The biggest Magic news of the day concerns Otis Smith. The team extended his contract, along with that of assistant GM Dave Twardzik, but did not disclose the terms of the extension. However, Brian Schmitz reports that Otis' deal is for three years, with the fourth year a team option. In a separate post, he writes that it's time Otis backs-up his talk of bringing a title to Orlando:
He had posters of the NBA trophy plastered throughout the team's practice facility and in their arena locker room. Players are parroting Smith's message.
It's a terrific goal and you have to like the confidence . . .. but Smith can't simply tease the faithful with championship chatter.
He's on the record --- and on the clock.
The ticking begins loudly, and in earnest, next season when all-star center Dwight Howard's five-year, $85-million maximum contract kicks in.
Smith has work to do, and little cap room left to cut the gap between the Magic and the aging Pistons and the Celtics.
He must find more help for Howard. The Magic need more defense, more big bodies and, to hear critics tell it, more point-guard assistance.
Yes indeed, the time is now for Otis to prove himself as GM. So far, he hasn't made too many personnel blunders (as long as you don't count the draft). But he hasn't distinguished himself, either. With nearly $230 million owed to Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Jameer Nelson over the next five years, Smith doesn't have much flexibility, so he'll have to prove himself by making smaller tweaks to surround his core with complementary players. But he can't do it alone. Most great teams got to where they are by fleecing incompetent GMs:
- the Celtics got Kevin Garnett, one of the best power forwards of all-time, for Al Jefferson and change;
- the Lakers got Pau Gasol without giving up anyone in their nine-man rotation;
- the Pistons got Rasheed Wallace for a first-round draft pick and assorted riffraff (including former Magic guard Chucky Atkins).
The only exception to that rule is the (now-fallen) Spurs dynasty (?) which lucked into the right to draft Tim Duncan, then drafted smartly by getting Tony Parker (28th, 2001) and Manu Ginobili (57th, 1999). And as much as most of us like Otis, we don't think of him as an R.C. Buford-type talent evaluator.
Not yet, anyway. But if he's able to draft well this year, and juggle his own free agents, Otis might establish himself as an above-average GM. While he hasn't done anything astonishing yet -- jettisoning Steve Francis, his awful attitude, and his ridiculous contract was Smith's best move, and that involved Isiah Thomas' incompetence -- he hasn't done anything worth firing him over, either. And with the team on the verge of greatness once more, it'd be unfair of the Magic to fire him.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement from me, sure, but don't get me wrong: I still believe in Otis. And so do the Magic, evidently.
And speaking of the draft, plenty of mock-draft sites updated today. Interestingly, four of the ten sites we're tracking at 3QC have the Magic selecting Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts with the 22nd pick. DraftExpress thinks he is, at best, Jerry Stackhouse; that he's the best NCAA junior in the draft; and that he's the third-best shooting guard. Not bad, no?