Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with a disappointing first-round loss to Indiana.
The ruin of the 2012 season likely came on a strange weekend in the middle of December 2010. In all likelihood, we will look back at that day and those trades made as the tipping point, the point of no return, that had the Magic topple from a championship.
There was very little Otis Smith could do to save the 2012 season after the hole he dug himself that winter. And now, with his decision to step away from the team, still in a mess and turmoil, some proper perspective can be given to his years at the Magic's helm.
There was plenty of good, but the final two years offered plenty of bad. Bad enough that it might cost the franchise Dwight Howard and a permanent place among the "contenders."
Otis Smith's fight was lost long before the 2012 season began. And despite everything he may or may not have tried to do this year, the fact of the matter is he failed in his goal to bring the Magic a championship and set the franchise further behind in that goal, now having to convince their star player just to stay.
The answer is probably not as simple as a set of bungled moves. But if the 2011-12 season was all about keeping Dwight Howard past his free agency, the strained relationship at the top of the basketball operations department and the star player starts with Smith's personnel failures.
You really do have to trace things back to December 2010. That was the beginning of the end.
Orlando traded Vince Carter (an expiring contract), Marcin Gortat (a young, talented center) and Mickael Pietrus for Hedo Turkoglu (aging former borderline star on a long-term contract), Jason Richardson (over-30 shooter who relies on his athleticism) and then turned Rashard Lewis (overpaid struggling shooter on two-year deal) for Gilbert Arenas (injured former ball dominator on three-year deal). The 2011 team that started the year was hardly perfect, but at least it had assets to trade and some flexibility to go after a big-name player -- like say Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul.
Again, doomed before the season even started.
The Magic amnestied Gilbert Arenas, effectively paying him $40 million the next two years to stay away. Hedo Turkoglu had his worst season by PER and the fewest win shares of his career. Jason Richardson was re-signed to a four-year deal and he had his worst season by win shares and scoring. It seems that every move Otis Smith has made the last two years -- from Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson's signing to the Jason Richardson and Glen Davis duo this year -- has backfired.
It came at a time when the stakes could not be higher.
The Magic had everything going for them in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. He loved the city and the team was competing for a championship. There would have been no reason to leave -- except for the marketing stuff. The only thing that could really drive him away was a fall from grace and long-shot prospects for the immediate future.
It is a what have you done for me lately society. And the Magic are have not been able to do much lately. It is going to take at least a year, maybe two, to get back to true contender status if Dwight Howard decides to stay.
This season was Otis Smith's last chance to try and get himself out of the mess he created. Instead, he offered four-year deals to Glen Davis and Jason Richardson and kept the Magic in a hole. Ownership blocked him from unloading some of the bad contracts along with Dwight Howard to help the franchise move on to its next era.
That part was not his fault. The whole thing could have been avoided though. That is what makes the 2012 season so painful.
It was the last hurrah for Dwight Howard. Everyone knew it. He was going to test free agency and the Magic needed to be in position to re-sign him and bring in someone else or win a championship. They had neither.
Poor planning and panic falls on Otis Smith. There is no Dwightmare if Smith did not back the franchise into a corner and force them there.