Rob Hennigan

Florida Notes: Ibaka, Ross, Wade, Riley

The Magic are viewing last summer’s trade for Serge Ibaka as a “calculated risk” that didn’t work out, relays Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. To obtain the veteran power forward, Orlando sent Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova to Oklahoma City, along with the 11th pick in the 2016 draft, which became Domantas Sabonis. Less than a year later, the Magic shipped Ibaka to the Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a pick that will fall toward the end of the first round. Ibaka played 56 games for the Magic, averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per night, but the team was just 21-36 with him on the roster.

“I think if you go back in time, you look at what was needed for us in the frontcourt and some of the voids we thought we had on the roster,” explained GM Rob Hennigan. “Then, you balance that with the logjam we had at the two guard at the time with Evan [Fournier] and Victor, we felt like it made sense. Sometimes you have to take a few shots down the field. Sometimes it pans out; sometimes it won’t. I applaud our aggressiveness. I think given the same situation, circumstantially, we would make the same trade. Sometimes, things don’t work out as you plan. I think it’s important to be proactive in trying to rectify that too.”

There’s more NBA news from the Sunshine State:

  • Ross was inactive for tonight’s game, according to a tweet from the Magic. The team wasn’t notified before game time that both players passed their physicals and the deal was finalized, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • The Heat had been tied to Ibaka in trade rumors, but weren’t interested in trying to top Toronto’s offer, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. They were reluctant to give up much for a player who will be a free agent after the season and who may be older than his listed age of 27. Also, Miami wasn’t able to offer a first-round pick this year because its 2018 first-rounder may be shipped to Phoenix. Winderman notes that Tyler Johnson can block any trade until July and that most of the roster wouldn’t have enticed the Magic. The writer believes Josh Richardson would have been Miami’s best offer.
  • A call from Heat president Pat Riley might have convinced Dwyane Wade to stay in Miami, the Bulls star says in a podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Wade opted to sign with Chicago last summer after negotiations with the Heat stalled. “I love Pat and I know he loves me,” Wade said. “The fact that we didn’t talk, that hurt. That was my deciding factor when it came down to the end of the day and he didn’t show he wanted me there. I know the Arison family loved me and wanted me there. I know Spo [coach Erik Spoelstra] wanted me there.”

Magic GM Acknowledges Criticism Is ‘Warranted’

Magic CEO Alex Martins recently told The Orlando Sentinel that Rob Hennigan would be evaluated by the team after this season, adding that the general manager’s job isn’t in immediate danger. However, despite assurances that he’ll at least finish the season with the franchise, Hennigan acknowledged to Mike Bianchi of The Sentinel that his spot on the “hot seat” is understandable.

“First and foremost, the criticism is warranted,” Hennigan said, admitting that the Magic’s 21-36 record is disappointing, following an active offseason. “I don’t know if it’s welcome because no one likes to get criticized, but the job we have and the job we’re trying to do is certainly subject to that. Our fans, quite frankly, deserve to be upset and deserve to be frustrated. … I think the proverbial hot seat comes with the territory.”

Orlando’s 2016 offseason included a blockbuster trade that saw the team acquire Serge Ibaka in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova. The Magic followed that move up by signing Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green in free agency, creating a logjam in a frontcourt that already featured Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon. There were questions at the time about the team’s roster construction, and the skeptics have been proven right thus far.

With the trade deadline just nine days away, the Magic have vowed to be aggressive as they pursue potential deals, though their asking prices are said to be high. Outside of perhaps Gordon and Evan Fournier, it’s hard to imagine any player on Orlando’s roster being unavailable this month, so Hennigan will have some decisions to make as he tries to create some positive momentum for the franchise heading into the summer.

Magic Will Evaluate Hennigan After The Season

The Magic won’t make a decision on the fate of GM Rob Hennigan until after the season, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

Orlando CEO Alex Martins said Saturday that Hennigan’s job isn’t in immediate danger despite a disappointing season. The team has fallen to 14th in the East with a 20-36 record and has lost 17 of its last 22 games.

“We don’t evaluate any of our individuals in midseason,” Martins said. “Traditionally, we do that in a very comprehensive fashion at the end of each season, and this season is no different.” 

Robbins notes that Martins made a similar statement in 2012 about GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy, who were both let go after the season ended.

Now in his fifth year as GM, Hennigan made a flurry of moves this summer that he hoped would lift the franchise back into playoff contention. He shipped Victor Oladipo to Oklahoma City in exchange for Serge Ibaka and gave free agent center Bismack Biyombo $70MM over four years. The GM also added experience to the bench with the signings of Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin and made a coaching change, hiring Frank Vogel to replace Scott Skiles.

Kennedy’s Latest: Jefferson, Mahinmi, Ibaka, Magic

A trade between the Hornets and Bucks last week featured three centers, with Roy Hibbert, Spencer Hawes, and Miles Plumlee all changing teams, and that certainly won’t be the last deal of the month involving bigs. A Western Conference executive tells Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that a handful of teams around the NBA have been shopping recently-acquired big men in the hopes of finding a deal.

According to Kennedy, Pacers center Al Jefferson, Wizards center Ian Mahinmi, and Magic big man Serge Ibaka are among the players believed to be available. Ibaka’s name recently surfaced in trade rumors, and it comes as no surprise that Jefferson and Mahinmi could be had in the right deal as well — Jefferson has seen his role significantly reduced this season in Indiana, while Mahinmi has barely played for Washington due to health problems.

Kennedy passes along a few more items of interest in his latest piece, so let’s round up a few highlights…

  • Kennedy asked multiple sources which NBA teams will be most eager to make a trade before the deadline, and each of those sources mentioned the Magic. Additionally, some people around the league believe general manager Rob Hennigan is on the hot seat in Orlando, writes Kennedy.
  • Last week, a Chicago Tribune report indicated that rival executives believe the Celtics and Bulls will revisit Jimmy Butler trade talks this month. Kennedy heard that prediction from several executives as well, though one exec said Chicago can be “tough to negotiate with,” while another suggested that the Bulls might be more inclined to wait until the offseason for a move of that magnitude.
  • Trade rumors have swirled around Carmelo Anthony as of late, but the star forward controls his future due to his no-trade clause. According to Kennedy, many people around the league aren’t convinced that the marriage between the Knicks and Phil Jackson will be a long-term one, so it’s possible – as one executive suggests – that Anthony will decide to stay with the Knicks this month and then see if anything happens with Jackson this summer.

Eastern Notes: Williams, Payton, Biyombo

The Nuggets are waiving Mo Williams for the second time in a week, but this time, the Sixers are not expected to claim him, Marc Stein of tweets. Philadelphia is planning to keep Chasson Randle on the roster, so they don’t have a spot open for the retired point guard.

Williams’ contract holds value for the Nuggets and it would for the Sixers as well since both teams are under the salary floor, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed earlier today. The point guard has already been paid over half of his salary, which is worth slightly under $2.2MM, but the whole amount would count toward a team’s salary cap. If the team doesn’t reach the salary floor, the transaction of waiving Williams would save the franchise roughly $1MM this season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic GM Rob Hennigan is “encouraged and excited” about the play of Elfrid Payton this season, as he tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think especially over the last few weeks he appears to be gaining a level of aggressiveness and comfort at the position that I think bodes well for our team,” Hennigan said. “I think, like anyone on our team, our goal is to improve. Our goal is to get better. And we need to explore any means necessary to do that. But certainly with E.P.’s play and his work ethic and our belief in how good he can become he’s certainly an integral part of our team and very, very valuable to us.”
  • Hennigan said free agent addition Bismack Biyombo has brought the Magic exactly what they were looking for when they signed the big man, as Robbins passes along in the same piece. “I think Biz has brought to our team exactly what we anticipated: his toughness, his energy, his spirit, his ability to be a paint presence defensively. Like most of our players, we think his best basketball is still ahead of him based on his age and his work ethic,” Hennigan said.
  • Rookie center Willy Hernangomez is earning a larger role on the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. “He’s got great knowledge of the game, understanding and feel,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He has no fear when he gets out there about who he’s playing against. When you have a guy who knows how to play the game, a lot of good things happen.”

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.

Rob Hennigan On Hot Seat In Orlando?

Magic GM Rob Hennigan could be out of a job if Orlando can’t turn its season around, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel.

Hennigan had hoped to point the team on a path toward the playoffs with two controversial offseason moves. First came a draft-night trade with the Thunder that brought veteran power forward Serge Ibaka to Orlando in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to 11th pick Domantas Sabonis. Next, Hennigan signed Raptors backup center Bismack Biyombo to a $72MM contract over four years.

The moves were designed to improve the Magic’s defense, but the team has encountered so much trouble scoring that it hasn’t mattered. New coach Frank Vogel made three lineup changes this week in an effort to find more offense, but so far all that has done is anger center Nikola Vucevic, who was sent to the bench in favor of Biyombo.

Hennigan has maneuvered himself into a difficult situation, Schmitz contends. After four straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the team can’t tank without fear of alienating its fan base, and it hasn’t been successful enough to land star players through free agency. All that’s left, the writer suggests, is another dramatic trade in which Hennigan sacrifices some of his newly acquired defense to add more offense.

Also, Hennigan’s draft record has been spotty. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, two first-round picks from 2014, have both been removed from the starting lineup, and 2015 first-rounder Mario Hezonja plays just 14 minutes per night. The GM’s best pick was Oladipo in 2013, but he is now in Oklahoma City.

With Orlando off to a 6-11 start through a little more than a month of the season, the clock is rapidly ticking on Hennigan. If he can’t turn the Magic into a playoff team, it may cost him his job.

Magic Notes: Vogel On Strategy, Team

Frank Vogel believes he can turn the Magic into a top-10 defensive team and he will implement “an analytically based offensive approach,” in which the team employs small-ball lineups and emphasizes the 3-pointer, as the coach tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The team only attempted 22.2 3-pointers per game last year, which was the ninth fewest in the league. The Magic shot 35.0% from behind the arc last season, which was tied with Atlanta for 15th in the league, so they could afford to take a few more shots from downtown.

Here’s more from Orlando:

  • Vogel envisions Nikola Vucevic as the Magic’s defensive enforcer, Robbins writes in the same piece. “It’s really mostly about body position in today’s NBA,” Vogel said. “I feel like I can work with him to improve him. But anybody that’s going to be caught in that center position has got to be the anchor of your defense. We work diligently on teaching the angles, teaching the anticipation, teaching the coverages for when there’s help.”
  • Scott Skiles may have quit on the Magic, but that doesn’t phase Vogel, and he insists Orlando is the right place for him, as he tells Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m not worried about the situation of how [Skiles] left,” Vogel said. “This organization checked off all the boxes. This is the place I felt my family and I would be happy.”
  • Vogel sees similarities between this Magic team and the young Pacers team of a few seasons ago, Robbins writes in a separate piece. “The team really reminds me of the team I took over here in Indianapolis, with the young Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert,” Vogel said. “Those guys hadn’t really seen success at the NBA level, and we were able to just bring a positive energy-and-enthusiasm type of approach to the young talent that they had and we watched them grow. It was really special. I see a lot of similarities with the depth of the young talent that we have on this roster.”
  • Robbins details the Magic’s rapid hiring process of Vogel in that same piece. Vogel and GM Rob Hennigan had a two-hour phone conversation on Sunday. That was followed by face-to-face interviews with Hennigan and CEO Alex Martins, as well as a meeting with the DeVos family, the team’s owners, on Monday. On Friday afternoon, eight days after Skiles resigned, the Magic named Vogel their new head coach.

Magic Notes: Skiles, Hennigan, Draft

Magic CEO Alex Martins said he tried to talk Scott Skiles into staying Thursday morning, when the coach resigned instead, tweets Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. The DeVos family, who own the Magic, and Martins are backers of Skiles, USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt notes, wondering whether GM Rob Hennigan was truly in charge of the decision to hire Skiles a year ago, despite the GM’s assertion Thursday that he was.

See more from Orlando after a surprising turn of events:

  • No coach can turn around the Magic if they don’t have a star player, Schmitz opines, believing the pressure falls on Hennigan to upgrade the roster as the team embarks on its third coaching search in Hennigan’s four-year tenure. The Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi concurs, calling Skiles’ hasty exit one of the darkest days in franchise history, given the coach’s longstanding ties to the team.
  • One Magic player said Skiles seemed “miserable” in the last few months of the season, and the coach has grown increasingly weary with the attitudes of NBA players, as The Vertical’s Chris Mannix hears. Ultimately, the coach’s resignation underscores the need for a tight bond between NBA coaches and front offices, Mannix believes.
  • Michigan State swingman Denzel Valentine and forward/center Deyonta Davis, Marquette power forward Henry Ellenson and Canadian prep school power forward Thon Maker are among the draft prospects the Magic have interviewed at this week’s combine, The Sentinel’s Josh Robbins reports.

Southeast Notes: Skiles, Felder, Swanigan, Chriss

Already fired three times in his NBA coaching career, Orlando resident Scott Skiles was concerned how it might impact his family if he met that fate with the Magic, says Adrian Wojnarowski in a video on The Vertical. Wojnarowski reports that some officials in the Magic organization were “livid” after Skiles announced his decision to resign from his post today after one season of a four-year contract. Others were relieved, saying “every day was a battle” with Skiles, who became less enamored with his roster as time went on.

Skiles was never a fan of point guard Elfrid Payton, according to Wojnarowski, which put him at odds with GM Rob Hennigan. Ownership and Magic CEO Alex Martins pushed hard to hire Skiles last summer in an effort to bring more discipline to the team, but he and Hennigan never meshed and their partnership was strained to the end.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have interviewed Kay Felder, a junior point guard out of Oakland, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Felder, who turned heads with his 44-inch vertical jump, said, “I never tested because I always felt I was a great leaper.” (Twitter link).
  • Purdue freshman power forward Caleb Swanigan plans a workout with the Hawks for after the combine, writes Nathan Baird of The Lafayette Journal & Courier. Swanigan suffered an injury to his left calf last week in a session with the Spurs and had to cancel workouts with other teams. He said he’s still deciding whether to stay in the draft or return to school. “If an NBA team tells me they think I have an opportunity to come and help their organization in the next few years, even if it’s not right away but it’s going to be soon and they have a vision for me, than I think that’s where I’ll go,” Swanigan said.
  • The Hawks met with Washington freshman power forward Marquese Chriss, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).
  • Connecticut sophomore shooting guard Daniel Hamilton interviewed with the Hornets and expressed a desire to play with UConn alum Kemba Walker, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.