29 June 2007

More Boring Than The Finals: An Orlando Magic Draft Recap

I don't think Magic fans expected much out of last night's draft. Hell, all I wanted was

  • The Magic to draft a backup power forward, such as Marc Gasol or Herbert Hill, to eventually take over for Tony Battie.
  • The whole event not to bore me as much as the Finals did.
I was let down on both counts.

Before the draft even began, the Magic sold one of their picks to the Houston Rockets, leaving Orlando with only the 44th overall selection. Their first-round pick belonged to Detroit as part of the Carlos Arroyo/Darko Milicic trade from February 2006, and Detroit used it on shooting guard Rodney Stuckey.

With the 44th pick, the Magic selected Reyshawn Terry from North Carolina. I'm not a college basketball fan in the slightest, but I was able to gather that Terry was a decent mid-range scorer who needed to work on his defense and maturity. Chad Ford of ESPN.com wrote that Terry was a "very good value pick". I was hoping that Terry could be brought in as a possible replacement for Grant Hill, who still hasn't decided if he wants to return to Orlando next season. He could also be used to replace Hedo Turkoglu if he is traded to clear up salary-cap room. Overall, I was moderately pleased with the Magic's selection.

The Magic selected Reyshawn Terry of North Carolina with the 44th-overall pick. However, he wasn't with the team for long.
Photo by the Associated Press

That changed when I learned this morning that Terry was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for cash and their second-round selection, Milovan Rakovic, who was taken with the last overall pick. I suppose it's nice to have the cash, but what do we need Rakovic for? He'll stay in Serbia for the next several years. We already have the rights to Fran Vazquez and Marcin Gortat, two big-men who are still playing overseas and who may not play for the Magic for several seasons. The Department of Redundancy Department strikes again.

Overall, draft night was ominous. The Magic did nothing to improve themselves, whereas two bottom-dwelling teams in the Southeast Division did: the Atlanta Hawks took Al Horford and Acie Law, both of whom figure to be NBA-ready; and the Charlotte Bobcats traded with Golden State for explosive scorer Jason Richardson. Moreover, the Miami Heat have made known their interest in Rashard Lewis, whom the Magic have at the top of their free-agent wishlist.

The division-rival Charlotte Bobcats acquired Jason Richardson from Golden State in exchange for Brandan Wright, whom Charlotte selected with the 8th pick in the draft.
Photo by Brian Bahr, Getty Images

The only team that did Orlando a favor last night was Washington, which inexplicably drafted Dominic McGuire, a small forward, despite already having Caron Butler, an All-Star, at the position. Nevermind the fact that their best center is Etan Thomas, who is a better writer than he is a basketball player.

The entire Southeast Division landscape has shifted over the course of one night. Its standings could get turned on its head next season, which would -- perhaps appropriately, given the franchise's history -- leave the Magic in third place, where they finished last season.

I hope, for our sakes, that free-agency is kind to us. Given the way our divisional opponents improved, we need it now more than ever.

The Orlando Magic Free-Agency Countdown, Part Five: Rashard Lewis

As the July 1 start of NBA's free-agency period comes closer, 3QC is taking a look at the free agents who may be able to help the Magic the most by counting down from the 5th-best option to the best option. Today's post concerns the player who should be the Magic's first choice: Rashard Lewis.

Throughout this week's countdown, I've stressed that the Magic need to sign a guy this summer who keeps the so-called "window of opportunity" open for several years. We have a young team that isn't ready to contend immediately and still needs to develop further; thus, it does us no good to sign an established, on-the-decline superstar. Vince Carter and Chauncey Billups are in their thirties, so their long-term value to the Magic is minimal. Mo Williams may be the right age, but he wouldn't generate enough buzz around the team, nor would he improve it single-handedly. Gerald Wallace fits the bill in terms of age and skills, but he's an injury risk. That leaves us Rashard Lewis, the Seattle SuperSonic and All-Star who opted out of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Magic's Trevor Ariza and Dwight Howard used to worry about containing Rashard Lewis. If they're lucky, they'll get to play alongside him next season.
Photo by Kevin P. Casey, Associated Press

It's hard to find a negative in Lewis' game, at least as far as the Magic are concerned. Lewis would provide some much-needed scoring -- his 22.4 per-game average last season was a career-best. He also rebounds well. As a bonus, Lewis is remarkably durable; Even counting the time he missed last season with a dislocated finger, Lewis has appeared in 87% of the Sonics' games in his nine-year career. Further, he's just 27 and has improved his scoring in each of the past four seasons. Essentially, Rashard Lewis is the Magic's best bet on the free-agent market. He's young enough to produce consistently as the younger players around him develop their games, he can score, and he rarely gets injured.

Money, as always, is an issue. Lewis is believed to be seeking a deal in the $13-15 M range. If he won't settle for less, the Magic would likely have to reluctantly jettison Darko Milicic, whom they hoped to re-sign. The only scenario that would allow for both Milicic and Lewis to play in Orlando next season involves trading away a player with an average-sized contract. The player who makes the most sense in that regard is Hedo Turkoglu, who makes $5 M a season and plays Lewis' position of small forward.

Magic fans shouldn't be bowled over if Hedo Turkoglu is traded to clear salary-cap space for Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

Although Lewis clearly wants to play for a winner, it won't be easy to pry him from Seattle. Last night, the Sonics traded Ray Allen, their other All-Star, to the Boston Celtics for Jeff Green, whom they selected with the fifth overall pick, and some other players. With Allen gone, the Sonics are left with Green and Kevin Durant, whom they drafted second, to lead the team. Seattle's ownership can be pretty inept, but I don't think they would let go of two of their All-Stars in the same summer. Lewis declined a two-year, $25 M extension from the Sonics before opting out, but he might be more inclined to listen to them knowing that he would play alongside Durant and Green. Additionally, Seattle can offer him a six-year deal, whereas other teams can offer him five years. Because NBA contracts are guaranteed, an extra year makes a world of difference financially, and Lewis may indeed be enticed to stay.

The chance to share the floor with the electrifying Kevin Durant may persuade Rashard Lewis to stay with the Sonics.
Photo by Jason DeCrow, Associated Press

All that said, I think Lewis would be foolish to stay in Seattle. I mean no disrespect to the Sonics, because they're actually one of my favorite teams, but Orlando is the better destination for Lewis. The Sonics will likely relocate within the next few years, and Lewis would eventually lose playing time to Durant. Further, Lewis has never had the opportunity to play alongside a dominant center like Dwight Howard. If LeBron James can single-handedly take the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, how far could the inside-out combination of Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis take the Magic, especially in arguably the worst conference in North American professional sports? Another consideration: the last time the Magic had a great center/wing player combination, it was Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway, and the Magic rode that combination into the NBA Finals in 1995.

We Magic fans should hope lightning strikes twice.

Monday: Part One in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Vince Carter.
Tuesday: Part Two in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Mo Williams.
Wednesday: Part Three in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Chauncey Billups.
Yesterday: Part Four in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Gerald Wallace.
Today: Part Five in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Rashard Lewis.

28 June 2007

The Orlando Magic Free-Agency Countdown, Part Four: Gerald Wallace

As the July 1 start of NBA's free-agency period comes closer, 3QC is taking a look at the free agents who may be able to help the Magic the most by counting down from the 5th-best option to the best option. Today's post concerns the player who should be the Magic's second resort: Gerald Wallace.

Earlier this summer, high-flying swingman Gerald Wallace was my top choice for the Magic. Admittedly, I'm biased; I have an inexplicable fondness for the Charlotte Bobcats, the team with which he spent the past three seasons. He also provides highlight-reel footage each night, mostly featuring his own acrobatic dunks, but occasionally involving ridiculous defensive plays, like this blocked dunk of Golden State's Al Harrington:

There's more to Wallace than what shows up in SportsCenter's Top 10. His freakish athleticism makes him very versatile: although naturally a small forward, he's quick enough to defend shooting guards, but long and strong enough to defend power forwards. He can also jump out of the gym. Those qualities apply on the offensive end as well. Gerald Wallace is not a Jack-of-all-trades in the manner Magic Johnson was, but he's a Jack-of-three-positions, and that's valuable.

Free-agent-to-be Gerald Wallace has become a star by combining incredible athleticism with strong fundamentals, like the jump shot shown in this photo. If he played in a bigger market, he'd be a household name by now.

For all his strengths, this potential Magic free-agent signee is -- and stop me if you've heard this before -- an injury risk. Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko, writing about Gilbert Arenas' season-ending injury after a collision with Wallace, imparted this wisdom about Gerald:
Wallace is a force of nature whose productivity depends on how out of control he can get. And he's a former football enthusiast who still looks like one.
Indeed, Wallace's health has to be a big concern for teams interested in signing him. As frustrating as it sounds, the Magic may actually have to decline Wallace and his services, or at least put them lower on their wishlist, because there's no telling if he'll be able to play an entire season. Make no mistake, though: If Wallace were capable of playing 75 games and post last season's per-game averages of 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block, the Magic would have to prefer him over everyone else available. However, Wallace has played in just 197 of a possible 246 games, or 80%. If that sounds low, it should. Amazingly, 80% is exactly double the rate of games in which Grant Hill has played with the Magic in his tenure here, so go figure.

Injuries aside, there's another reason not to sign Wallace: it'd be a Department of Redundancy Department move. Why? The Magic already have one long, versatile, athletic small forward who lights up the highlight reels: Trevor Ariza. If he's is as good as the Magic believe he is, then Ariza will be posting Wallace-like numbers within three years anyway. What good does it do the Magic to have two players with the same skill-set and who play the same position on their roster? None, really.

That aside, however, the Magic need to consider Gerald Wallace a top priority even ahead of proven players Vince Carter and Chauncey Billups, both of whom are a bit too old to make the Magic a contending team. I can understand, begrudgingly, why the Magic would be hesitant to rate him so highly. It wasn't too long ago when we spent big bucks on a free agent with a history of injuries, and that didn't turn out so well.

Magic fans know the sight of Grant Hill, the team's last big free-agent acquisition, in street clothes all too well: he has appeared in only 40% of the games the Magic have played over the past six seasons.
Photo by Fernando Medina, Getty Images

If the Magic are interested, Wallace will be available. Yesterday, he declined an extension with the Bobcats and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. If the Bobcats get involved in a bidding war for Wallace, they'll likely lose, as they are notoriously stingy. Will the Magic roll the dice on the high-risk/high-reward free agent with the Presidential-sounding name? There's no telling either way right now, but they sure as heck could do worse.

Monday: Part One in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Vince Carter.
Tuesday: Part Two in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Mo Williams.
Yesterday: Part Three in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Chauncey Billups.
Tomorrow: Part Five in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown.

27 June 2007

The Orlando Magic Free-Agency Countdown, Part Three: Chauncey Billups

As the July 1 start of NBA's free-agency period comes closer, 3QC is taking a look at the free agents who may be able to help the Magic the most by counting down from the 5th-best option to the best option. Today's post concerns the player who should be the Magic's third resort: Chauncey Billups.

One could argue that Chauncey Billups is the fifth-most-hated NBA personality to Magic fans, ranking just after Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, John Weisbrod, and Brian Hill. Billups has torched the Magic throughout his career, and especially in the playoffs. For whatever reason, he has it out for us, and he lets it show on the basketball court.

Yet it shouldn't come as a surprise that most Magic fans would welcome Chauncey back to Orlando*. He's a two-time All-Star and an NBA Finals MVP. He's also a big, physical point guard with great passing skills. Oh, and his nickname is "Mr. Big Shot," because he's as clutch as they come. The Magic, a team that looked confused during close games last season due in large part to their lack of a "go-to guy", would certainly welcome Billups' cajones in the clutch.

"Everybody on their feet. Perhaps the final possession of OT. Billups and Duhon... Duhon back out there... Chauncey rises ... GOT IT! 8.2 to go! He does it for the ten-billionth time with the game on the line! Unbelievable! This guy is fearless!"
Efficiency is also a plus with Billups. He posted 3.6 assists per turnover last season, which is above average, especially for a guy who has the ball all the time. And it's been repeated a thousand times by now, but it's still important: the Magic were second-to-last in turnovers per game last season. Contrast that with the Pistons, who were first. Taking Billups and his basketball IQ from Detroit and putting it on our team would certainly ease the disparity between the two teams. His free-throw shooting is also impressive, which makes him even more valuable down the stretch. When the Magic are leading with just a few minutes to play and the other team is forced to foul, Billups would be able to single-handedly close-out games. Hell, he did this number on us at the end of Game 4 in last season's playoffs.

Chauncey Billups celebrates with the NBA Finals MVP trophy after winning the 2003/2004 NBA title with the Detroit Pistons. His experience and passing skills would make him a good fit in Orlando.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

However, there are a few downsides to Billups, at least as far as the Magic are concerned. He doesn't address the Magic's biggest need: perimeter scoring. Sure, he averaged 17 points per game last season for Detroit, but that was a decline from his 18.5 average the season before. One reason he was able to even score that much is because the Pistons started three great back-to-the-basket players in the frontcourt: Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Chris Webber. If any of those players were double-teamed, Billups could get a wide-open look. The only Magic player who commands a double-team is Dwight Howard, and he's turnover-prone; he can't be counted on to swing the ball back out to Billups for the wide-open three. As such, his scoring figures to drop in Orlando.

For one thing, he's no spring chicken: he'll be 31 by the time the season starts, which gives the Magic only a few years to develop their young talent into a title-contending team. Speaking metaphorically, why hire the ace pilot if you haven't finished building his plane yet?

The Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday that the Magic expect Billups to re-sign with Detroit, but they will "gauge his interest" in playing here. I applaud Otis Smith and his staff for taking this step, as it's another indication that the team is committed to winning**. However, the Magic have to ask themselves just when they want to win. Billups would certainly upgrade the team in the short-term, but he is not a long-term solution. The Magic could win 45+ games next season with Billups at the helm, but I wouldn't be surprised if that number dwindled as he aged. I know Magic fans want to win right away, but I prefer delayed gratification; that is, I prefer that we sign a younger guy who may not make us better immediately, but who could slowly make us great over the course of the next several seasons until we become legitimate title contenders.

I'd be more than happy to see Chauncey play for the Magic next season. I just wish he had more years left in him.

Monday: Part One in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Vince Carter.
Yesterday: Part Two in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Mo Williams.
Tomorrow: Part Four in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown.

*I say "back to" instead of just "to" because he was on the Magic's roster for part of the 1999/2000 season. He, along with Ron Mercer and Johnny Taylor, were acquired from Denver in exchange for Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Chris Gatling, and a draft pick. Billups spent his entire Magic career on the injured list and only appeared in-uniform once: for the team photo, which was taken at the end of the season. In August of 2000, the Magic renounced Billups' rights to make salary cap room to sign -- are you ready for this? -- Grant Hill.

If the Billy Donovan Saga proved anything, it's that Otis is not afraid of going after the big names; he wants to win at any cost.

26 June 2007

The Orlando Magic Free-Agency Countdown, Part Two: Mo Williams

As the July 1 start of NBA's free-agency period comes closer, 3QC is taking a look at the free agents who may be able to help the Magic the most by counting down from the 5th-best option to the best option. Today's post concerns the player who should be the Magic's fourth resort: Mo Williams.

"Mo who?!"

That's the reaction most people have whenever Mo Williams' name comes up. Playing for the small-market Milwaukee Bucks can damage one's name recognition. Don't let his relative anonymity fool you, though: Mo Williams is a point guard who is capable of bringing stability to the Magic's backcourt.

The Milwaukee Bucks' Mo Williams looks to pass the ball to teammate Dan Gadzuric against the Indiana Pacers. Though he's far from a household name, Williams possesses the skills necessary to take the Magic to the next level.
Photo by the Associated Press

By no means is Williams a superstar, and that has its advantages. He won't command a maximum salary; in fact, the New York Daily News reports Williams is asking for $9 M a year, which is a bargain. The Magic would not have to clear much cap space, if any, to sign Williams and retain Darko Milicic, another one of the team's priorities. Williams also won't face very high expectations in Orlando if he chooses to come here. The same can't be said about any of the other top free agents, who will be under intense scrutiny to succeed.

But there's a major downside to not signing a household name in free agency: Mo Williams will not put fans in the seats of the Orlando Arena, not by a longshot. Ultimately, the NBA is in the entertainment industry. Like everything else, it all comes down to the bottom line. Would the Magic invest $9 M a year in a free agent who would not make the big splash that another, higher-priced free agent would? I don't know the team's ownership well enough to tell either way, but the fact that it's even a question has to raise concerns.

Questions about marketability aside, Mo Williams is a solid player. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season, which would have been good for second on the Magic last season. Better yet, he distributes the ball well, averaging 6.1 assists per game. There is a concern about his passing, though: he also averaged 2.97 turnovers a game last season, which is high. The Magic were second-to-last in the league in turnovers last season and ball control is certainly one of Stan Van Gundy's higher priorities heading into 2007/2008. Perhaps Williams' high .845 career free-throw percentage balances out his turnovers. The Magic ranked 28th out of 30 teams in free-throw percentage in 2006/2007, and having a point guard who can "earn it at the line" would increase that woeful percentage.

There's one last problem when it comes to signing Mo Williams, and it has to do with confidence. Bringing in a free-agent starting point guard means benching current starter Jameer Nelson for sure. Jameer struggled in his third year as a pro, his second as a starter, and the Magic aren't sure if they're going to give him a big contract extension like the one teammate Dwight Howard will sign in the coming weeks. Jameer is essentially in a contract year now, and the Magic should want him to have enough opportunities to earn that contract. Replacing Jameer in the starting lineup with an All-Star is one thing; replacing him with a talented unknown is quite another. Essentially, the Magic need to avoid burning any bridges with Jameer, and signing Mo Williams may complicate things.

The Magic's Jameer Nelson, shown here near the end of a playoff loss to the Detroit Pistons, may have his confidence shaken if the Magic sign Mo Williams.

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

The whole thing may be moot, though. Yahoo! Sports cites an item in the Journal Times that says the Memphis Grizzlies are interested in Williams and may make a play for him on draft night. The real interesting part, though, is what league sources are saying about the Magic's interest:
The Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Bobcats will also have salary cap room to pursue Williams, but officials from each of those aforementioned teams said it wasn't likely they'd do so.
So Mo Williams may never wear a Magic uniform, and that may be for the best. However, his reasonable salary and solid skills would make him a welcome addition to a team in need of backcourt consistency.

Yesterday: Part One in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown: Vince Carter.
Tomorrow: Part Three in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown.

25 June 2007

The Orlando Magic Free-Agency Countdown, Part One: Vince Carter

As the July 1 start of NBA's free-agency period comes closer, 3QC is taking a look at the free agents who may be able to help the Magic the most by counting down from the 5th-best option to the best option. Today's post concerns the player who should be the Magic's fifth resort: Vince Carter.

What I'm about to write may make me a blasphemer, at least in the Central Florida area, but I have to write it anyway:

Vince Carter is overrated.

Vince Carter wowed the crowd with this between-the-legs flush during 2000's NBA Slam Dunk contest at All-Star weekend. His performance in the competition put him on the map and increased his star-status.

Sure, he can still score with the best of them; last season, he finished seventh in scoring with 25.2 points per game. But his attitude leaves much to be desired, and his age has to be a concern.

Let's not forget the manner in which he left the Toronto Raptors, the team that traded for him as soon as he was drafted and made him a star. He demanded a trade from them after six-plus seasons, frustrated with management for not providing him with enough talent, a drama eerily similar to the one currently playing out with the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant. After getting traded to the Nets, Carter admitted that he did not give his best effort in Toronto:
"In years past, no, [I did not push myself]. I was fortunate to have the talent ... you get spoiled when you're able to do a lot of things. You see that you don't have to work at it."
Once joining the Nets in a trade in December 2004, Carter's scoring, shooting, rebounding, and assists totals increased. Although it's true he played more minutes, the nature of the comments he made makes one question whether he just "flipped a switch" and decided to play hard. That has to trouble Carter's potential suitors because it demonstrates that Carter is capable of holding himself back considerably and to the detriment of the team.

His ability to play well in clutch situations should also be in question, especially after last season's mental lapses in the Nets' playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a Game 4 loss, which put the Nets down three games to one, Carter scored 25 points, but made just six of his 23 shots. Worse still, he dribbled the ball out of bounds off his foot with his team down two points with under two seconds to play. A skilled veteran such as Carter should have at least been able to get a shot off in that situation, but he instead choked under pressure and failed to deliver his team the victory.

Vince Carter reacts to being called for a foul during the Nets' season-ending playoff loss to the Cavaliers. Carter's attitude and age should be concerns for the Magic.
Photo by Noah K. Murray, The Star-Ledger

The playoff woes don't end there. In Game 6, with his team down three games to two and needing a win to stay alive, Carter put on Harry Potter's invisibility cloak; he simply did not show up. In 41 minutes, he scored 11 points on just 11 shot attempts, made only three of five free throws, and turned the ball over five times. That lackadaisical performance is indicative of a lack of killer instinct and leadership skills, two psychological components the Magic are in desperate need of.

I'd be more inclined to look past those failures if Carter were younger. However, he turned 30 in January, and is just slightly past his prime. Ideally, Dwight Howard and whomever the Magic sign this summer would enter their physical peak at the same time, thus giving the Magic enough time to fill out their roster with quality role players in hopes of contending for a title. Thus, Carter's age makes him less than ideal as a free-agent, at least as far as the Magic are concerned.

That said, he would seem to fit in with Orlando. It's no secret that the Magic need scoring, and could use another All-Star to pair with Howard to win games and to bring fans into the Amway Arena. Carter also hails from nearby Daytona Beach, making him that much more marketable in The City Beautiful.

Maybe I'm being too harsh in my assessment of Carter. He has been an All-Star in each of the past eight seasons and is one of the league's premier scorers. But he distinguished himself not with stellar play during games, but with jaw-dropping dunks during one of the league's more memorable All-Star Weekends. And that's not something I can get over.

Luckily for all parties involved, it appears as though Carter and the Nets are close to reaching an agreement on a contract extension, according to the Star-Ledger. It's just as well. The Nets are closer to contending than the Magic are, so his age isn't as much a concern in the Garden State.

Would I be sad to see Vince Carter in a Magic uniform? No, because he's still talented. However, I would be disappointed knowing that the Magic could have done better.

Tomorrow: Part Two in 3QC's Free Agency Countdown.

24 June 2007

2008 Free Agency and its Impact on the Magic: Will Trevor Ariza Stay?

I wondered why some articles discussing this year's free agent class -- which includes All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Vince Carter as well as up-and-coming talents Mo Williams and Gerald Wallace -- described it as "weak."

Well, now I know.

This nifty rundown for Insider subscribers (which was available for free yesterday) by ESPN's John Hollinger shows that as many as 10 superstars could be on the free-agent market next summer if they a) don't sign extensions or b) exercise their Early Termination Option (ETO). The top five players listed: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, and Shawn Marion, all of whom are All-Stars.

The Clippers' Elton Brand is just one of many All-Stars who might be free agents next summer, John Hollinger writes.

Photo by Mark Avery, Associated Press

Hollinger concedes that the possibility of all those players actually being available is slim; it's a lock, for instance, that Duncan will not exercise his ETO. Why? Well, there's no reason for him to want to leave the Spurs; they're perennial championship contenders and they play in a city he loves. Some of that certainty takes away from the fun of the article, but it's still well worth reading, especially considering the implications for the Magic.

John Hollinger thinks Trevor Ariza will attract a lot of attention on the free-agent market next summer. With moves like this dunk over Jermaine O'Neal, it's not hard to imagine why.
Photo by Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel

After discussing the superstars with ETOs, Hollinger moves on to discuss lesser-known players with that ability who might attract some attention. He lists Keith Bogans, then writes that the most notable player from that group is our very own Trevor Ariza, whose salary Hollinger describes as "way below market."

It's true that Ariza is underpaid; last season, he earned just $3.1 M, only the ninth-best salary on the team. If he gets the starting small forward position this season and performs well, he'll have made an even stronger case that he's worth more money than he's getting. Thus, I'd expect him to opt-out, but only so he can renegotiate his contract and raise his salary. Barring an unexpected development, the Pistons' Chauncey Billups will do the same thing this summer, and the Wizards' Gilbert Arenas has already said he will do the same thing next summer.

As a Magic fan, the possibility of Trevor opting out scares me. While it seems unlikely that he'd want to go anywhere else, the Magic are notorious for lowballing their own free agents, with the most famous example being Shaquille O'Neal. However, Otis Smith seems committed to Trevor. After re-signing him last summer, Smith had the following to say:
“We are very pleased to bring Trevor back, as he is a key part of our young core. His athleticism and explosiveness will be a great asset to our team on both ends of the floor.”
Amen, Otis. Don't let this future star soar away.

21 June 2007

Garrity Exercises Player Option and Dwight Gets Richer

The Magic's website reported yesterday that Pat Garrity has exercised his player option and will play for the Magic next season. It will be his ninth year in the franchise.

Pat Garrity attempts a shot over Emeka Okafor of the Charlotte Bobcats. Magic fans don't need game footage to be able to accurately guess the result of this play.

Photo by Chuck Burton, the Associated Press

This news shouldn't surprise anyone. Garrity is no longer an NBA-level talent, and he knows it. He won't ever again get the opportunity to earn such a ridiculous salary, so exercising his option adds another $3 M to his bank account and gives him another year to mull post-basketball career choices. Considering his tenure with the team, and his overall likability, I imagine he'll at least be offered a community relations position like the one Nick Anderson has now.

I hate to report old news, but the Sentinel didn't have anything about it in its write-up about Keyon Dooling yesterday. Earlier today, Sentinel writer Tim Povtak incorrectly reported Dwight Howard's draft year, engendering a wave of mean-spirited comments in the article's feedback section. In case you're wondering, the article reports that Dwight Howard fits big into the Magic's future plans (SHOCKING!) and will eventually command 25% of the team's total salary. If that doesn't boggle the mind enough, consider this: the average salary on his five-year, $85 M extension is $16.94 M, which Povtak reports is the highest in franchise history. Keep in mind that all-stars Shaquille O'Neal, Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill have all played here and Dwight's big payday seems that much bigger. Wow.

What a slow news week its been. I'm sure everything'll heat up next week, as free agency begins just a week from Sunday. Rumors will be flying and I'll be here to humbly offer my take on them. Stay tuned.

20 June 2007

Keyon Dooling Picks Up Option, Will Play for Magic

Keyon Dooling may not be built like a tank, but he sure plays like one.
Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

The headline to this Sentinel article, published today, informs readers that former Magic coach Brian Hill will likely take a coaching position with the New Jersey Nets, rejecting the Magic's offer of a front-office position. Hill apparently has no interest in remaining with the team that's fired him twice over the course of his career. Big whoop.

Buried at the bottom of that item is this lovely news:
Earlier this week, Magic guard Keyon Dooling picked up the option on his original three-year contract, bypassing the chance to become a free agent next month. Dooling will be making an estimated $3.5 million.
"I learned more from one year with Stan [Van Gundy] than I did in my first four years in the league,"' said Dooling, who started his career with the Los Angeles Clippers. "He'll be a great asset to the team. [His hiring] only made me more excited about coming back."
I'm not bashful in proclaiming my love for Keyon. He was one of the six players in my 'Top of the Class' category for last season's evaluations; his intensity and defense make him one of the most valuable players on this team, and his familiarity with Stan Van Gundy only makes him more valuable. Add to that his relatively low salary and you have a great NBA role-player.

When I make the following point, other Magic fans begin to question my sanity:

Keyon Dooling should start for this team.

He'll never be a great shooter, and I know that. I also know that there are few other teams in the league for which he would start. However, the same could be said for the other point guards on our roster: Jameer Nelson, Carlos Arroyo, and Travis Diener. Nelson, the current starter, brings youth, energy, and scoring. However, he's woefully inconsistent and a sieve on defense. By starting Keyon, Van Gundy would give the Magic a chance to set up the offense and get into a rhythm at the start of the game. I don't see the harm in that.

The youth and energy that some fans cite as evidence that Nelson should start is actually evidence to the contrary: why not bring Jameer into the game at about the six-minute mark of the first quarter? The other team's starters will likely be a bit winded, and he can use his speed to blow right by them on his way to the basket for an easy layup.

There are few players in the league who can keep pace with Jameer Nelson.
Photo by Roberto Gonzalez, Orlando Sentinel

I understand that this argument is a slippery slope; after all, Jameer just finished his third season, during which he saw a decline in field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, points per game, and assists per game. I'm willing to attribute some of that decline to bad coaching, but after such a season, Jameer's viability as a starter must be called into question. The Magic can depend on Keyon to provide nine points and six assists if he's given the chance to start. Jameer would certainly score more frequently, but his assist totals would be lower than Keyon's. Steve Nash, the two-time MVP and the best point guard in the NBA, summarized the job description for point guards in this way:
My goal is to increase the odds of success for each player on the floor, but without negating the odds of success for everyone else in the process.
In other words, point guards should look to pass before he should look to shoot. If Nelson is to start, he's going to have to get his priorities straight.

For a lively debate about Jameer Nelson and his value, read this thread on the MagicMadnees forums. And thanks to Black and Blue for pointing me in the direction of the Sentinel article to which I linked above.

18 June 2007

Tim Povtak: Magic Should Wait for Arenas in 2008

Gilbert Arenas takes a bow at center court after scoring 60 points in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Photo by the Associated Press

Tim Povtak, the Orlando Sentinel's NBA reporter, wrote in yesterday's paper that the Magic should not spend any of their salary-cap this summer so they will have enough room to attract All-Star point guard Gilbert Arenas when he becomes a free agent in 2008:
The Magic plan to pursue 27-year-old forward Rashard Lewis of Seattle, but so will 20 other teams looking to improve in a very shallow free-agent class, all willing to take drastic steps to make it happen. Lewis would help the Magic significantly next season.

Yet Gilbert Arenas could help them even more -- if they can be patient.

Arenas, 25, is the do-everything guard from Washington who will be a free agent in 2008, an all-star the past three seasons and already one of the game's finest players.

Lewis is good, but he is not close to Arenas-good.


By the summer of 2008, Arenas will be tired of playing on a team without a decent center, and beating his head against the wall with little hope of going deep in the playoffs with the Wizards.
It seems like a crazy idea; why pass on a sure shot at signing Lewis, Gerald Wallace, or Vince Carter and take a chance that we can outbid Arenas' other suitors next summer?

It gets even tricker: Arenas wrote on his NBA.com blog that he's sure he's staying in Washington; his opting out has everything to do with money and nothing to do with wanting to leave the team:
When I signed my original deal, I believed that I would become a max player so I had a player’s option. So, I make 11 and 12 million the next two years and then the extension would put me at 12.5, 13, 14 in the three years of the extension. The part that I got frustrated about the extension was that I have to play next year at that figure no matter what and then if I extend, all I’m getting is four years guaranteed. But, if I opt out after next year, I’ll have six years guaranteed because I’ll sign a whole new six year contract.

So at the end of the day, it will be a six-year deal instead of a four-year deal and instead of starting at 12.5 or 13 million, I’ll be starting at 14 or 15 million and I’ll be a max player.

This has nothing to do with me leaving or trying to look for other teams. I have to do it:

1. To get more years and
2. To increase my pay.

The risk doesn't end there. Arenas is notoriously eccentric, as documented here in a New York Times article by Chuck Klosterman. One of his quirks in particular stands out as relevant to this situation. From Gilbertology.net:
Fans began noticing his quirky antics when Gilbert said he decided between the Wizards and Clippers by flipping a coin 10 times. When the Clippers’ side came up eight times, Arenas says he knew what he had to do: go “against the odds”, although he later said he made up the story for “fun and entertainment.”

Assume that Povtak's right and Arenas indeed gets sick of not having any help down low. Would Arenas go "against the odds" -- turning down the chance of playing alongside two dominant big men and making Orlando a contender -- and stick with the Wizards? Would he throw logic out the window again and base his decision on another coin flip? There's no way to tell at this point, and that's worrisome.

Illustration by Lee Bermejo for Batman-On-Film

We Magic fans know what it's like to gamble in free-agency. We watched as the Magic signed an injured Grant Hill to a max deal seven years ago, and he's played in only 40% of the Magic's games over that span. Perhaps more infamously, we watched as the Magic lowballed Shaquille O'Neal in their bid to re-sign him eleven years ago, and he decided to bolt for the L.A. Lakers.

I've weighed the pros and cons of waiting to sign Arenas several times and I still can't come up with a conclusive answer. If we don't wait, we'll almost certainly have Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, or Gerald Wallace in a Magic uniform next season, which will give us some much-needed perimeter scoring and firepower. If we wait, we'll trot out the same team we had last season, which went 40-42 and finished 8th in a mediocre conference, and likely won't improve that standing unless Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick have breakout seasons. Can we take another year of mediocrity in hopes of landing one of the NBA's premier scorers?

I don't claim to speak for all Magic fans, which is why I'm leaving this question up to the 3QC readership.

Should the Magic save their free-agency money this summer so they can sign Gilbert Arenas next summer?
pollcode.com free polls

The future is in your hands.

16 June 2007

Stan's Whiteboard Provides Entire Minutes of Speculation

Ugh! The past week has been interminable, what with the worst NBA Finals in the history of history and all. Perhaps that is why I am so amused by this story on the Orlando Sentinel's website, which briefly discusses Stan Van Gundy's search for assistant coaches. The best bit of information is that Van Gundy is putting a lot of thought into finding an assistant to work specifically with Dwight Howard:

"I do think with big guys, they are a little predisposed to listen to guys who played that position," Van Gundy said. "I can teach low-post stuff, but he'd be looking at me like 'what?'"
Maybe he should ask Shaquille what his plans are.

I was more entertained by the following photo of Stan's whiteboard, which he uses to keep track of meetings with Magic players.

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

The players appear to be ordered by position, then by depth. The first four are point guards, the next three are shooting guards, and the next two are small forwards. After that, the reasoning as to the order is anyone's guess. Maybe Stan thinks of every player listed after Trevor Ariza as a power forward?

Whatever. It's a great picture because so much can be gleaned from so little:

  • Darko Milicic, Hedo Turkoglu, and Travis Diener have absolutely nothing next to their names, which seems to indicate they haven't been in touch at all. I guess it's hard to contact people in the far-off lands of Serbia, Turkey, and Wisconsin.
  • Keyon Dooling is lumped in with the point guards, which is great news to me because he's more effective at the point and should be given a chance to start.
  • The best part about the whole whiteboard is the question mark next to Keith Bogans' name. Why is it there? Perhaps Stan is wondering, along with the rest of Magic Nation, what the hell Keith Bogans is doing on the roster.
So, when's that draft again? Oh, and we don't have any first-round picks?


Well, if you find yourself bored during the wait for Magic news, I humbly suggest the following diversions:

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

I sincerely hope we're able to make it through the next week alive. Until then...

Warner Independent Pictures

13 June 2007

Minor-League Baseball Team to Host 'Billy Donovan Night'

For once in my life, I'll actually be rooting against the Yankees.

The Fort Myers Miracle, a minor-league baseball team, announced on its website that it will host Billy Donovan Night on Wednesday, June 20th for its game against the Tampa Yankees. Here's an excerpt from the announcement on the website:

Fans that purchase a ticket, at the box office, for the 7:05 p.m. game against the Tampa Yankees, will see if they experience a seesaw of emotions like Billy Donovan encountered. If anytime during the game, they are not so sure they want to be at Hammond Stadium they can leave and negotiate a release from their ticket purchase.

Patrons that experience a "Billy Donovan" moment will have the option to sit down with a local attorney and strike a deal for an out-clause from their ticket purchase. Part of the negotiating process will involve making a free throw into our on-site basketball hoop.

Fans that make the easy decision to stay will be entered into a drawing for four tickets to a Florida basketball game in Gainesville this upcoming season. We guarantee Billy Donovan will be there!

Fort Myers own Billy Donovan [not THE Billy Donovan; BQR] will throw out the first pitch and waffles will be available at the concession stand.
You can buy tickets by clicking here.

I wish I could be at that game, but I have to work that afternoon and couldn't possibly make it down to Fort Myers in time. Are there any 3QC readers out there who are interested in attending? If so, let me know. I'd love to post your pictures and/or your account of the event!

11 June 2007

The Case For Keeping Grant Hill

With apologies to Shawn Kemp, no superstar of the early 1990s has seen his career tail off as quickly as Grant Hill did. Whereas Kemp was done in by his hedonism, Hill was done in by his passion for basketball. He played through excruciating pain in his last season in Detroit, limping around the court in the playoffs as a mere shadow of himself. He didn't know his ankle was broken, and consequently he didn't know that he'd never again dominate a game with Oscar Robertson-like averages of 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists as he did in the 1996/1997 season. It's easy to forget how great Hill was, and it's even easier to dismiss him as a has-been. The Magic have played 511 combined regular-season and postseason games since Hill signed with the team. Of those, he has played in 204, or a mere 39.9%.

Grant Hill, in obvious pain, leaves the second game of the Detroit Pistons' first-round playoff series with the Miami Heat in 2000. His career would never be the same.

Photo by Angela Peterson, Orlando Sentinel

In spite of all that, I'm here today to campaign openly for the Magic to re-sign Grant Hill. It won't be an easy task: unless Hill is willing to sign for the veteran's minimum of $1.5 M, the Magic would likely have to trade someone like Keith Bogans or Carlos Arroyo to free up cap room because most -- if not all -- of it will go toward re-signing Darko Milicic and signing a perimeter scorer. The fact that other teams are interested in Hill further complicates the matter. And last Thursday, USA Today reported that Grant Hill will listen to what those other suitors will say:

With his ankle now stabilized, the 12-year veteran says he hasn't closed the door on a return to the Magic but is listening to all offers. Could a return to Detroit be in his future? "I'm keeping myself open," Hill says.

"I'm going to see what Orlando's doing but if people come knocking, I'm going to listen. I'm still trying to figure it all out."

Contrary to what detractors would have you believe, Grant Hill is still talented and well worth a roster spot. I don't buy the argument that Hill is a cancer to this team, or that he swindled us out of $93 M and set us back seven years. It is not as though Grant sat on his duff, content to receive his paycheck every two weeks. He worked hard to rehabilitate his oft-maligned left ankle, even after six surgeries. He showed a commitment to this team by not quitting when it would have been easy for him to do so.

Showing incredible dedication, Grant Hill went through the difficult process of getting himself ready to play after suffering numerous ankle injuries.
Photo by Gary Bogdon, Orlando Sentinel

No, he won't ever again post the Robertson-like averages to which I alluded earlier, but he doesn't have to do that to be effective. Last season, he was second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game. On top of that, he shot an efficient 52.8%, good for 20th-best in the entire league. That's a remarkable percentage, especially considering that only two other guards shot better than that last season: two-time MVP Steve Nash and two-time NBA championship winner Tony Parker, both of whom are All-Stars.

Even at 34, Grant Hill can still get to the rim.
Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

His defense hasn't fallen off, either. He held opposing shooting guards to a Player Efficiency Rating of 14.5, which is below the league average of 15. No, he isn't a world-class defender like Shawn Marion, but he's not a sieve like Gilbert Arenas either.

But Grant's value to this team can't be measured in numbers alone. He's a leader, both in the locker room and in the community. On a team loaded with young players -- Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic, and J.J. Redick are all under 25 years old -- the importance of a guiding presence in the locker room cannot be overstated. Tony Battie, Pat Garrity, and Bo Outlaw are all veterans, but none of them are veteran All-Stars; they don't command as much respect as Grant does.

Grant Hill doesn't have to be on the court to be an asset to his team.
Photo by Rusty Kennedy, Associated Press

Imagine this scenario: The Magic start Jameer, JJ, a free-agent small forward, Darko, and Dwight. Grant Hill comes off the bench and averages 12 points on 55% shooting in 20 minutes a game. He'd share sixth-man duties with Trevor Ariza and the Magic would at least get into the second round of the playoffs. It's not that hard to fathom; Stan Van Gundy took the Heat, who won only 42 games in the regular season, into the second round in 2003/2004.

The Magic should bring Hill back for his intangibles alone. The fact that he's still a top-100 talent in this league only makes the decision that much easier. Would I call it a slam dunk?

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

Yes, I would.

CNBC: Magic Offer Refunds to Ticket Buyers after Donovan Fiasco

Earlier today, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop linked to this article by CNBC's Darren Rovell, who writes that the Magic have decided to offer refunds to people who bought season tickets after Billy Donovan was hired as coach, then asked to be let out of his contract after he decided he'd rather stay at the University of Florida. An excerpt from Rovell:

Kudos to the Orlando Magic who told me today that they are willing to refund the money paid by any of the 200 season ticket holders, who bought seats after Billy Donovan was hired as head coach. Orlando Magic spokesman Joel Glass said that the team was in the process of contacting each of the new season ticket holders one by one. "So far we've had some people who said they are going to stick with us and others have said they will wait until free agency," said Glass, who noted that he didn't know of anyone who elected to cancel.
I have to echo Rovell's praise here. This move is a classy one by the Magic, especially considering that they are under no obligation to offer any refund at all. Hopefully this news will serve as positive PR for us.

09 June 2007

ESPN's Marc Stein: Duncan Almost Signed With Magic

Photo by Tony Dejak, Associate Press

As if the events of the past two weeks haven't been tumultuous enough, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports in today's Daily Dime (scroll down to the 9th box) that Tim Duncan's decision to choose San Antonio over Orlando during the 2000 free agency period was, in Duncan's words, "probably a lot closer decision than people even think or even know."

More from Stein:
Orlando's nine-figure contract offer to Shaquille O'Neal wasn't enough to convince Shaq to stay in 1996 ... and Duncan was apparently more serious about joining Grant Hill four summers later than the basketball world ever realized ... and Billy Donovan just set a land-speed record for backing out of the lucrative coaching agreement that had folks in Central Florida believing that their string of free-agent miseries -- Shaq, Duncan, Hill and Tracy McGrady are the most prominent four -- had finally been broken.
The full article is available for ESPN Insiders here. If anyone with an Insider account wants to share a summary of the piece, please do.

Okay, I still don't agree with Jemele Hill when she writes that we're "perhaps the most disrespected franchise in sports", but I'd have to now concede that Orlando's had worse luck than anyone knew previously. As loathsome as Duncan's lack of style is, it would have been nice to have him in Orlando. This conference doesn't have a truly dominant center, and hasn't had one in years. Even with an injured Grant Hill, the Magic still would have been in contention with Duncan in the lineup.

If you'll excuse me, I have to stab myself in the hand for the next 20 minutes. It'd make me feel better.

07 June 2007

The Man: Magic Hire Stan Van Gundy

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

This news isn't really news anymore -- it broke late last night -- but it would be irresponsible of me to not acknowledge the hiring of the Magic's new head coach, Stan Van Gundy. AWESOME. Too bad they didn't hire my favorite Stan.

The Orlando Sentinel has a pretty great article here about all the hoops the Magic had to jump through to get Billy Donovan out; to get Stan Van Gundy in; and to appease the Miami Heat, who wanted compensation for letting Van Gundy, a Heat consultant, out of his contract. Otis Smith and the rest of the Magic brass can catch up on some much-needed rest now.

I think Stan is a great choice as coach. He isn't as "big-time" as Billy Donovan, but he's a proven pro coach. Here's what I wrote about Stan on May 28th:
My take: Stan Van Gundy is another solid candidate. He compiled a record of 112-73 (.605) in two-plus seasons in Miami before Pat Riley forced him out. Like Iavaroni, Van Gundy is offensively minded, as the Heat improved their scoring average from 90.3 points per game to 101.5 points per game from his first year to his second. That increase in team scoring coincided with Dwyane Wade's individual scoring, which jumped from 16.2 to 24.1 in the same period. It seems to me that Van Gundy would be a good fit for the Magic, as he might be able to hone the offensive skills of Jameer Nelson and Trevor Ariza.
I stand by all those words.

More words from a while ago: Bethlehem Shoals' short piece from May 25th entitled "Why Orlando needs Stan Van Gundy." When I originally linked to that article, Shoals commented here and explained that hiring Van Gundy would establish "[Pat] Riley/SVG narrative tension." He makes an excellent point: Riley stripped Van Gundy of his head-coaching duties when it was clear the Heat were a good team, reinstalled himself as coach, then coached them to a championship. Okay, sure, he kept Van Gundy around as a consultant, but the way Van Gundy was kicked out was seriously bush-league. Having these two coach against each other alone is fantastic; the fact that their respective teams have a preexisting rivalry makes it that much sweeter.

04 June 2007

Reverse the Curse: Forgive Shaq and Bring Him Back

As the regular season drew to a close, I didn't think I'd have to write too many more rah-rah pieces for this blog. I'm proud of my last one, but I'm disappointed because it didn't seem to get anyone's attention, or if it did, it didn't alter any perceptions about this team. I guess that's to be expected, given the tiny amount of visitors this site had back then.

With Billy Donovan bailing out on the Magic after just three days, many people have expressed that they no longer care about the team, some even going as far to suggest the Magic relocate to Kansas City. Florida Gator fans are having a field day with this news, days after some of their number called us the "Whorelando Tragic" for "stealing" Billy away from them. Evidently, we're still a Mickey Mouse Town, at least in their eyes.

But I am not interested in the thoughts of small-minded people. We, as Magic fans, have two options at this crucial juncture in the franchise's history: we can bemoan our past failures, or we can look for ways to secure a brighter future for this team.

There's one easy choice the Magic can make that I believe will reverse the curse and restore this franchise to glory:

Bring back Shaq.

The Magic have been, at best, mediocre since the Diesel left us in 1996 -- a regular-season record of 442-448 (.485) and a postseason record of 8-20 (.286) including no series wins. During that same time period, he's has won four NBA titles and won three NBA Finals MVP awards. Considering the respective fates of the Magic and Shaq since 1996, it's no wonder that some believe in the Curse of the Shaqino.

Photo by Pier Nicola D'Amico

Is bringing him back really that crazy of an idea? Not to Shaq; take a look at this excerpt from an interview with Lang Whitaker appearing in the July 2007 issue of SLAM Magazine, pictured above:
SLAM: I've heard you talk more and more over the last year or so about wanting to buy an NBA team when you retire. Is that something you're serious about?
SHAQ: Yeah, I would like to either work for this organization [Miami] or work for Orlando.
SLAM: In what capacity?
SHAQ: General manager? President? I don't want no BS job. "Director of SLAM Magazine!" [Laughs]
SLAM: Director of alumni relations?
SHAQ: [Laughing] Exactly! If I'm gonna do this, it'll probably be a real job.
That much is settled: Shaq hasn't ruled out returning to the Magic. Perhaps the best way for him to do that is to join the team in a consultant role once he retires from playing. And is there anyone on Earth more qualified than Shaq to teach Dwight Howard what it takes to dominate the post? Further, could there be a more compelling story in basketball than the once-scorned superstar returning to the city he abandoned to save it from certain death? Talk about redemption.

Former franchise cornerstones returning to mentor future stars isn't unprecedented. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, perhaps the best center in the history of the game, currently works with the Los Angeles Lakers' eighteen-year-old center Andrew Bynum, a potential superstar.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein

Shaq's contract with the Heat runs through the 2009/2010 season at a whopping $20 M per year. Assume for a moment that Shaq plays out his contract with the Heat, retires from playing, and joins the Magic to tutor Howard beginning in the 2010/2011 season. Our All-Star center will be 24, in his physical prime, and under the guidance of the most physically dominant player of all-time. I can't think of a better way for this story to play out.

He left us a long time ago, Magic fans. His statement that he was "a big fish in a small pond" in Orlando was hyperbolic. He wants to return here once his playing days are over. For the sake of the franchise, we must forgive him for his past transgressions and embrace Shaquille.

He brought us hope once.

Photo by Don Ryan
He can bring it again.

UPDATE: Just as I posted this piece, I was shown this one by Jemele Hill, the former Orlando Sentinel columnist who has now found a home on ESPN's Page 2. It's a short and enlightening read.

ESPN: It's In the Lawyers' Hands Now

Here today, gone tomorrow.

The ESPN article by Andy Katz is getting updated almost hourly with new information. Apparently, lawyers for the Magic and for Billy Donovan are in discussions regarding a possible financial penalty for Donovan voiding his contract. The following paragraph is the article's last, and essentially says it all:
The prevailing mood among sources close to this situation is that Donovan will remain the head coach at Florida, the recruits and staff will stay intact, and the Magic will then hope to land Stan Van Gundy, possibly by Monday or Tuesday.
The information about Stan Van Gundy isn't shocking if you've been keeping up with the Sentinel's coverage, which states that Van Gundy was the only other coach the Magic interviewed before the Donovan hire.

Regarding the financial aspects: I think the Magic deserve compensation for this disaster. They need enough money to cover the season-ticket refunds that will likely be demanded, especially considering that at least 200 were sold after Donovan's hiring was made official. They also need money to get some creative public relations firm to spin this disaster into something marginally positive. However, I'm not a lawyer, so I don't think there's a lot more I can say on that.

Regarding Van Gundy: I think he would be a good hire. He's good at developing young talent and had success while coaching the Miami Heat. I just hope we're able to make him an offer in time; the Sacramento Kings were also very interested in his services, and if he were to accept that job, the life would officially have been sucked out of this organization. There wouldn't be any attractive candidates left: Larry Brown is too old; P.J. Carlesimo is not creative enough offensively; and Rick Carlisle, although he's had success in Detroit and Indiana, prefers to play at a Brian Hill-like pace.

I still can't bring myself to be angry. The guys at Four Free Throws do not share my misery, or if they do, they show it in a far different fashion. Rated R for pervasive strong language.

I had planned to do this for a long time, so excuse me if it's not entirely appropriate. Anyway, this post is my 52nd on this site, so I want to commemorate the occasion by posting the following picture of everyone's favorite former Magic player to wear #52, Don Reid:

Don Reid was never afraid to do battle with anyone, not even Hall of Fame center David Robinson of San Antonio
Photo by Eric Gay, Associated Press

Reid averaged 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in two seasons with the Magic. His hustle, girth, and scowl are sorely missed and fondly remembered. His NBA career ended in 2002/2003, when he appeared in a single game for Detroit.

Orlando Sentinel: Donovan Will Be Let Out

Updating an earlier ESPN.com report, the Orlando Sentinel posted early this morning that the Magic will let Billy Donovan out of his contract so he can return to the University of Florida:

"It's over," said a source close to the situation.
Unless Donovan wakes up today and changes his mind, the Magic will let him go, the source said.
There's still no word as to what financial obligations, if any, Donovan will owe the Magic as part of voiding his contract.

I'll be extremely brief here: Billy Donovan just gave the City of Orlando a swift kick to the balls. It's one thing to express a desire to coach somewhere, only to have second thoughts later; it's quite another to sign a contract with a team and enthusiastically discuss its future, only to jilt it just days later.

My sadness outweighs my anger.

03 June 2007

ESPN: Donovan Waffles, Wants Out of Magic Deal

Please tell me this isn't happening.

ESPN.com's Andy Katz reports
that Billy Donovan has informed both the Magic and the University of Florida that he has changed his mind about coaching the Magic and would like to return to UF. It's ultimately up to the Magic to decide whether or not to let Donovan out of his five year, $27.5 M contract.

The information is still hazy at this point, but if it's true, I'm disappointed and disgusted. If the Magic let Donovan leave, it'll be even worse than when Shaquille left us back in 1996. Why? Shaq at least was with the organization for a few seasons and helped it enjoy some success; Donovan has been on the job for only a few days and has raised the hopes and expectations of an entire city. A few days ago, it looked like his hiring was the highest point in Magic history. Now, his potential departure stands to be its low point.

Orlando Sentinel: Donovan's Arrival Good News to Darko

Is re-signing Darko now a slam dunk?

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Magic free agent Darko Milicic is pleased with the arrival of Billy Donovan as the team's new head coach.
"I look at the hiring of Billy Donovan as a pro-Darko move," Marc Cornstein, Milicic's agent, told the Sentinel on Saturday.


Milicic, 21, was somewhat disappointed with the way [former coach Brian] Hill used him. He said after the season that he would have to explore going to a team that would allow him to facilitate the offense with his passing and shoot more from the outside.
The article goes on to mention that Cornstein has spoken with Milicic, who was enthusiastic about the news. It also states that several teams have already inquired as to Milicic's trade availability. It's amazing what four solid postseason games can do for one's stock.

Perhaps even more interesting is the Magic's need for what Otis Smith called "creative financing," which would let us retain Darko and still have enough money to sign a perimeter scorer. Any move to free up cap space would certainly have to involve either Hedo Turkoglu or Tony Battie, who earned $5.8 M and $5.7 M last season, respectively, according to USA Today. The chances of both those guys playing for us next season is growing slim.

Getting Billy Donovan to join us was only the first move in what's sure to be a busy, franchise-defining summer. I can't wait for what's next.

02 June 2007

And So It Begins: Donovan's Introduction

Photo by Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel

Billy Donovan was introduced as the Magic's head coach at a news conference yesterday morning. I wanted to keep a real-time diary, but I knew Black and Blue was going to do his, and I didn't want to be redundant. Instead, I'll offer commentary on key quotes.

Of all the statements Donovan made, this one was the most important:
And to me, it is not about me, it is about all of us together as a team, one, trying to accomplish a goal. It was the same thing at Florida -- we were trying to accomplish a national championship, and it wasn't me, it was the administration, it was the assistant coaches, it was all the work the players put in, it was everybody was moving in the same direction.
That phrase proves, at least to me, that Billy Donovan gets It. He knows that his arrival is one of the biggest events in Magic history, but he also doesn't think of himself as a singular savior. He checked his ego at the door, in other words, and that's fantastic.

Slightly worrisome: he said that he's not really going to change his style of play.
Certainly it's going to be an adjustment, but I have got to coach to my personality and how I feel comfortable.
Fair enough, but I hope he isn't stubborn about sticking to his style if it becomes apparent that it isn't working. Say the Magic open the season 5-14 and are quickly in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. At that point, the Magic would have to do more than merely adjust. And what happens if Billy doesn't have a Plan B?

Uh oh.

On a more positive note, Donovan, like everyone else in the basketball universe, knows what the Magic need the most:
In looking at the team, certainly I think one of the needs I talked with Bob [Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide] and Otis [Magic GM Otis Smith] about is the need for a wing scorer, a perimeter scorer. I think that certainly is something that's a very, very high priority.
This is where the free agency rumors are really going to begin swirling. Of the five prized free agents this summer -- Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Gerald Wallace, and Mo Williams -- Carter, Lewis, and Wallace fit the profile. Each has his own pros and cons, but certainly those three players are now officially on the Magic's radar.

Finally, it's worth noting that Donovan dropped a few players' names when talking about the future, which seems to indicate that their jobs are safe. Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza were two of those players, which I thought was obvious. He also mentioned Darko Milicic, which makes it appear as though he'll be retained this offseason. Oddly, he mentioned Jameer Nelson. While Jameer shouldn't be written off after one bad season, he also shouldn't be considered "untouchable." He's just not in the same class as Dwight, Darko, or Trevor, and should be made available for the right price.

In all, it's been a tremendously busy week for a franchise looking to become respectable once again. Donovan's enthusiasm and familiarity with players on the team should excite even the most cynical of Magic fans. For the first time in a long time, there is a buzz surrounding this organization and this city. The future is bright.