To preview the Dallas Mavericks game against the Orlando Magic on Friday night, we've brought in Evan Dunlap, part of a great team of writers who cover the team for SB Nation's Orlando Pinstriped Post.
1) What's the latest on the Dwight Howard situation? Is he committed to Orlando or are we going to go through this whole song and dance at the deadline next year?
By waiving his early termination option, Dwight essentially hit the "pause" button on all the speculation surrounding his future. By no means has he committed to Orlando beyond next season. We'll go through this whole routine again pretty soon. He bought himself some time to see if new opportunities with other teams emerge, and he bought the Magic some time to tweak their roster a bit to return to tile contention.
2) What's Otis Smith's job security right now? He's made a lot of bold moves that haven't exactly worked out.
I don't think Otis' job is secure at all. During the Dwight drama, all signs pointed toward Alex Martins, Smith's boss, handling the negotiating with Dwight himself. It seems to me that Martins, who took over for Bob Vander Weide as team CEO in December, is calling the shots now. My speculation is that Smith's days as the team's GM are numbered. There's no reason to demote or dismiss him just yet, however, as there are no transactions left to make and changing his role would simply be another distraction.
3) Do you think there's any chance Orlando can get by Miami and Chicago this season?
Sure, Orlando can get by the Bulls and Heat. There's a chance, because they're a strong defensive team when they want to be and because the three-point shot tends to make things interesting in the postseason. The odds are against the Magic beating either of those clubs four times in seven tries, but it's worth noting that neither Chicago nor Miami has a physical low-post presence who can defend Howard one-on-one, which has been the common denominator in Howard's playoff exits: the 2007 and 2008 Pistons had Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace, the 2009 Lakers had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the 2010 Celtics had Wallace and Kendrick Perkins, and the 2011 Hawks had Jason Collins.
4) Both JJ Redick and Ryan Anderson are slated to be free agents in the off-season. Are the Magic willing to keep them, even if it impedes their roster flexibility?
Redick still has one year left on his deal after this one, so he won't necessarily be a free agent at the same time Anderson is. That last year is fully unguaranteed, so Orlando can cut him loose and not be on the hook for anything, leaving Redick to become a free agent. I don't think the Magic really want to do that, but you raise a good point: to keep Anderson, they have to let at least one player go in order to free up some money and avoid the harsher luxury-tax penalties that are set to kick in. Redick's the team's best wing player--certainly more effective than Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu--so it's not as though the Magic want to get rid of him. But Richardson and Turkoglu have very low trade values, which might make Redick the odd man out unless Orlando decides to use the stretch provision on Richardson or Glen Davis.
5) If you were trying to impress Dwight on a short-termbasis, what moves would you make this off-season if you were Orlando's front office?
That's the problem: Orlando desperately needs to upgrade its roster, but it also lacks salary-cap flexibility and desirable trade chips, so it's stuck. Packaging Redick and the rights to Fran Vázquez--Europe's best center would have signed with Orlando this season were it not for the lockout, so he's ready to join the NBA--might net a solid player, but the Magic are dreaming if they think they can land an All-Star, or a near-All-Star, with what little they have to offer.