Job security among NBA executives and coaches is usually a very fickle and unpredictable thing. We’ve seen the NBA’s Coach of The Year fired weeks after winning the award. Front office personnel tend to get a slightly longer runway, but any executive whose team strings together 10 straight losses better start looking over his shoulder. That is the nature of the business, and virtually everyone who signs on knows the stakes and ultimately the consequences.
The number of truly untouchable executives and coaches is very small in the NBA.
For the Orlando Magic and general manager Rob Hennigan, this is a pivotal season. But to suggest that Hennigan is in any more trouble than any other executive sitting just outside the playoff picture might be an overreaction at this point.
During the offseason, the Magic did a lot of soul-searching about who they were as a team, where they believed they were going and how long it would take them to get there. The roster was littered with young guys who were “almost good,” and they had some would-be free agents and a ton of cap space.
The result of their search was an honest assessment that sticking with all the youth would take too long to be practical. Management, including Hennigan, decided it was time to jump start the team and pursue trades and free agents that would add defense and some veteran leadership – teaching the young guys was too slow of a process for a Magic team that was entering the fifth year of a rebuild, with a fourth coach in five years.
To say things have not worked out like everyone hoped is an understatement. This Magic team was supposed to be ready to compete in the Eastern Conference as a playoff contender and be a scrappy bunch that stifled teams defensively under new head coach Frank Vogel. Neither seems to be the case today, despite the Magic sitting just two games out of the playoff picture.
The Magic have beaten the teams they should beat – the teams that are below them when it comes to experience or talent. But against teams that should be their proverbial peers, the Magic are woefully short-handed, especially offensively. As the Magic stand today, they are second-lowest scoring team in the NBA at 92.3 points per game and dead last in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency with 95.6 points per 100 possessions.
There is no question that the Magic want to be better. As the December 15 trade restrictions come off the 124 NBA players who signed free-agent deals this summer (including Orlando’s Jeff Green and his ending $15 million contract), the Magic are expected to try to shore up some of the team’s deficiencies via trade.
While it’s extremely unlikely that Orlando makes any changes to its leadership in the short-term, there is no doubting that the outcome of the season will weigh heavily in the futures of not only Hennigan but others who were involved in getting the team to this point as well.
The runway for failure is very short in sports, and for a Magic team living out its longest playoff drought in franchise history, this was supposed to be the season it turned. If it does not end up playing out that way, the runway for many in Orlando might come to an abrupt end.
At 18 games, the Magic are not where they want to be, but it’s also not the time to throw the baby out with the bathwater either. However, there is no question the Magic front office is firmly on the clock to turn the franchise into what they convinced ownership it could be.
But that is not unique to Orlando either; that’s life in professional sports.
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