Ken Jackson
The Sports Column

Welcome to the Summer of Malcontent!

Or, what Orlando Magic fans have come to know, the last six years.

Your hometown NBA team — term used loosely based on its performance since Dwight Howard left in a big messy huff — named its 13th head coach last week.

Steve Clifford will be the fourth one in five seasons when preseason camp opens this fall, and the response among the jilted fan base was a lot like an off-key trumpet note.

That trumpet has been playing Taps for years.

When a team gets rid of one coach and replaces him with a “new style” of coach, the hope is that the “new voice” spurs some new success. But Steve Clifford won’t be taking the shots or playing the defense for the team in games.

The Magic players who do are awful. And it can’t improve any time soon because of some of the contracts to which they’re signed. Clifford, along with the brain trust of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond, talk about revamping the roster, but how can they when they’re paying Bismack Biyombo $17 million per season to play about 19 minutes per game and expect nothing out of him on offense (they paid Howard $18 million under his last Orlando contract and he was the NBA’s best defensive player at the time)?

Like Biymabo, Evan Fournier is also making $17 million to miss shots and play little defense for the next two seasons, more than Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, who you’ve seen playing for another title this week. Both have contracts the team cannot trade, move or liquidate. The Magic can’t even pair Biyombo with Nic Vucevic, who is serviceable at both ends of the floor, during a game. Vucevic’s salary cap number is $12.2 million so, sadly, he’s the one with trade value when it comes time to gut this flailing roster.

And good luck extending Jonathan Isaac, who looked like he can play in a small sample size of 27 games due to injuries last year, and Aaron Gordon, who some think could be a top-10 player in the league, when their rookie contracts end.

The Magic won’t reach the NBA playoffs under Clifford, or whoever took this job at this time, unless he commits to the long haul and the brain trust commits to him. At least he has a better chance of surviving two losing seasons better than Frank Vogel did, because Clifford was the choice of those in charge and Vogel was thrust upon them by former General Manager Rob Hennigan, who deserves a place in a Turkish prison — or role as vice president of the Magic Fan Club, same difference — for thrusting the Biyombo and Fournier contracts upon those left to clean them up and work around.

The Magic didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t hire a splashy name that NBA deep thinkers would call the next Brad Stevens because that guy wouldn’t take this job right now.

Based on the roster and contract situations, you could mix the DNA of Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich with the ashes of Red Auerbach and John Wooden, put it in a mock turtleneck and sports coat and still not have a coach that could help the Magic win within the next two years.

Steve Clifford, or Clifford the Big Red Dog. It just doesn’t matter.

And if it takes any longer than a couple of years to change the direction, we could be nearing a Decade of Malcontent.


Like I said when it started, Warriors in 6. They won’t hit shots one night, and LeBron should will Cleveland to a win on another night.


Last month the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which had prohibited sports gambling in every state besides Nevada.

Now states get to choose for themselves if they are going to allow legalized sports betting. And there’s a list of states lining up to give gamblers the thumbs-up when first allowed to do so in the next 45 days or so.

Do not expect Florida, The Tourism State, to be one of them. That’s probably a wise choice — and that’s not an editorial comment on my ability to pick football games, although you’re way to familiar with that if you read this space last winter.

I’m also not saying that it’s because the state is trying to avoid creating a problem in people’s lives — I’m not an advocate of telling other adults what they shouldn’t be doing (if it’s legal).

Between all the major football programs and professional sports teams in the state, watching and cheering them on should be enough to do on game day without making the contents of one’s wallet hinge on the outcome of their games.

So Florida, and its long list of tourism advocates (some people spell that “lobbyists”) likely won’t be adding sports betting to the list of fun stuff to do, but those in the know say Mississippi will.

Do I need to run down a list of things Florida has going for it that Mississippi doesn’t?

By the way, a drive to Gulfport, Miss., with a gas and lunch stop, is nine hours. Biloxi’s a few minutes less.

All I’m saying is … I’m just sayin’.