Frank Vogel

Southeast Notes: Magic, Vogel, Reed, Hawks

Kevin Durant‘s decision to use the Magic as an example of a bad NBA organization reflects the team’s reputation around the league, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Railing at suggestions that he helped create competitive imbalance, Durant started his response with, “Like I’m the reason why [expletive] Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” Robbins notes that new president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and new GM John Hammond will have to overcome that perception before they can attract top-level free agents. Orlando has inherent advantages with a warm climate and no state income tax, but most elite free agents prioritize winning, and that’s something the Magic can’t offer right now.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic CEO Alex Martins insisted that candidates for the newly filled front office positions be willing to work with coach Frank Vogel, relays John Denton of NBA.com. There were rumors during the season that Vogel might be in jeopardy as he led Orlando to a 29-53 record in his first year on the job. But the moves made since the season ended show that blame for the disappointing year fell on the front office rather than the coaching staff. Weltman says he admires Vogel’s coaching ability, and Vogel welcomes the change at the top. “These are very well-respected basketball men who have done a good job and who, quite frankly, know what they are doing and what they are talking about,’’ Vogel said. “I’m excited about the coming weeks, the meetings that we’re going to have and getting to know these guys.’’
  • Willie Reed has a strong desire to stay in Miami, but financial realities might prevent that, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Reed had his first impactful NBA season this year as a member of the Heat, playing 71 games and averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per night. He faces a June 29th deadline to decide on a $1.577MM option for next season and may elect to chase his first-big money deal at age 27. Reed is still working out with the team, but says there have been no discussions with management about his contract status. “We spoke just about how a good season it was and how I progressed and have grown,” he said. “But there haven’t been talks about anything else yet, kind of just coming in here and just working out, making sure they see you and let them know that I love being here and I want it to work out.”
  • After 10 straight playoff seasons, the Hawks need to decide on a direction for their future, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. He notes that Atlanta has limited options heading into the summer because the team’s best trade assets, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., are both free agents, and last year’s big signees, Kent Bazemore and Dwight Howard, have experienced declines in their market value.

Magic Notes: Skiles, Hennigan, Vogel, GM Search

In the wake of Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s firing on Thursday, CEO Alex Martins admits that former coach Scott Skiles may have been correct in their much-publicized feud, writes Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel. Skiles resigned last May after one year as coach because of repeated disagreements with Hennigan. Skiles didn’t like the roster that had been assembled and he thought the front office was undermining the coaching staff by coddling young players. Martins acknowledges that Skiles had a point, but wishes he hadn’t left the organization. “There were things Scott could have done better and one of them is that he could have been more patient,” Martins said. “We were clearly having those conversations [about the culture] and working toward solutions, but Scott didn’t want to be patient about it.”

There’s more news out of Orlando:

  • Head coach Frank Vogel hopes the new GM will try to build a contender around the talent that’s already on the roster, relays John Denton of NBA.com. Orlando has the NBA’s second-worst record over the past five years, and Vogel thinks fans have waited long enough for a winner. “I think our mindset is to win now and I’m hopeful that whoever we bring in here shares that approach,’’ Vogel said. “I think our fans have endured enough losing and it’s time to get this thing into the playoffs as quickly as we can. That’s my mindset.’’
  • The playoffs will have a role in determining how soon the Magic hire Hennigan’s replacement, Denton adds in the same story. Some of the candidates that Orlando has in mind can’t be contacted while their teams are still active. “The factor that is going to dictate [the pace of the search] is that there are some individuals that we’re interested in who [have teams that] are playing in the NBA playoffs and we’re not going to be able to talk to them until their teams are eliminated,’’ Martins said. “And I think it’s in our best interests to identify the right individual and talk to those who are involved in the playoffs. That’s what is going to dictate the majority of the timeframe.” Interim GM Matt Lloyd will handle draft preparation and other organizational moves until a new GM is hired.
  • Martins doesn’t want one person to serve as coach and president of basketball operations, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. There were rumors recently that the Magic might have interest in bringing back Doc Rivers in a dual role.

Magic Fire GM Rob Hennigan

With their offseason now underway, the Magic have started making changes in their front office, firing general manager Rob Hennigan, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter). The team also dismissed assistant GM Scott Perry, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).Rob Hennigan vertical

“We appreciate Rob’s efforts to rebuild the team, but feel we have not made any discernible improvement over the last few years specifically,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement. “It’s time for different leadership in basketball operations.  We certainly wish Rob and his family well.”

Hennigan was considered to be on the hot seat for much of this season, as his flurry of moves a year ago failed to lead to tangible on-court improvement for the Magic. An eventful 2016 offseason saw Orlando trade for Serge Ibaka, then sign Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin, and Jeff Green in free agency.

The franchise had playoff aspirations to start the year, but lost its opener to the Heat, and never got back above .500. Orlando’s spot in the standings prompted the team to flip Ibaka to the Raptors before February’s trade deadline, and Hennigan and the front office were widely criticized for giving up far more for Ibaka last summer than they got back for him at the deadline.

Hennigan’s seat likely became hotter in recent weeks after a photo taken by Patricio Garino‘s agent that showed an apparent list of Orlando’s offseason targets on a dry-erase board went viral. Hennigan insisted that the leaked white board wasn’t indicative of the Magic’s summer plans, and that it was just a list of possible options for the team, but it wasn’t a great look for a management group that was already under fire.

2016/17 was the fifth straight season that the Magic finished with a losing record, dating back to 2012/13, Hennigan’s first year at the helm. During Hennigan’s five years as Orlando’s GM, the team posted a 132-278 record (.322). The club has employed four different head coaches during that time, never winning more than 35 games in a season or earning a spot in the playoffs.

With Hennigan no longer in the mix in Orlando, the Magic have named Matt Lloyd as the interim general manager, the club confirmed (via Twitter). Lloyd will be in the mix for the permanent job, though he won’t be the only candidate considered.

According to Robbins, Magic officials have interest in Grant Hill as a potential president of basketball operations. Robbins adds that Pistons associate GM Pat Garrity and Warriors assistant GM Travis Schlenk could also be among the executives targeted by Orlando.

There were rumblings earlier this year that Doc Rivers could consider jumping to the Magic in a head coach/president of basketball operations role, but that seems like a long shot — Rivers dismissed the idea at the time. For now, Frank Vogel remains the head coach in Orlando, and he just finished the first year of a four-year contract, so a new GM may be reluctant to make a change unless the Magic are willing to eat a significant chunk of money.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Sefolosha, Reed, Porter, Georges-Hunt

Thabo Sefolosha settled his civil lawsuit with five members of the New York City Police Department, Thabo and his attorney announced Wednesday. Sefolosha’s attorney – Alex Spiro – told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is “glad this matter is resolved.”

While financial terms of the settlement were said to be confidential, James C. McKinley Jr. of the New York Times reported a $4MM settlement from New York City, resulting from false arrest and using excessive force. Sefolosha released a statement through the Hawksofficial website, announcing his intent to make a donation to a nonprofit organization.

“While I alone can’t bring the type of change needed to eliminate these issues, I want to help make a difference,” Sefolosha stated. “A substantial portion of my settlement will be donated to Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps support and train public defenders across the country…It is an extremely gratifying feeling to know that justice has been served and that now, finally, I can truly put this behind me.”

More from around the Southeast…

  • Willie Reed won’t comment on his impending opt out clause decision this offseason, claiming he’ll make that decision once the season’s over. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Reed’s excellent play may have placed him out of the Heat‘s price range. While Reed could stay in Miami for $1.5MM in 2017/18, he may command twice that amount on the open market, or more. “I think I’ve proved that I belong, that I can be a factor in this league for time to come. All I wanted to do was play in the NBA since I was a kid. I want to continuously show everyone I belong and I can be a factor in this league,” Reed said.
  • Otto Porter‘s “unassuming” game has lifted the Wizards to postseason contention, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes. Porter, who ranks 19th in the NBA in Win Shares, will be “coveted” as a restricted free agent this summer. Still just 23 years old, Porter may command a max contract- projected to be worth more than $146MM over five seasons.
  • Marcus Georges-Hunt has settled in with the Magic in his first NBA season, rewarding Frank Vogel for giving him a late-season look. An undrafted rookie, Georges-Hunt earned his NBA promotion by averaging 15.8 points over 45 games with the Maine Red Claws. “Marcus is a big-time scorer,” Vogel told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. “[He] really has the ability to score, especially in a game like this where you have so many exceptional drivers and the ability to move his feet and have some toughness to him and contain the basketball. That is a skillset our team has lacked this year.”

Central Notes: Jackson, Pistons, Rondo, Mirotic

The Pistons are reportedly considering shutting down Reggie Jackson for the rest of the season, and if it happens, it would be the end to an extremely disappointing 2016/17 campaign for the team’s starting point guard. Jackson, who got off to a late start this season due to a knee injury, admits that he has felt like “a shell” of himself at times, per Aaron McMann of MLive.com.

“I wasn’t quite the same, and that’s something the organization saw, and I think they want to take care of it,” Jackson said. “Myself, like I said, it was a wall that I kept hitting, and it was one I was going to find a way to run through. … It’s tough. It’s very tough. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating. You know you’re better than what you’re putting out there on the court.”

As Detroit continues to compete for a playoff spot – without Jackson in the lineup for now – let’s round up a few more notes out of the division…

  • Even if the Pistons sneak into the playoffs, it has been a very disappointing season in Detroit, and major changes could be on the way this summer. As David Mayo of MLive.com writes, everything will be considered and everyone will be evaluated by the Pistons.
  • There were times this season when Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic found themselves on the outs in the Bulls‘ rotation, but they’re playing some of their best ball of the season as of late, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. Rondo has a partially guaranteed salary for 2017/18, while Mirotic will be a restricted free agent, so both players are increasing their value at the right time.
  • Magic head coach Frank Vogel “really wants” veteran power forward David West to come and join his coaching staff whenever West retires as a player, tweets ESPN’s Zach Lowe. A 14-year veteran, West is playing a career-low 12.1 minutes per game this season, so Vogel may soon get an opportunity to hire him. The duo spent a few years together in Indiana when Vogel was coaching the Pacers.
  • With the postseason around the corner, Tyronn Lue is facing his toughest challenge since taking over as the Cavaliers‘ head coach. Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer explains.

Southeast Notes: Meeks, Vogel, Calderon, Weber

Magic guard Jodie Meeks is ready to return after being sidelined since January 18th with a dislocated right thumb, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated posts on ESPN Now. Meeks has received medical clearance and should be available for Monday’s contest with the Sixers. Injuries have limited Meeks to 24 games this season, after he played just three in Detroit a year ago. A part-time starter, Meeks is averaging 8.9 points per night and shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. He is headed toward free agency this summer.

There’s more tonight from the Southeast Division:

  • Frank Vogel has overseen a disappointing season in his first year as Magic coach, but he is winning over his players with the way he handles adversity, writes John Denton of NBA.com“He still fights for us and that makes me want to fight for him,’’ said Aaron Gordon. “I’ve got total respect for Frank because even after a tough loss like that one [against Golden State on Thursday], he can still smile and we can have a conversation. That’s big. As good a coach as he is, he’s an even better person.’’
  • Jose Calderon has made an immediate impact since joining the Hawks, according to KL Chouinard of NBA.com. The veteran point guard has provided scoring, playmaking and leadership as Atlanta won three of its first four games after claiming him off waivers. “Sometimes when you get to this time of the season, the problem is that you don’t have the practice time,” Calderon said. “So it’s kind of like my practice being out there [in games]. It’s a little bit more difficult because you don’t want to make mistakes. You’re still learning what your teammates are used to doing.” 
  • The “Havoc” system that Briante Weber learned at Virginia Commonwealth helped him land an extended contract with the Hornets, relays David Scott of The Charlotte Observer. Weber agreed to a two-year deal after nearly two full seasons of D-League play and 10-day contracts. He has developed a reputation as a defensive specialist who brings a lot of energy to the game. “I’m using my calling card, what got me here,” Weber said. “My defensive abilities, my tenacity. I want those things to help me stay in this league for a long time. They’re what helped me get this shot.”

Could Doc Rivers Be Headed To Orlando?

6:03pm: Rivers is trying to quell rumors that he might go to Orlando, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Speaking with reporters before tonight’s game, Rivers insisted that he has “no future” with the Magic.

5:15pm: League insiders are discussing the possibility that Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers could take a similar role in Orlando, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

The theory, according to Stein, starts with the likelihood that Rob Hennigan will be fired as Magic GM at the end of the season. Add in the upcoming free agency for Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and there’s a possibility that changes are coming in L.A.

Stein hints that the Clippers could be broken up if they fail to reach the conference finals, something the team hasn’t done in the six years Paul and Griffin have been together. If those changes include a coaching move, then Rivers, whose contract as coach and president of basketball operations runs through 2018/19, would become available for Orlando.

If that scenario happens, it would mark a homecoming for Rivers, who started his coaching career with the Magic in 1999.

It’s not clear if Orlando is ready to dismiss current coach Frank Vogel, who was given a four-year contract last summer. Stein says Hennigan’s trade of Serge Ibaka to Toronto last month was an admission that the roster was overstocked with big men, and it appeared to absolve Vogel of blame for a disappointing season.

If Vogel remains, the Magic will consider former Orlando player Pat Garrity to replace Hennigan. Garrity currently serves as associate GM with the Pistons.

Another possibility for the Clippers, Stein notes, is to request that Rivers give up his front office duties and concentrate on coaching. If that happens, the team may reach out to Bob Whitsitt, a former executive with the SuperSonics and Trail Blazers who has close ties to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Stein also says to watch for the possible departure of L.A. shooting guard J.J. Redick in free agency this summer. Redick complained publicly about the organization this week and may become too expensive for the Clippers to re-sign.

Southeast Notes: Porter, Heat, Plumlee, Magic

The Wizards may not be finished dealing after a multi-player trade with the Nets this afternoon, tweets Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Washington will continue to look for help through Thursday’s trade deadline at 3 p.m. Eastern. Today’s deal, which sent Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton and this year’s first-rounder to Brooklyn in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough, clears cap space to help the Wizards re-sign Otto Porter this summer, notes David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link). Nicholson, who had fallen out of the rotation in Washington, still has three seasons and nearly $20MM left on his contract.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Bogdanovic has a 15% trade kicker, notes Bobby Marks of The Vertical (Twitter link). That amounts to $157K, which Brooklyn will pay, but his cap hit for the Wizards is now $3.73MM.
  • The Heat will avoid any deadline moves that would tie up their future cap space, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. That makes them unlikely to pursue the Nuggets’ Wilson Chandler or the Nets’ Trevor Booker, who both have contracts that extend beyond this season. Jackson cites a rival GM who has spoken to Miami about a deal and believes “they seem content to stand pat.”
  • Miami expects to have Josh Richardson back in the lineup for Friday’s game, according to a tweet from the team. A foot injury has kept him out of the lineup since January 8th. “He’s had a healthy approach the last 4-5 weeks to prepare,” said coach Erik Spoelstra. Justise Winslow won’t be back this season, but he is making progress from shoulder surgery, the Heat noted (Twitter link), as his sling has been removed.
  • Hornets center Miles Plumlee will be out of action for at least two weeks with a right calf strain, the team posted on its website. An MRI revealed the second-degree strain, and Plumlee will be re-evaluated in 14 days. He has played just five games for Charlotte since being acquired from the Bucks in a February 2nd trade.
  • Despite a 21-37 record, the Magic have no plans to tank the rest of the season, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando is currently fourth in our Reverse Standings and would have an 11.9% chance of winning the lottery. Coach Frank Vogel believes it would be a mistake to try to improve those odds by losing on purpose. “As a coach, you worry about one thing, and that’s getting a group of guys that haven’t won in five years to learn how to win,” Vogel said. “That’s more important than any one player you can add.”

Magic Rumors: Vogel, Vucevic, Gordon

Magic coach Frank Vogel thought he walked into a much better situation than he’s encountered, as John Denton of the team’s website relays. Orlando is 13 games under .500, much to the chagrin of its first-year coach. “I anticipated being as far over .500 as we are under .500 right now,” Vogel told Denton and other reporters. The additions of veterans like Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo have not made the desired impact and Vogel admits the pieces haven’t fit as well as expected, Denton adds. “I thought it had the potential to be a lot better than we’ve shown this year. But in basketball, the names, the faces and the contracts that are put together don’t always equate to a great mix and the pieces fitting,” Vogel said. “What you do is do the best job you can assembling it and hope the pieces fit. Sometimes, it really fits and the rhythm is there and sometimes it’s not there.”

In other developments involving the team:

  • Trade rumors involving Nikola Vucevic and Ibaka show how poorly the team’s roster rebuild has gone, David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel opines. The club cannot stand pat before the trade deadline but another major reboot is in store for the franchise, Whitley continues. Missing out on star talents like Andrew Wiggins and Kristaps Porzingis, while drafting Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja in the lottery, has put the Magic in this predicament, Whitley adds.
  • Gordon has the potential to be a future Defensive Player of the Year, Denton writes in a separate piece. Gordon has the ability to guard any position because of his 6’9” length, his strength, his superior athleticism and his lateral quickness, Denton continues. Gordon realizes Orlando has to become a winner before he gains more notoriety around the league for his defensive ability, Denton adds. “To be D-POY, you’ve got to get more wins,” Gordon told Denton. “I don’t care how good of a defender you are, if your team isn’t getting wins, you aren’t going to get D-POY.”

Magic GM Talks Roster, Trade Possibilities, Ibaka’s Future

The Magic have lost 10 of their last 13 games and GM Rob Hennigan said that Orlando will be evaluating all opportunities with an eye on getting the team into the playoffs, as he tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“The simple answer to that is we need to explore every and all option to improve the team, and so we’re going to be aggressive,” Hennigan said about the possibility of making a trade.  “We’re going to be active in our discussions and in the opportunities we seek out. So we’re going to look to be active. I’m not sure it’s a ‘necessity,’ but it’s certainly something that’s in our best interests to explore.”

Hennigan tells Robbins that he’s aware of the league’s small-ball trend and it plays a factor in the transactions he makes. However, his goal was to construct a team that was versatile enough to play against any lineup.

“We built this team to be a defensive-minded team. And we also built this team to have the flexibility to play multiple ways.” Hennigan said. “And while that hasn’t necessarily manifested itself throughout the season, we feel like our vision and our philosophy now and going forward will be to construct a team that can play big, that can play small and vary from opponent to opponent.

“I think certainly — absent an elite player that becomes available — we need to continue to try to add more shooting and shot-making and basketball IQ to the team wherever we can find it. But we need to continue to place an emphasis on rim protection as well because of the way the game’s officiated nowadays.”

He added that the front office is “extremely disappointed and frustrated” with the team’s defensive performance this season. Orlando signed Bismack Biyombo and traded for Serge Ibaka during the offseason with the goal of improving its defense. At times, the duo has been able to elevate the team’s play, though the defense has struggled overall. Ibaka will be a free agent at the end of the season and Robbins asked the GM if he intended to re-sign the big man.

“We don’t comment on those things publicly,” Hennigan replied. “We value Serge a great deal. He’s been really good for us, and he’s certainly someone that we hope is in our future.”

Hennigan said he wouldn’t rule out trading anyone, including Ibaka, and reiterated that the franchise needs to be aggressive when looking for upgrades. That pertains to the roster, as a shake-up in the coaching staff is highly unlikely.

[Frank Vogel] and I are joined at the hip when it comes to decisions we want to make to improve the team, and we’ll continue to work very closely together with that approach. But overall he’s been really, really good, and we’re lucky to have him,” Hennigan said.

The GM admitted that he feels pressure from the organization to turn the season around, but he said that he’s focused on doing the best he can with the resources he has. The Magic are 18-28 on the season and they currently own the 12th-best record in the Eastern Conference.

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