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Magic take risks to land Serge Ibaka

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Now that the results of the NBA draft have settled in, how does the Orlando Magic stack up? Did their trade for Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka improve the team or is his addition offset by the subtraction of outstanding talent.

It depends on who you ask.

General Manager Rob Hennigan was elated. Hennigan and Coach Frank Vogel believe Ibaka is the shot blocker/rim protector the Magic have long needed to make them a playoff contender.

“We had a high sense of urgency to find veteran pieces that could help this team,” Hennigan said the day after the draft. “But they had to be the right veteran pieces, and we think Serge fits what we’re looking for.”

While Vogel can be excited about coaching someone like Ibaka, it was evident trading the popular Victor Oladipo was not his first choice.

“(Acquiring Ibaka) is something the front office really wanted to do,” Vogel told Pure Magic’s Open Mike. “I was very intrigued with coming here to coach Victor Oladipo. He’s one of the reasons I took the job.”

This is not to say Vogel and Hennigan are already in conflict. It could turn out to be the piece that puts Orlando back in the playoffs.

Evan Fournier might step in and be every bit as good, or better, than Oladipo at the shooting guard position. He will have to go a long way to match Oladipo’s defensive intensity.

It just calls to mind the circumstances under which Scott Skiles shockingly resigned. Under Hennigan, does the head coach have frustratingly little input into personnel decisions?

If so, Vogel is probably used to it. There is no doubt that Larry Bird, Vogel’s former boss, calls the shots for the Indiana Pacers.

This is not the time to second-guess, however. If the Magic again miss the playoffs, Hennigan must be prepared to take some heat.

Along with Oladipo, the Thunder is also getting an outstanding raw talent in Domantas Sabonis and the veteran presence of Ersan Ilyasova.

Ibaka has only one year remaining on his contract. Oladipo was under the team’s control for at least another four years, and the same would have been true for Sabonis. If Ibaka turns out to be a one-and-done, Hennigan will face questions for that, too.

For these reasons, gives the Magic a grade of C+ for their draft night performance. Bleacher Report gave a grudging C-, saying the Thunder “ripped off the Magic by getting a lottery pick and a high potential guard (Oladipo) for a big man on an expiring deal who plays the same position as Aaron Gordon.”

No one is criticizing the one pick Orlando did make. Forward/Center Stephen Zimmerman of Nevada-Las Vegas was a good value for the 41st pick in the second round.

This is a high-risk deal for the Magic. On the positive side, high risk is the best way to earn a high reward.

We will have to wait until April to see if it was worth it.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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