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Extension or Not, Rob Hennigan Must Reel in Real Results

2015 March 30
by Adam Papageorgiou

robhennigan

You’ve seen the report by now from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The Orlando Magic are potentially looking to give Rob Hennigan to an extension on his contract. Last May, the team extended ‘Henny’ and now former Head Coach Jacque Vaughn through the ’15-’16 season. Extensions now-a-days mean very little in regards to job security. Just look at all college and professional athletics. If you’re not performing up to par in a coaching or front office position, you’ll find yourself laying on a couch of millions of dollars at home in no time.

Good news for the Magic though: Rob Hennigan is doing a good to great job so far. He won the Dwight Howard trade when it seemed almost impossible considering the circumstances. He’s drafted well with both lottery and second round selections. Henny took the Magic from being over the salary cap to giving the team a solid amount of flexibility. Because of the expected salary cap rise in the future though, Henny would be wise to try and bring in a great piece or two now while the team still has an economic advantage in free agency.

The only truly bad player signing Henny has been part of is the 4 years and $32 million given to Channing Frye. The 31-year-old has been awful, but he’s got the offseason to turn it around.

As for Jacque Vaughn, yes JV and Henny had a personal past in San Antonio. But that doesn’t mean Rob was the only guy to sign off on Jacque. That’s on the ownership group too. Jacque’s job was to lose and develop the youth in the first two years. Mission accomplished. Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Dewayne Dedmon, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Andrew Nicholson all saw improvements under Vaughn’s staff in one form or another. Did some have setbacks this year? Sure. Those regressions to guys like Nicholson and Harkless combined with Orlando’s awful record in the third year – when they should be competing for an 8th seed in the awful East – were the reasons why Jacque got fired.

The Magic managing brass could not have predicted that the 15-man roster would tune out Jacque in December/January. The players got so used to losing that when they saw Jacque was having trouble adjusting in-game or failing to come up with a solid player rotation, they lost respect for a guy who had no head coaching experience prior to taking the Orlando position. Jacque is a great man, can develop a guard’s floor general skills, and can bring the positive attitude. But that Magic locker room needed an ass-kicking when they began to slip and drop winnable games in December. Vaughn just didn’t have the capability of mentally motivating the group and that’s why we’re looking at another top 5 lottery pick for a third straight year.

Rob is on the hot seat. No extension can erase that notion. Hennigan has two important decisions:

1. Find a Head Coach to finally get the Magic into the playoffs in the ’15-’16 campaign

2. In deep 2015 Draft, you can’t screw up the lottery selection

Hennigan and Magic ownership are going to have intriguing discussions about who they want for both those decisions above. Do you want a Head Coach that has multiple years of experience leading multiple NBA teams to the playoffs? Do you want to nab a very successful college coach have them mold a young Magic team that has numerous players that could still be in college? Do you want to draft a forward to replace Tobias Harris and be your safety net in case Aaron Gordon doesn’t pan out? Do you want that big man beast who can complement Nikola Vucevic in the frontcourt?

This is a big deal. If Hennigan gets either wrong, it very well could mean his job. Neither I nor the majority of basketball-intelligent Magic fans want to have to hit the reset button AGAIN. Everyone is hoping that Henny continues to make overall smart decisions so that he can remain General Manager for a very long time. But the clock is ticking. Long-time Magic fans that haven’t jumped ship are at the far-reaching realms of their maximum patience levels.

I’ll save free agency prospects for later, but I’m very curious to know what your typical ‘big time’ player free agent or prospecting Head Coach thinks of the 33-year-old Hennigan. HE’S 33! Rob is still the youngest GM in the Association. Some I would hope admire what Rob has done at such a young age. I can’t distinctly recall the now 19-year-old Aaron Gordon being able to bond so closely with Rob. That’s an asset.

Then again, there are those in this world that just don’t respect youth. It’s one thing to talk to a college athlete who doesn’t have anything in his bank account, it’s another to try and lure in a guy like Kevin Durant. Youth gets compared to ‘lack of experience’ which is B.S. in regards to Henny. Rob learned his craft under two of the best front office systems in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Also, Rob was a really good player at Emerson College. He has the on-court background that coaches and players should respect.

I don’t know how Hennigan approaches this upcoming free agency class. All I know is that veterans Channing Frye, Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour, and Willie Green failed to insert a winning mentality into the young locker room. All four of those players are great individuals and have had great careers, but they couldn’t teach the inexperienced guys how to win. Rob needs to find new veterans, whether they’re All-Stars or not. He’s competing against coaches and front office brass that will show off their shiny championship rings and their overall success.

For all the potential and talent this Magic team has, they’re 65-173 in Year 3 of the rebuild as we limp through the final 8 contests of this bad season. That’s a horrendous .273 win percentage. Orlando has proven it’s easy to accumulate assets and lose. It’s time to stop losing. Get your Head Coach, put together a decent staff around him, get your current roster of guys you’ll know you’ll keep on a sustainable offseason program, prep the free agency targets list, scout your draft prospects, and let’s get the Magic into the playoffs next season.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Should We Believe Shaq’s Sincerity?

2015 March 29
by Adam Papageorgiou
AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

After departing the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1996, Shaquille O’Neal won 4 NBA championships, an NBA MVP, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 All-Star Game MVPs, earned 8 more 1st team all-NBA honors, and appeared in 11 more NBA All-Star games after leaving the City Beautiful. And yet at his Magic team Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the emotional 43-year-old on Friday said he’d be willing to possibly give those up to have never left the Magic.

 

 

 

 

 

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Highlights and Awards From the OMYF Black Tie & Tennies Gala

2015 March 29
by Adam Papageorgiou

teamomyf

It’s always fun to point out who followed the dress code correctly. Poor Andrew Nicholson got blocked from the photo. The Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo were named co-winners of the 2014-2015 Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award (CEA) Saturday night at the 25th Annual Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF) Black Tie & Tennies Gala presented by Levy Restaurants held at the Amway Center. This marks the second time Harris has won the award and the first time for Oladipo. Here’s their awards speech.

Each year at the Gala, the OMYF honors a player who has dedicated his efforts off the court for the purpose of enhancing other’s lives. A panel of representatives selects the player. In addition to receiving the award, Harris and Oladipo each will be granted $50,000 from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation (for a total of $100k) to donate to the charity of their choice.

Over the last 25 years, more than $19.8 million has been distributed to local nonprofit community organizations through the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation. In 2015, OMYF presented checks totaling $1 million to 21 nonprofit organizations from the tri-county area.

Saturday’s events included a blue carpet for all attendees at the Amway Center, plenty of photo opportunities, Victor Oladipo presenting the players and OMYF children who have benefited from the Fund, karaoke singing and dancing, a live auction, locker room tours, a Super Sneaks competition, and more. The shoes are always one of the coolest things about the evening.

 

Finally, the big reveal. My shoes from tonight’s #OMYF Gala. #OMYFkicks @orlandomagic #NBA #orlandomagic #charity

A photo posted by Cori Yarckin (@coriyarckin) on

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Tobias Harris: “We Have to Really Ask Ourselves, ‘What Are We Trying to Get Out of This?'”; and More Pistons-Magic Postgame

2015 March 27
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

That right there is a mentally and maybe even physically decimated Orlando Magic team. The losing has gotten to them. We’re 8 games away from this ’14-’15 campaign concluding, and it doesn’t appear like the Magic locker room has much fight left in them. They’re out of energy. Hopefully four days off helps.

Tobias Harris:

 

Below are interviews of Nikola Vucevic, James Borrego, Elfrid Payton, and Victor Oladipo.

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Pistons Pulverize Magic in Shaq’s Honorary Return

2015 March 27
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On the night Shaquille O’Neal officially came back home, the Orlando Magic couldn’t muster the spirit of those mid-’90s teams as the home team lost 111-97 to Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons on Friday. After being down only 1 at halftime, Detroit just absolutely pounded the Magic in the second half. Overall, the Magic looked uninterested. Detroit attempted 19 more free throws than the Magic and made four more triples than their hosts. That’s all they’d need to prevail.

Reggie Jackson paced the Pistons with 26 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds. His 2nd career triple-double and second in less than two weeks. Tayshaun Prince – even after a dozen years – still tormented the Magic with 22 points. Orlando was led by 20 points and 14 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic. Elfrid Payton added 14 points and a career-high 4 assists. Tobias Harris posted 21 points and Oladipo contributed 16 points and 7 assists. But there was little interest to play defense with no Dewayne Dedmon on the court.

 

Below is the full game recap.

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Shaquille O’Neal Receives Standing Ovation from Magic Fans in Return

2015 March 27
by Adam Papageorgiou
AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

One of the biggest questions going into Friday night’s Orlando Magic contest against the Detroit Pistons: Would Magic fans boo Shaquille O’Neal?

And the answer is…

No boos, just a lot of standing cheers for the 3rd man to be inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame. The Amway Center crowd in between the first quarter and second period break accepted the big man back with open arms. Hearing Paul Porter go vintage throwback on us with the loud “Shaquille O’Neal” was fantastic. It’s 2 decades in the making, but the pain Shaq left the City Beautiful with when he departed for L.A. may be slowly dissipating.

Shaq was greeted at midcourt by CEO Alex Martins and Dan DeVos. Notice Shaq hugged Magic lead assistant coach Igor Kokoskov as he slowly made his way to the FOX Sports Magic television announcing table to talk on the telecast during the entire second quarter with David Steele and Jeff Turner.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

What Really Triggered Shaquille O’Neal to Leave Orlando in 1996?

2015 March 26
by Adam Papageorgiou

magic9596

What if I told you one Shaquille O’Neal comment in a January 1996 blizzard was the spark that ignited Shaq’s exit from Orlando, changing the Magic franchise forever?

Not the allure of Hollywood. Not the infamous newspaper poll. Not a feud with Brian Hill or the Magic front office. Not a belief that Shaq wanted the Lakers to take him coming out of Louisiana State University. Not being bored driving down the same street every day.

One quote. One quote generated in a town that the Magic never should have been in if not for Mother Nature.

Let’s set the stage.

It’s January 6, 1996. A Saturday. The Magic just lost a game in Cleveland to the Cavaliers to fall to 25-7 on the season. Shaq (strained left quadriceps muscle) and Nick Anderson (sprained right big toe) didn’t play. The team – following the defeat – immediately hops on a charter flight en route to Philadelphia to play the 76ers Monday the 8th. However, a heavy snow storm is hammering the East Coast – so much so it shut down Philadelphia’s airport – and would force the Magic’s plane to land at Lehigh Valley International Airport instead and stay in an Allentown, PA hotel.

It was expected to be a brief reroute of plans seeing that Philadelphia was only about 60 miles from where the Magic were staying. After all, this occurred in the early hours of Sunday the 7th, there was still over 24 hours to reach their final destination and play a game. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Head Coach Brian Hill’s fears came true. The Sixers game would be cancelled. The team would be basically trapped in the same Hilton hotel through the remainder of the weekend and all of Monday (almost 3 full days) because of a blizzard that dropped over 30 inches of snow in the area.

Depending on who tells the story, the Magic were not the only famous occupants of that hotel. Musician Marilyn Manson – less than a year before he became globally known – and his band had wrapped up a performance in an Allentown club just hours before the storm hit. Also stranded were a Polish wedding party, NFL Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas’ niece, and the traveling cast of Sesame Street Live.

So what do you do in a hotel for almost 3 days? Before wireless laptops and internet-access capable cell phones? Activities supposedly included eating cheeseburgers, playing darts, and shooting pool at the hotel bar called Trophies Sports Saloon. Oh the irony. Apparently the Sesame Street Live cast playfully pressured Shaq into singing the show’s theme song repeatedly. Jon Koncak remembered a green-haired chain-smoker.

Finally, the Magic are able to leave Allentown on the late morning of Tuesday January 9th, flying to Orlando and preparing in time to host the New Jersey Nets and defeat them at the O-Rena that very same evening to improve to 18-0 at home at that point in the season. The cancelled Sixers game would be played eventually on March 4th, a contest the Magic also won.

It’s this information that has gone down in rare Magic folklore. Something you’ll hear about years at a time in a brief mention. Typically in a jokingly manner. But there’s more to this story that I wasn’t aware of until I dug into some newspaper archives that makes that blizzard setting massive in terms of changing the Magic’s future forever.

 

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Victor Oladipo Presents $15K to Florida Hospital Cancer Institute

2015 March 26
by Adam Papageorgiou

vicdunkcancer

Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo on Thursday donated a portion of his earnings from the 2015 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest to the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute earmarked for Florida Hospital’s Breast Care Fund.

After the check presentation, Oladipo spent time with youth whose parents have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Oladipo joined team ambassador Bo Outlaw as well as author Jen-Ai Childress in reading to the youth “Kids Wear Pink Too.” Youth also participated in activities with Oladipo including face painting, coloring, and balloon art.

 

 

Oladipo’s dunk contest contribution benefits three institutions dedicated to treating and finding cures for various types of cancer: Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., earmarked for pediatric cancer; The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis, IN., earmarked for breast cancer research; Florida Hospital Cancer Institute in Orlando, FL. Oladipo has already presented checks to Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and Children’s National Medical Center.   

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

Hawks-Magic Postgame Locker Room Interviews

2015 March 25
by Adam Papageorgiou
AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

In a 25-5 flash of a run, the Orlando Magic went from up seven points to losing by double digits when the final buzzer sounded. That left the Magic locker room just shaking their heads while in a somber mood after letting another winnable game get snatched from their grasp. This season needs to end soon.

Victor Oladipo:

 

Below are interviews of Willie Green, James Borrego, Nikola Vucevic, and Elfrid Payton.

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Hawks Utilize 24-3 Late 4th Quarter Run to Swoop Past the Magic

2015 March 25
by Adam Papageorgiou
paytonhawks

AP Photo/John Raoux

The Orlando Magic were in a tight second half battle with the Atlanta Hawks…and then the best team in the East went on an outrageous 24-3 run when the Magic were up 78-71. Atlanta won 95-83 as the Magic just had their hearts ripped out after a tough fight most of the contest.

Elfrid Payton had thirteen of his 19 points in the second half to go along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists. The rookie got his shot blocked 6 times though. Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo added 16 points while Tobias Harris contributed fourteen in his return back from injury.

Orlando was only 3-of-16 from 3-point range while Atlanta drained five of their 10 triples in the fourth. Paul Millsap had a beastly 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead Atlanta. Jeff Teague added 16 points and 9 assists. 7 of Orlando’s 17 turnovers were in the final period.

 

Below is the full game recap.

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