By John Denton
May 24, 2017
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic were so determined to get the organization back to its winning ways of the past that it made the bold move of reworking its management structure to ensure that it has the most experienced and talented leadership at the top.
CEO Alex Martins stressed on Wednesday that the DeVos ownership family made a “significant investment’’ in hiring President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond. Together, those two have more than 50 years of management and talent-evaluation experience in the NBA and they figure to give the Magic their best chance at quickly returning to contention.
“(The DeVos family) continues to provide us the assets necessary to be successful and their commitment to allowing us to utilize additional resources to establish this new basketball administration structure is just another example of their desire to win,’’ Martins said on Wednesday at the news conference to introduce Weltman. “I know they have felt the pain of our Magic fans over the last several years and they want our fans to know today that this is another sign of their commitment to getting back to Orlando Magic basketball success.’’
All throughout its 28-year existence, the Magic have utilized a system where the GM and assistant GMs run the basketball department and answer only to the DeVos ownership family and the CEO. Stuck in the worst five-year rut in franchise history, the Magic made the decision to switch to a new format that will allow them to have a leadership structure featuring a President of Basketball Operations and a GM. Also, Assistant GM Matt Lloyd – who has run the Magic’s draft prep since the April 13 firing of deposed GM Rob Hennigan – is still on staff as the team prepares for the June 22nd NBA Draft.
Martins said the additions of Weltman and Hammond to the front office should prove to fans how serious the franchise is about ending its five-year postseason drought.
“I can confidently say that we’re investing in our basketball operations at a level that this organization never has before,’’ said Martins, who noted that both Weltman and Hammond received five-year contracts to provide the organization with stability. “The difference is that we’ve got incredible firepower at the top of our basketball operation. We’ve got two individuals who have spent their lives in the game and two individuals who have worked every position in a basketball operation and have that experience.
“But, more than anything, this is about bringing the highest level of experience and talent to our organization to help us get back to contention,’’ Martins added. “I have the utmost confidence in these individuals that they are going to be able to do that.’’
An added perk to bringing Weltman, 52, and Hammond, 62, on board is that they are already infinitely familiar with one another’s ways of thinking. Weltman and Hammond worked together with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks. The stop together in Milwaukee – with Hammond as the GM and Weltman as the assistant GM from 2008-13 – saw them get the Bucks back into the postseason for the first time in years and set the franchise up for future success with the 2013 drafting of All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Martins said that in no way were Weltman and Hammond “a package deal,’’ but their reunion shows their strong belief in one another. Weltman, a veteran of 28 years in the NBA, said he can’t wait to get started working once again with Hammond, who has spent the past 26 years at the NBA level.
“If I weren’t President (of Basketball Operations), I couldn’t go get John Hammond and that’s where (the title) helps me. But I don’t really care about titles,’’ Weltman said. “Getting this title for me was a gift because it allowed me to go after John Hammond.’’
Why did Weltman want Hammond – a champion in 2003 as the vice president of player personnel for the Pistons – working with him?
“Because he’s better than me,’’ Weltman cracked. “What can I say? I’ve known John forever, I’ve worked with him and I can’t say enough good things about John Hammond. I don’t want to gush about him because (Magic fans) will see for themselves. Ultimately, we’re going to do a lot of talking here today and we’re going to walk out and it’s up to us to prove it.
“John’s a talented guy and an amazing human being,’’ Weltman added. “It wasn’t a thought of, `Is he the right guy?’ The only thought was, `Can I actually get this guy and is it realistic?’ The fact that I’m able to bring him here, that’s thrilling to me.’’
An executive in Toronto the past four years and someone who helped the Raptors reach four straight playoff berths and the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, Weltman said it took a special organization like the Magic to convince him to leave. He said it was the DeVos family’s strong reputation and commitment to winning that convinced him to tackle rebuilding the Magic.
“I was not looking to leave Toronto. I was in a great situation with a wonderful owner, I was working for a dear friend (Raptors President Masai Ujiri) and my (12-year-old twin) girls were growing up in a great city,’’ Weltman said with conviction. “I’ve never been one to be greedy. I’ve always said, `If you’ve got it good, why look for too much?’
“But then the Orlando Magic opportunity came along and this opportunity is one of the elite situations in the NBA,’’ he added. “There’s so much here to win with, a history of winning and a history with the present owners. Ask any executive and they will tell you the same thing – the first block in the (John) Wooden pyramid of success is ownership. And probably the next two: Ownership. The DeVos family is known league-wide as a terrific ownership group. They care about the team and they care about the community and I know that I am in good hands with them. This is a great day for me.’’ els for everyone to communicate and help us win.’’
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