporters with sources close to Howard. In short, from the two sides that most desperately wanted the deal to come through. But from other places the indications were strong that the Magic planned to be patient, that the Magic were always, always weighing their options. So after the deal fell apart, it wasn’t a huge shock. Hennigan proved to be the more patient party. Resisting the pressure and the invisible clock on getting a deal done for Howard before the season starts and Magic ownership and executives were forced to deal with the indignity of another year under the cloud of the mess they helped make last year with their emotional reactions to the Howard situation.

Now, it would appear, that great come-and-get-it day is on the horizon, and Hennigan’s rainbow is coming into view.

With word that Howard has finally accepted reality quit being unreasonable grown up agreed to re-sign with the Lakers in free agency if traded there, the Magic are now dealing with a team that has a worthy asset to send to a third team. Andrew Bynum is arguably on the level of Dwight Howard, and while his similar expiring contract presents issues, there’s considerable hope that the Lakers can pull in a third team who wants Bynum to send the picks and assets to the Magic.

Most importantly? There’s a decent chance the Lakers or a facilitating partner will be willing to take the salary from Orlando that the Magic want to ditch. Hedo Turkoglu is obviously the big sticking point, but Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, and Glen Davis all have longer deals for fair-size money which the Magic need to unload. They need young players. They need picks. This trade scenario affords them that and there’s a good chance that whether it’s Cleveland or Houston that the picks will have more value than what they would get from Brooklyn.

Even if the Lakers talks fall through as well, the ball has been moved forward, the bar for offers has been raised. Vomit in a trash can is no longer good enough.

So to review: instead of being forced into taking on a questionable max contract, poor draft picks, filler, and not unloading as much as they need, the Magic are closer to being able to get more flexibility, better draft picks, young assets, and maybe salvage some dignity from the deal.

The key here has been patience. Hennigan hasn’t taken a ton of questions, he’s not leaking a ton of information to the press. He’s been succinct in his statements and in reality, there’s been very little noise from anyone in Orlando outside of Howard.  Hennigan hasn’t overreacted and has been careful in not going after any one particular asset. He’s not focusing in on Andrew Bynum, but he’s open to it. He’s used the three teams in the running for Howard (Brooklyn, the Lakers, and the Rockets) to raise the value of the offer.

Two months ago, the Magic had no leverage. It was all in Howard’s court, all the Nets’ pressure. The Nets were able to say “he only wants to come here.” Howard was able to say “I can go where I want in free agency.” But when the Nets used up all that space, that option disappeared. So it became about whether Howard was willing to deal with another full year of this just to prove his point, or if he would buckle and open up his “list.” Howard will end up somewhere nice regardless. He’s not going to Milwaukee. But he doesn’t get everything he wanted.

It was a game of chicken. Howard has swerved first.

There’s a lot more to be done, a deal could fall apart. But the reality is that Hennigan has reasserted control over the situation with cold, clinical precision. When Howard gets traded, if Howard gets traded, it will be on Hennigan’s terms and will put the Magic as close to where they want to be going forward. It won’t be perfect. But it’s got a good chance of being the best move possible.

Hennigan took a job coming into a difficult situation and while the contract for Jameer Nelson was an auspicious start, his early tenure will be judged entirely on how the Howard trade is handled. Early on, he’s managed to avoid the big disaster and has moved the pieces in place to get what they need. In the NBA it’s not just about what moves you do make, it’s about the ones you don’t. And Hennigan’s proven he’s not over his head.

  1. thebigkahuna23 - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Just let us know when it gets done.

    Love,

    Everybody that regularly reads this site.

    • loungefly74 - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      well put, kahuna…

      hmmmm…hennigan’s patience paying off? i don’t know about that. it seems the offers are getting worse (the current: varejo and some picks). i think the longer this goes on…the worse it gets for orlando…

      • manwithpizza - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:18 PM

        You are forgetting that the current Cavs/Lakers offer includes (as rumored) unloading ALL of Orlando’s bad contracts.

        To them, that is much better than getting Lopez on a max deal and Marshon Brooks & picks while unloading only Jason Richardson.

      • loungefly74 - Jul 19, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        you are correct manwithpizza. i guess i always thought the unloading of bad contract were involved in all the trade scenarios…i guess i was cutting to the chase and pointing out the big componenets…but i stand corrected…dumping the bad contracts may be the biggest point…

  2. danielcp0303 - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    I have no idea how anyone could think that Hennigan has played this perfectly or that he’s getting an amazing deal out of this.

  3. magicbucs - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    Great report Matt!…… Henni has learned from the best in the business over the last 8 years. hes only 30 but already showing he’s no bum.

  4. gmsalpha - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    Coming from the Spurs and Thunder organizations, it should have been fairly obvious that he was going to be patient. He’s learned from great organizations in small markets who put a lot of emphasis on being smart with your money and building through the draft. Just because he’s the decision maker doesn’t mean he was ever going to deviate from what he knows, which is that the Nets’ draft picks were going to be late 1st round at best, and Lopez is not a guy you want to build a franchise around.

    I don’t know which deal will get done, or when it will happen, but my guess would be that whatever occurs will include the Magic getting rid of Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon. Shedding bad contracts and getting good draft picks is his top priority, and I don’t think he really cares about getting a franchise player back. That player will come in a future draft, and then they’ll build around him, while having the money to go after an elite FA or two. I know Orlando is not a sexy place to play, but the weather is nice in the Winter, there is no State tax, and they have a brand new arena to play in. It could be worse.

    If I’m a Magic fan, I have to be really happy with how Rob Hennigan has handled his business. Otis Smith would have jumped all over the Nets’ initial deal, no doubt.

  5. lastdukestreetking - Jul 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Hennigan’s options are to get the best of all the bad deals being offered to the Magic. There’s no need to rush that. Basically, every deal that’s been offered will still be there in the future, up to and including the trade deadline.

  6. baron30 - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    exactly what assurances can Dwight Howard give that he will re-sign next year. No way he signs before the end of next season because he will get more money by becoming a FA instead of re-signing during his current contract. And you know when that phone rings July 1, 2013, Dwight will start listening to the offers that everyone has to sell him. There is no way he doesn’t go through the FA courtship, especially after he idiotically waved that opportunity this year.

  7. jostler18 - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Finally! An article with sense. Anyone who thinks Hennigan isn’t playing the best hand with the cards dealt is an idiot. There’s no point in moving Howard before the trade-deadline until someone offers something Hennigan likes. You really want to torture him, make him play in Orlando until March and then trade him for any of the current offers that will still be on the table.

  8. rick1v - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Wait, let’s wait until a deal is done before we start giving Hennigan credit. And p.s., the “bar” is only good so long as you can keep the Lakers involved. If the Lakers decide they’ve had enough at some point (which could happen – Bynum is not a bad consolilation prize), they’re stuck again taking the poo poo platter from Houston or Brooklyn.

    • ravissevens - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      The Houston deal is the best IMO. Magic get rid of the terrible Otis contracts, get some decent picks and some young talent to develop while Miami dominate the east.

    • zacksdad - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      I agree with you, I do not see that his patience paying off. He is now down to only two landing spots for Howard, Lakers and Houston. He had 3 before and if he does not get the Lakers deal done soon, he will be down to one. I think the Lakers have a better bargaining now that the Nets are out of it.

      But usually I agree with most of your articles Matt. So nice to read actual thoughts of someones, not the re-writing of other news stories.

  9. lakerluver - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    All your worse dreams are coming true, HATERS!! The mighty LAKERS trade for Howard, Kobe wins 2 or 3 more rings AND the LAKERS reload after Nash/Kobe retire with Howard still in his prime AND millions to spend in bringing in a couple more elite free agents. How would a K. Love/J. Wall combo with Howard look? Or, perhaps K. Love/R. Westbrook combo plus Howard? Ohh, the possibilities!! Dang, it’s good being a LAKERS fan!! Now, GET THE DEAL DONE, MITCH.

    • SmackSaw - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      2 more titles puts the Lakers past the Celtics! Get DH12 now Mitch! Ddddaaayyyuuummm Skippppyyy!!!!

    • borderline1988 - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      I wouldn’t be so vocal about this; you might piss off David Stern and then you can kiss Howard goodbye.

    • reupjosh - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      Dude… your name is “LakerLuver” spelled with a “U”. Scoreboard.

    • jolink653 - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:13 PM

      So you bring in a point guard who’s just about eligible for social security and an immature headcase fresh off of back surgery (who may not even be better than Bynum) to pair with kobe, an aging whiner who shows no backbone during games in Gasol and a player whose questionable talent is outweighed by his on-the-court violence in Artest…Yeah that solves all your problems and vaults you to the head of the West…Really can’t stand Lakers fans sometimes…

  10. Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    You couldn’t be further off base if you tried. Hennigan’s getting a much better offer here? How? You think Cleveland’s going to give up Varejao, good draft picks AND take back bad contracts just to get Bynum? You think Varejao is actually a better return for a rebuilding team than Lopez? You think Dwight somehow owes it to Orlando to sign away his free agency (again!) just so they can get a better return?

    And you have the gall to accuse other sources of being too in the tank for interested parties. Pathetic.

    • raidmagic - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:47 PM

      Anything is better to get in return than Lopez on a max contract. That’s an Otis move…

      • Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:04 PM

        You’re right, getting one of the best offensive centers in the league is just awful. I mean, I know that Lopez is solely defined by one injury and one pathetic rebounding year and nothing else he’s ever done means squat.

  11. merchie89 - Jul 19, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Writers for PBT must have really good stuff in their pipes because Bynum makes Cleveland a playoff team! The difference in position from the Nets to Cavs in the draft will be about 5 spots. 22 down to 17.

    Why would you not get a potential top 20 SG and a already top 10 C instead of a taking back a bad contract in Varejao

    Does no one else see this? Lakers cant really send them anything. So Varejao is better than Lopez and Brooks? You writers are as foolish as Hennigan

    • Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:09 PM

      And Cleveland’s going to send back multiple draft picks and take back bad contracts just to land Bynum. Right.

      • merchie89 - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        2 First round picks and Varejao to get a top 3 Center and Jason Richardson who can still play well….yeah thats a horrible deal NOT!!!

      • Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        Um, Jason Richardson can’t still play well, and if that’s the only bad contract that Orlando sends out in this deal they whiffed really badly. There’s a much higher opportunity cost for the Cavs to take back bad contracts because they actually have cap space next summer, whereas for the Nets to take back those contracts it’d just be money, which is why it makes more sense for Brooklyn to be willing to give Orlando the salary relief it desires.

  12. ddtman76 - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Let me get this right, Bynum prefers Cleveland over Orlando, has he been to Cleveland? If that is true that says worlds about that man. Its like comparing apple pie and cod liver oil, one may be good for you but how do you get past the taste? Dwight is an immature brat who needs a good beating with a cat of nine tails. Hang in there Hennigan who knows D12 may decide he wants to play in Europe, any good players over there, oh yeah, Fran Vasquez comes to mind.

    • gpatrick15 - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      I’d vastly prefer to play with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters (who I personally think they reached for, but whatever), and the rest of the Cavs scrubs than play for Orlando, who’s entire roster, save for Bynum, would be scrubs. The Cavaliers are a playoff team with Bynum. The Magic likely aren’t.

    • Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 2:55 PM

      Oh yeah, I actually get Bynum wanting to play in Cleveland, even if he was just naming teams that’ll have max space next summer to make his non-extending with Orlando credible. The Cavs definitely have a solid foundation going with Irving, Waiters and Thompson, and wanting to be a part of that shows quite a bit of foresight that you don’t often see from NBA stars. The issue is if Cleveland has to take back a bunch of contracts to make it happen. Forgetting the trade for a second, if they signed Bynum as a free agent next summer, they’d still have room to bring in another max FA along with him in either 2013 or 2014 (even more space if Varejao gets moved). That’s… a really good team. Here’s the thing – if they make the trade, they’re giving Varejao away for nothing basically, giving up draft picks that could have been used to fill out the roster and taking away the cap space that would have allowed them to add another legit piece to the Bynum/Irving/Thompson/Waiters core. And if they aren’t taking back a bunch of bad contracts, why is Orlando doing this deal instead of the Brooklyn deal? They’re going to get back Raggedy Andy instead of Lopez and picks that are maybe a couple spots higher than the Nets’ without dumping significantly more salary? Makes no sense at all. Something doesn’t add up here.

    • danfrommv - Jul 19, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      Cleveland has more handicap parking spaces. That’s why Bynum likes it better ;-)

  13. gpatrick15 - Jul 19, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    I personally would take Varejao and his salary over Lopez and his max deal. Lopez may score 18 ppg, but he cannot rebound and is useless defensively. At least Varejao can reound the ball, though his scoring isn’t top notch. But in the end it depends on what type of team you’re trying to build. If the magic place a higher premium or scoring versus defense, then the obvious pick is lopez. But the Heat and Thunder just went to the finals getting absolutely nothing of value from their starting centers. A Varejao type would have made the Heat stronger defensively. Lopez would have added a few points, but they didn’t really need that with their big 3 taking the load.

    • Kevin S. - Jul 19, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      Two things. One, Lopez rebounded… not great, but passably well when he wasn’t coming off mono and playing with one elbow. Two, it’s not just that he can score, it’s that he can score in pretty much every way from two to seventeen feet. How many other seven-footers can say that? Dirk and Pau. Obviously both of them are even better than Lopez, but his offensive skill and versatility is dismissed as if it’s just above-average as opposed to among the best among big men in the league.

  14. 20dollardinners - Jul 19, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    “Vomit in a trash can is no longer good enough.”

    I stopped reading after this – lol. I think the offer for Howard were good – the issue was getting rid of some of their other mistakes. That roster is plagued with bad contracts.

    Rumor was originally that the nets would absorb something like 100m worth of magic contracts in total (2 or 3 bad contracts in addition to Howard). That’s not vomit in a trash can.

    lol.

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