ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — If the Orlando Magic are planning to make any franchise changing moves on draft night, new general manager Rob Hennigan isn’t about to tip his hand about it one bit.
Just a week after taking over the reins of his new job, Hennigan will have his first opportunity during Thursday night’s NBA draft to put his imprint on the team’s future.
On paper that immediate path means the 19th and 49th draft picks, but of course it can be bent several directions depending on what eventually happens regarding what happens with Howard. The All-Star center is under contract through next season, but hasn’t committed to signing beyond that.
“I don’t want to comment on that,” Hennigan said Tuesday when asked of the possibility of Howard being dealt on draft night. “We’re gonna continue to evaluate everything we can and analyze all the details and the options and the scenarios. I don’t know the answer to that. I have communicated with Dwight. I have communicated with his representation.”
Howard’s displeasure with the direction of the Magic’s roster and the makeup of personnel contributed to a preseason trade demand that almost certainly had a role in the offseason firing of former coach Stan Van Gundy and departure general manager Otis Smith.
Though Hennigan said repeatedly Tuesday that he wanted to keep the substance of his recent talks with Howard and his camp confidential for now, he did say that “maybe” a new face could be beneficial in seeing Howard remain in a Magic jersey, which is the organization’s stated preference.
It’s also why he said he wants to steer clear of responding to a wave of recent rumblings that teams like Houston and others are preparing to make draft night offers for Howard.
“Chatter’s chatter I think,” Hennigan said. “What I can tell you is we’re in discussion with a lot of different teams about a lot of different things. What I can tell you is, especially this time of year, teams are motivated to explore any and every avenue they can to try to improve their teams and we’re doing the same thing.
“We’re just gonna take it one step at a time and try to identify what’s important to us and identify what’s important to Dwight.”
Howard’s situation isn’t all that’s on Hennigan’s plate.
Aside from finding a successor for Van Gundy, there are also decisions that must be made regarding the contracts of point guard Jameer Nelson and shooting guard J.J. Redick.
In regards to selecting a coach, he said that process will begin in earnest after the draft.
As for Nelson, he must tell the team by Friday whether he will use a player option to opt-in to the final season of his contract and the $8.6 million that comes along with it.
Redick is due $6.1 million next year, but the team can get out of that if they waive him by July 7.
Nelson got an extension to make his decision earlier this month specifically to have a conversation with the new general manager. Redick said recently that he wasn’t so much worried about being released as he was about being traded before the team’s deadline.
Both have career-long relationships with the Magic. Nelson entered the league along with Howard in 2004 and Redick in 2006.
“He has a decision coming up on Friday and we hope that he decides to stay in Orlando and we hope that he’s in and Orlando uniform next season,” Hennigan said of Nelson.
Redick previously was the closest out of the three to depart Orlando, signing an offer sheet to join Chicago as a free agent in the summer of 2010. But the Magic held a team option and matched the three-year, $19 million contract.
Now the team again is in control of what happens to him.
Asked about the possibilities of Redick departing, Hennigan said only that “we’ll make the best decision that we feel puts our team in a position to succeed.”
For now Hennigan doesn’t have a staff to help him with any personnel moves.
He wouldn’t confirm an ESPN report that he has hired Detroit’s Scott Perry to serve as his assistant general manager, less than a week after dismissing former Magic assistant GM Dave Twardzik and six team scouts.
Perry has spent the past four years serving as vice president of basketball operations for the Pistons.
Regardless on if Perry is with Hennigan or not Thursday, after last week’s dismissals it will be a much quieter Magic war room than in recent years during the draft.
But for 30-year-old rookie GM that has made his reputation so far as a draft wizard in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, he said he’s more than looking forward to the challenge.
“The last several days have been busy to say the least,” Hennigan said. “But it’s something that I expected and anticipated when I accepted the job and it’s something that we’re embracing.”
Hennigan seems to be enjoying himself.
“The draft is a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s the culmination of year-round preparation. It’s certainly an exciting day and one that carries a lot of pressure with it. You don’t want to work 364 days and then screw up on the 365th.”
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