10:06am: Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel wonders whether Shaquille O'Neal's support for Dwight Howard is tied to his desire to become the next Magic GM. O'Neal is difficult to take seriously at times, Bianchi notes, but recalls the comments Orlando's original "Superman" had on Bianchi's radio show last week.
“I would love to be the general manager of the Orlando Magic,” O'Neal said. “(Magic CEO) Alex Martins, you’ve got my number. Call me!”
9:07am: After breaking down some second-tier free agents, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld reports that Magic GM Otis Smith has been "removed from the process" with Dwight Howard, and that sources say Adonal Foyle, the Magic's director of player development, was in charge of the team's talks at the trade deadline. According to Kyler, Smith still would have to approve all transactions, but his role has been "radically scaled back."
Howard's front-office interaction comes almost exclusively with CEO Alex Martins, Kyler says. ESPN's Marc Stein wrote in his Weekend Dime that Magic executives look fondly upon Foyle and he's being groomed for a "future role of front office prominence." Kyler's report suggests he's already starting to take charge.
Just last week, we passed along a HoopsWorld report that Smith sat down with Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy, so it's clear Smith isn't completely disconnected from the team or its star player. If Kyler's report is true, though, it points to more turmoil in Orlando and greater power for Howard. While Smith, unlike Van Gundy, has not acknowledged that Howard has asked the team to fire him, reports have suggested D12 wants to be able to determine the fate of his GM as well. Regardless of who's said to be in charge, it increasingly appears as though Howard is by far the most powerful figure in Orlando.