Report: Magic plan to give GM Rob Hennigan a contract extension

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The Magic’s rebuilding effort has been ongoing since they traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers in August of 2012. It’s still very much a work in progress, but it looks like GM Rob Hennigan is going to be given the opportunity to finish what he started, according to a new report from the Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins:

The Orlando Magic soon will seek to extend general manager Rob Hennigan’s contract beyond the 2015-16 season, an industry source with knowledge of the team’s plans told the Orlando Sentinel.

The DeVos family and CEO Alex Martins are pleased with the job Hennigan has done since Hennigan was hired in June 2012.

Martins, who would not comment for this article, likes to maintain continuity in key leadership positions. Martins also believes it’s dangerous to have a key executive work in the final season of a contract because uncertainty about job status can prompt an executive to make risky decisions for short-term gains.

It’s tough to evaluate the job Hennigan has done at this point, because the rebuild is only just getting out of its first stage after three seasons. He was thrown into the deep end right after taking the job but did very well in the Howard deal, avoiding the temptation to take on Andrew Bynum’s contract and netting several picks and Nikola Vucevic, who has become a cornerstone of their new core.

Hennigan has largely drafted well — Victor Oladipo is blossoming in his second season, and Elfrid Payton is a Rookie of the Year candidate. Kyle O’Quinn, a second-round pick in 2012, has grown into a solid rotation-caliber big man. He’s been successful in finding undervalued talent in trades: Vucevic was a throw-in in the Howard deal, and he landed Tobias Harris for J.J. Redick’s expiring contract in 2013.

Hennigan’s track record in free agency has been a little more of a mixed bag. The four-year, $32 million contract he gave Channing Frye this summer never made much sense, given his age in comparison to the rest of the roster, not to mention that the Magic don’t have the system or complimentary players to make Frye as successful as he was in Phoenix. Hennigan also let Ryan Anderson walk in free agency in 2012, even though his four-year, $36 million contract with the Pelicans would not have crippled their salary-cap flexibility by any means.

The Magic need two things to take their rebuild to the next level: a new coach (the Jacque Vaughn hire made sense at the time, but the team didn’t progress under him and he was ultimately fired earlier this season) and a true star. They have several outstanding secondary pieces: Payton, Oladipo and Vucevic. That’s not a championship core in and of itself, but if that’s your surrounding cast for one of the top players in the upcoming draft, you have the start of something very promising.

On the whole, Hennigan has done a good job with the Magic and deserves to be able to see the rebuild through. And it sounds like the Magic are going to give him that chance.

Jerry Colangelo: Team USA would’ve won FIBA World Cup if not for injuries

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Team USA finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

Why did the U.S. fare so poorly?

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had sharp words for the many stars who withdrew. But that’s not his only explanation.

Kyle Kuzma suffered an ankle injury that kept him off the roster. Jayson Tatum missed the final six games with his own ankle injury. Marcus Smart was banged up and missed time throughout the event.

Colangelo, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Maybe.

Those players – especially Tatum and Smart, who occupied a roster spots – would’ve helped. But even with those two, the Americans were vulnerable. Australia beat them in an exhibition, and Turkey nearly upset them in the first round. France and Serbia clearly outplayed them in the knockout phase. Team USA just lacked its usual talent.

Perhaps more top Americans will play in the 2020 Olympics. That will make the biggest difference.

If USA Basketball had attracted more stars for the World Cup, it likely could’ve withstood a few injuries. This roster allowed little margin for error.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Iman Shumpert rejects offer from Rockets, who’ll have several familiar names in minicamp

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Iman Shumpert is the best free agent available.

Why hasn’t he signed yet? Apparently because he spent the offseason negotiating with the Rockets, but those talks haven’t produced a deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:

I wonder whether Houston tried to sign Shumpert to a contract similar to Nene’s, creating another trade chip. The Rockets are close to the luxury tax and probably wouldn’t guarantee Shumpert much. It doesn’t take months to negotiate a simple minimum contract.

Shumpert (29) is a credible wing in a league starving for them. He played well for the Kings last season before getting traded to Houston, where he struggled. Other teams should be interested.

The Rockets have just nine players with guaranteed salaries. There’s plenty of room for some of these past-their-prime veterans to make the regular-season roster. It might mostly depend on which of Terrence Jones (27), Nick Young (34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), Raymond Felton (35) and Thabo Sefolosha (35) are in the best shape at this stage.

Knicks’ rookie R.J. Barrett wants to posterize Kristaps Porzingis

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Fairly early into the season, on Nov. 14, Kristaps Porzingis — the one time savior of the New York Knicks, at least in the eyes of fans — returns to Madison Square Garden wearing a Dallas Mavericks’ uniform.

He can expect to feel the, um, “love” of Knicks fans.

And Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett wants to add to that, as he said in a Bleacher Report live chat with fans.

I want to know: who does he really want to dunk on but will not say? Zion Williamson? Going back in history to Jordan?

Against Porzingis he will get his chance. That said, it’s not easy to get up and over the 7’3″ unicorn, but guys have done it. Right Dwight Howard?