The midnight deadline for extensions passed quietly for the Magic on Wednesday night. Dwight Howard did not sign an extension. Ryan Anderson did not sign an extension. Things were quiet at the Amway Center.
This certainly should upset Magic fans. When I broached the topic of whether Ryan Anderson deserved an extension last week, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of re-signing him. When I asked to put a number to it, many agreed he should get a better deal than Jason Richardson and Glen Davis got -- pretty much $24 million over four years. That seemed fair.
There is only one problem with the Ryan Anderson extension talk. There was no debate about whether he deserved it or not. The debate was about keeping the flexibility to answer the elephant in the room.
Smith admitted to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel that Howard's uncertain future factored into the decision not to commit to Anderson right now. Fortunately, Orlando has the right to match any offer he gets this offseason and both the Magic want Anderson back and Anderson wants to stay in Orlando.
"I love it here [with the Magic]," Anderson told the Orlando Sentinel. "I want to play here for a long time. But this is my last year of my deal, so there's still after the season [to get something done], and we'll see what happens there. But it's something that's out of my control.
"Right now, there's just so much going on with our team. It's not really something that I know is on the forefront of Otis' mind. It's understandable just because we've got a lot going on right now."
Anderson gets it too. He understands the Magic are in a tricky situation and that the failure to get an extension now does not mean that the team does not want him and that he does not want to leave. When it comes time for negotiations in July, the Magic and Anderson should have a pretty good negotiation relationship. That is a good thing.
Of course, a lot of the negotiation is out of Orlando's hands now that Anderson will hit restricted free agency. The Magic seem willing to match just about any offer Anderson could get in the open market.
The bad news is for Orlando, Anderson is having a career year. He is averaging 16.8 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game, both career highs. He is shooting 42.2 percent on 3-pointers (also a career high) and he has a 23.9 PER, second best on the team and by far his best in his career. Anderson is a per-36 minute darling and one of the best-kept secrets in the league.
Only that will not be the case once he hits free agency.
Danilo Gallinari got a four-year, $42-million extension from the Nuggets. Gallinari is similar to Anderson in a lot of ways as a stretch-4, and he is averaging 17.7 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond this arc. He also posts a 21.2 PER. Gallinari has more offensive skills than Anderson as he is not just a shooter. But the numbers, this year at least, are similar.
Is a contract starting at around $10 million in Anderson's future? Is Orlando willing to commit that much money to him considering the uncertainty of the Dwight Howard situation and match such an offer? What about the length? Is four years the kind of deal that will not only keep Anderson in a Magic uniform but potentially keep his trade value in case the team needs to blow things up?
These all had to be considerations as the Magic pondered offering an extension to Anderson.
There might be a mutual desire that Anderson stay in a Magic uniform, but the market is going to give Anderson what it will give Anderson. And it is certainly looking like the market is going to give Anderson possibly a little more than Orlando should be willing to spend.
If, somehow, Orlando can get Anderson on a deal similar to the one J.J. Redick received -- he signed a three-year, $20-million offer sheet with the Bulls in the summer of 2010 that was front-loaded -- that would be pretty nice because it would maintain flexibility in later years and keep Anderson at a reasonable price. That is not typically how the restricted free agent market works though.
Typically, restricted free agents get overpaid because many of them are young and their previous teams have the right to match contracts. If Anderson gets a deal like Gallinari's, I find it hard to believe the Magic will match.
And this is unfortunate that the Dwight Howard situation has made the future so murky that the Magic could not offer anything serious to Anderson before Wednesday's deadline. Anderson is pretty much a home-grown talent and an important part of this team. He should have gotten a nice extension to stay in Orlando since the desire to play together is mutual.
Unfortunately, Orlando just does not know what its roster will look like. And unlike this past summer, when the team gave out four-year deals to Anderson's backup and an aging shooting guard, Orlando is now worrying about its moves in the near future. You wonder where that foresight and planning was then.
It might cost the team Ryan Anderson.
This is the most unfortunate part of the whole scenario. Dwight Howard is preventing any future planning and preventing the Magic from making simple decisions.
This is not all on Dwight. This is more on the strategy Orlando has used to handle Dwight Howard's free agency. The Magic have not really decided what they are going to do, or have decided to roll the dice and let Howard become a free agent and thus need to keep some flexibility to sign a big-name free agent next year (or shortly thereafter).
Anderson is being punished, so to speak, for the Magic's indecision. Anderson is going to get paid. The Magic might be the ones hurting because of it.