30 July 2007

Denton: Magic Interested in P.J. Brown, Chris Webber

Friday afternoon, John Denton of Florida Today reported on the newspaper's forum that the Magic have contacted the agents of P.J. Brown and Chris Webber to gauge their interest in joining the team for the veteran's minimum salary of $1.2 million. Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel later reported the same story in Saturday's edition.

I covered both of these players in my big-men free-agent post a few weeks ago, and my opinions of them haven't changed: that is, Brown would be a decent addition if he could play for two seasons and Webber should be avoided because of his attitude. GM Otis Smith told Povtak that he was only looking for a guy who could play for 12-15 minutes a night, and both those players seem to fit the bill. It's hard to muster enthusiasm for spending $1.2 million on an over-the-hill role player, but it was good enough for Phoenix.

Photo by Leigh Shelle Robertus, the East Valley Tribune

Was that too harsh?

I see nothing to get excited about regarding P.J. Brown. In his prime, he could be relied upon for a double-double each night. Now? He's another Tony Battie. We already have two Hedo Turkoglus; we don't need two Tony Batties. What, are we building a team of duplicates here? Jeez.

It gets more interesting with Webber, and that's only because I'm a uniform freak. The Magic have never had a player who wore a uniform number higher than 55. Chris Webber wore no. 84 last year with Detroit; his customary no. 4 is retired to honor Joe Dumars. Here, Tony Battie has staked his claim for that number. With that in mind, might this jersey be for sale at the Amway Arena next year? And if so, would you buy it?

Photo manipulation with images from the NBA.com store

The bottom line is as follows: The Magic have a long-term need at power forward that nobody left on the market can fill.

26 July 2007

Success! Venues Plan Passes by a 5-2 vote

Remember the jubilation you felt when the Magic came from behind to beat the Spurs back in February? Well, this is a billion times better.
Photo by Phelan M. Ebanhack, the Associated Press

We did it!

Scott Maxwell just reported that the downtown venues plan passed by a 5-2 vote.

I'm going to bed. But I haven't been this excited in a long time.

Venues Hearing Continues; Vote Not Expected Until 11:00 PM

The Orange County Commission's public hearing on Orlando's potential new venues, one of which is an arena for the Orlando Magic, is still going on; it started at 2:00 this afternoon. Jeez.

Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel has been there all day and has been updating his Taking Names blog via Blackberry to give those on the outside an idea of what's going on. If you'd rather watch the snoozefest, you can do so by clicking this link.

Apparently, it's gotten pretty bad in there:

The TV guys seem to be fading. One cameraman's down. Reporters are scarce. There's probably legitimate fear about what they'll put on at 11.

And a bit earlier:
Ok, here's the scene now. People are getting bored. So people are blackberrying and treo-ing (is that a word?) all the time ... to other people in the same room.

Gotta love politics.

A shoutout to Black and Blue, who has spent a good portion of his day watching the streaming feed and posting his thoughts on the proceedings. Is it dedication or insanity? Both?

We'll know for sure on these venues later this evening. It'll be all over the papers tomorrow as well.

Finally, I apologize for the scarcity of updates lately. There hasn't been much to write about; at this point, the Magic could sign Michael Olowokandi and I'd write 2000 words on the subject. It's that bad. Add to the mix a busy work week and some behind-the-scenes stuff and you've got a fairly stagnant blog. Apologies.

24 July 2007

Whit Watson: Donaghy's Impact on the Magic Could Have Been Huge

Corrupt NBA referee Tim Donaghy's influence on the Magic and the Heat may have been greater than first imagined.
Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari, the Associated Press

More information keeps coming out in the Tim Donaghy case, and Whit Watson of Sun Sports examined it with a focus on the two Florida teams: the Magic and the Heat. Watson's analysis puts into perspective just how much Donaghy could have altered the fate of a franchise. As he points out, if Donaghy affected the outcome just one of the Magic games he officiated, the Magic would be 41-41. The Washington Wizards and the New Jersey Nets had the same records, which means a series of tiebreakers would determine playoff seeding :
According to the NBA, the process for breaking a three-way tie is to first determine which team has the best regular-season record against the other two. Orlando and Washington were 2-2 against each other last season; Washington was 0-4 against the Nets, while the Magic were 2-2 against New Jersey. So it's Orlando and New Jersey atop the tiebreaker at 4-4, with the Wiz slipping behind them at 2-6.

The next tiebreaker is conference record. Since the Nets had the better Eastern Conference mark than the Magic, New Jersey keeps the 6 seed, but Orlando moves up to 7th. Again, all things being equal, that's a first-round matchup against the 2nd-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers instead of the top-seeded Detroit Pistons.

The Magic went 0-4 against Detroit in the regular season last year, and not surprisingly, got swept by the Pistons in the first round as well.

But the Cavs?

Orlando beat the eventual Eastern Conference champs in two out of three regular season meetings.


Point being, an Orlando-Cleveland series would have been competitive. A hell of a lot more competitive than the Orlando-Detroit series. The Magic would have had a shot.

What if Orlando wins that series?


There's much more at the link, and it's well worth reading. Kudos to Whit Watson for thinking all this through; it makes my take on it feeble by comparison.

For more on the Tim Donaghy scandal (Donaghygate?), I recommend these ESPN.com items:

23 July 2007

In DeFense of DeVos/In Support of a New Downtown

When I started this blog, I had no intention of ever covering the Magic's quest for a new arena, mostly because it has more to do with politics than it does with basketball. Now that the vote on the arena, performing-arts center, and Citrus Bowl renovations is under a week away, it's become an elephant in the room; it commands my attention, as the future of our beloved Magic, and of the city as a whole, hangs in the balance.

The Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell posted in his 'Did You Know...?' piece this week that an out-of-town businessman offered the DeVos family $410 million for the franchise last year. The family declined and kept news of the offer under-wraps. Alex Martins, the Magic's Chief Operating Officer, is making that news public now in hopes of showing Orlando's citizens that ownership is committed to keeping the Magic in the City Beautiful. Maxwell offers a more detailed look at that situation in this post on his Taking Names blog:

As a backdrop, let me tell you the reason I wanted to talk with Alex in the first place: My curiosity about whether this whole arena deal was really just a way to help the DeVos family sell the team.

I had looked at the numbers and projections for a new arena over and over. And estimates from Forbes suggest the Magic will make a boatload of money over the life of the arena -- even if they tripled their current contribution. So I kept asking myself: Why wouldn't the Magic agree to pay more upfront, get the deal done and then laugh all the way to the bank as they rake in the dough for the life of the arena?

And then it hit me: Maybe because they're not going to be around for the life of the arena. Maybe because they just need a bucketload of taxpayer money so they can dangle a shiny new arena in front of prospective buyers.

That's the premise I wanted to run by Alex. I asked. He said no. I think I shrugged a bit, thinking "Well, what else is he going to say?" And then Alex said that he would reveal something he hadn't before: that the DeVos family wanted to hold on to the team so much that they turned down an offer to buy the Magic nine months ago ... for $410 million.


So what's the point of all that? Well, Alex said that if the DeVoses wanted to sell the team, they would've taken the $410 million offer, made up for all their losses (and more) and run.
I understand that it's Martins' job to make the DeVoses and the Magic look good, but if all this is indeed true, it should put to rest any concern Orlandoans have that the DeVos family are only interested in money. I may not be happy about Rich DeVos' contributions to Republican public-office candidates -- did I just get too political? -- but I am happy that he values the team enough to want to keep it here.

Now that we know that the Magic organization is committed to the city, it's time that we show our commitment to it. David Whitley, also of the Sentinel, wrote yesterday of the consequences of not getting the venues built:
Our commissioners should call their counterparts in San Antonio and Tampa [cities which have recently built new venues for their teams] to see whether taking short-term political heat is worth the long-term gain. Because a "yes" vote will not be popular for one major reason: Class envy.

Rich DeVos is very rich. His players are rich. You're probably not.

That doesn't bother some of you. Many venue critics have legitimate objections. But it's obvious from public hearings, e-mails and feedback over many years that a whole lot of people just want to show that DeVos a thing or two.
He also points out that citizens cry foul when DeVos makes money, but not when his equally rich International Drive hoteliers do so. The only difference between DeVos and those other businessmen is recognizability; whereas DeVos is a household name, the fat-cat businessmen on I-Drive are anonymous. Newsflash: they're just as rich as DeVos, and they're more interested in expanding the gargantuan Orange County Convention Center, which caters to out-of-towners, than they are with revitalizing downtown, which benefits the people who actually live here.

Who's an evil, greedy fill-in-the-blank now?

Magic fans, if you want to ensure that your team stays in Orlando for good, and if you want Downtown to be relevant again, I urge you to contact your district representative on the Board of County Commissioners. To find out in which district you reside, click this link to download a district map in PDF format. There are seven commissioners, and five votes are needed to secure funding.

When Dwight Howard signed his $85 million extension two weeks ago, he expressed a desire to retire in Orlando. "Me and Mickey Mouse will be here forever," he said.

For our sake, I hope he gets his wish.

21 July 2007

Tim Donaghy's Magic Connection

NBA official Tim Donaghy is facing serious allegations that he bet on games to cover mob debts in each of the past two seasons. Eight of the 74 games he officiated last season involved the Magic.
Photo by Getty Images

The news of NBA referee Tim Donaghy's alleged involvement in a mob-run points-shaving scheme is widespread by now, but there hadn't been much information regarding how specific teams were affected until Tim Povtak added this sidebar to his report on the story in this morning's Orlando Sentinel:
The Orlando Magic won just three of the eight games they played last season in which official Tim Donaghy worked, and at least two of them were out of the ordinary.
He also worked Game 2 of their playoff series against Detroit.

The Pistons were favored by eight points. They won 98-90.
I hope Povtak gets around to following-up on the effect Donaghy may have had on the Magic last season. And I hope that Commissioner Stern is able to restore integrity to the league, and soon.

20 July 2007

The Face on the Milk Carton Series: Rony Seikaly

When Darko Milicic left Orlando for Memphis last week, he became my second-favorite enigmatic, European-born big man who spent fewer than two seasons with the Magic. My favorite by a wide margin is the oft-forgotten Rony Seikaly, who spent the 1996/1997 season and part of 1997/1998 with the Magic.

Rony Seikaly and his ex-wife, the supermodel Elsa Benitez, sit courtside at an unidentified basketball game.
Photo by Brian Bahr, Getty Images

We in Orlando have been spoiled with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, two cornerstone-quality centers, both of whom were selected first overall in their respective drafts. Given the greatness of those two players, it's easy to forget that Seikaly is the third-best center in the Magic's eighteen-year history. During his Magic career, he had per-game averages of 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Solid numbers, especially when one considers his .483 field goal percentage.

What endeared Seikaly to me, and to other Magic fans, was his intensity, which sometimes manifested itself in boneheaded plays. I had great lower-bowl seats for a 1997 game in which Rony Seikaly and Bo Outlaw grabbed a defensive rebound at the same time and swung their arms wildly in an epic attempt to gain possession of the ball. I don't know if it was Bo's goggles getting fogged-up, Rony's long hair obscuring his vision, or both that caused the mishap, but they ended up swinging so forcefully that they stumbled out-of-bounds with the ball in-hand: a turnover borne of passion. Stupid? Probably. Fun to watch? Absolutely.

Rony's career with the Magic came to an abrupt and disharmonious end on February 16th, 1998, when he was traded to the Utah Jazz for Greg Foster and Chris Morris. The trade fell through on February 18th when Seikaly didn't report to Utah, forcing the Magic to trade him again. That night, I experienced the pain of watching my favorite basketball player standing, disheveled and alone, in the Magic's locker-room tunnel, realizing that he would never wear Magic pinstripes again. The next day, the Magic shipped Seikaly and Brian Evans to the New Jersey Nets for -- can you believe this? -- David Benoit, Yinka FREAKING Dare, and Kevin Edwards. Dare was waived three days later, while Benoit and Edwards played sparingly; they were not retained the following offseason.

Seikaly's career ended with the Nets, for whom he played only 18 games before retiring. Since then, he's hosted golf tournaments to benefit cystic fibrosis research. And as recently as April of this year, he tried his luck at professional beach volleyball. In addition, his jersey at Syracuse University has been retired.

Photo by Syracuse University Athletics

What, me worry about Darko? I'm more concerned with properly honoring one of the fifteen best players in Magic history, the one who also meant the most to me.

A huge shout-out to the fansite MagicPride, from which I got the Magic's February-18th opponent and Seikaly's statistics.

19 July 2007

No News Is No News

Orlando Magic news has ground to a halt after the the Rashard Lewis signing. Just as the Magic are left scraping the bottom of the barrel in their search for a competent center/power-forward type -- Brian Skinner? P.J. Brown? MICHAEL OLOWOKANDI?! -- Magic bloggers are left scraping the bottom of the barrel in their search for content. The lack of interesting information, combined with my working at my "actual job" for nine days in a ten-day stretch, has left 3QC unusually barren. About the only news this week was Travis Diener signing with the Pacers.

Expect some Face on the Milk Carton posts in the coming days and weeks, along with the usual Magic news. Until then, to satisfy your Magic fix, I refer you to the following Magic-related sites:

  • Black and Blue's daily 'Hottest Magic Cheerleader' competition is still going strong. I'm just pissed he came up with it before I did. Good on you, B + B.
  • Believing in Magic has a fairly new post entitled "Magic Math." Play along and predict the Magic's win total for next season!
  • The Magic's official team store , which makes me nostalgic for the days of the Orlando Magic FanAttic, wasted no time in offering Rashard Lewis jerseys for sale; authentic, replica, and youth-replica styles are all in the catalog now, although it looks like they're all sold-out at the moment. Hrm. I didn't figure that he'd be that big of a seller.
  • And if you're low on adhesives, the team store will let you stock up on TurkOGlu, which is on sale. With apologies to the Horace Grant Celebriduck, this is indeed the finest Magic tie-in product ever made.

17 July 2007

Of Marcin, James, and Jameer: A Tuesday Roundup

Two small bits of Magic news today:

  • John Denton of Florida Today has learned that the Magic will offer center Marcin Gortat a contract to play for the team this season. He has also learned that the Magic are undecided on power-forward James Augustine, last year's second-round draft pick who made Second-Team All-League in last week's Pepsi Pro Summer League. Augustine's salary of roughly $600,000 will be guaranteed of he is on the roster on July 31.
  • Meanwhile, the Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Magic General Manager Otis Smith flew to Philadelphia to meet with Steve Mountain, Jameer Nelson's agent, in hopes of negotiating a contract extension for the three-year veteran point guard. Smith told Povtak that the discussions "went well" and that both sides will "continue to talk."
The Jameer business is interesting to me. In the Gortat story to which I linked, Denton speculates the following:
Nelson could be looking for a deal similar to the one T.J. Ford signed with the Toronto Raptors last summer. Ford signed a five-year extension worth $33 million. Whereas Nelson averaged 13 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.9 steals a game, Ford averaged 14 points, 7.9 assists and 1.4 steals a game.
Jameer must be wearing some rose-colored glasses when he looks into the mirror. There's no way that he'll get T.J. Ford-like money. Hell, if Nelson played for Ford's team, he'd be the third point guard; backup Jose Calderon is good enough to start for nearly any team in the NBA.

That said, I like Jameer. I overreacted to his bad season when I wrote that I wouldn't be surprised if he were traded for a draft pick. Yes, his numbers were bad, but he's also a young guy who played in a bad offense with mediocre teammates. One bad year early in a career can't be looked at as a sign of impending doom. That said, if Nelson does not strongly pick up his play this season, he'll be looking at a career of coming off the bench, and quite possibly in a city other than Orlando.

Finally, the results of last week's poll question:

This week's question: "Which player's departure will most hurt the Magic?" I look forward to seeing those answers and to discussing them next week.

13 July 2007

UPDATED: Reaction to Lewis' Contract From Around the Web

Your smile would be just as wide if you just guaranteed yourself $118 million over the next six years.
Photo by Jacob Langston, the Orlando Sentinel

By now, you probably already know that Dwight Howard inked a five-year, $85.9 million extension with the Magic. In case you didn't, the gents at Orlando Magic Blog have it covered.

Moving on, the dollar amount of Rashard Lewis' contract has been a big topic of conversation around the interwebz. Serving suggestion: start with yesterday's Bill Simmons chat, which I CliffNoted here, and then move forward.

Nuss at SuperSonic Soul, who wrote this retrospective post about Rashard a little over a week ago when news of the signing leaked, followed up with this entry defending Lewis' massive contract. Here's a snippet:
And while it’s fashionable to say that the Magic overpaid Lewis, that Lewis is a one-dimensional player who isn’t even that good at the one dimension, that Orlando is going to be handicapped in the future by the combination of Lewis and Howard’s contracts, allow me to say one thing:

Rashard Lewis is not a limp-wristed, shoot-only player whose contract is the worst in the history of professional sports. Rashard Lewis is a solid player who rarely if ever gets hurt, who doesn’t complain about minutes, shots, or anything else, and who is the perfect fit alongside Dwight Howard.
Thanks for taking up the fight, Nuss.

(Via TrueHoop) - Basketbawful's Word of the Day is 'Koncak':
"A derisive term used to describe an exceptionally large free agent contract, usually signed for several years at the maximum allowable salary."
There's much more, and it's hilarious. Plus, Jon Koncak!

(Via FreeDarko) - Tom Ziller of AOL's Fanhouse with a post -- complete with nifty graphic! -- comparing Rashard to Gerald Wallace, who re-signed with the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday for about $9.5 million annually.

It's been a busy summer, but it's only just beginning.

UPDATE: ESPN.com's Chad Ford offers his take on the Lewis signing in this Insider column, which was available for free viewing earlier today, but has since become subscriber-only.

ESPN.com's NBA index page on Friday night. Gotta love the headline.

Essentially, Ford says that the Magic violated five guidelines that teams usually follow when they're signing free-agents. The most interesting part of the piece? One of Ford's sources close to the Magic/Sonics negotiations said the Magic hardly tried to work a cap-clearing sign-and-trade deal; instead, they were content to "get their guy" and move on. If that statement is true, it indicates Otis Smith erred gravely in making this deal. Had we taken on another salary via a sign-and-trade, we would be over the salary cap and able to use the $5.5 million mid-level exception. Because we didn't, we're under the cap, and can only sign free-agents to the veterans' minimum, which is worth substantially less. It's almost as though Otis didn't think the move through at all.

Ford's criticism of the Magic didn't start there. In the July 11th edition of his Daily Dish podcast (available for free on ESPN.com's PodCenter), he and Marc Stein discussed at length the Lewis signing and Darko's departure. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen. Ford and Stein dish dirt on Marc Cornstein and on why the Magic have royally screwed themselves by pissing him off.

Pepsi Pro Summer League Wrapup -- Free Marcin!

This year's Pepsi Pro Summer League has drawn to a close and awards have been passed out. Our very own Marcin Gortat, who finished third in blocked shots per game, and J.J. Redick, who lead the league in scoring, each received First Team All-Summer League honors. James Augustine made the Second Team, and Kevin Kruger was an honorable mention. Nice job to all involved. The league ended on a sour note, though, as the Magic were handed a 63-57 loss by the Miami Heat earlier today.

J.J. Redick fires a pass around the tough defense of the Miami Heat, who finished today's contest on a 12-0 run to win the game.
Photo by Fernando Medina, Getty Images

I apologize for not covering the league more in-depth. I was able to catch Monday's game because I had the day off, but my work schedule prevented me from taking in any other games. If you're interested, you can check out game recaps and box scores from this page on the Magic's website. A warning on the box scores - they are downloadable PDF files; that is, you can't just click on a page and see the box score. Unfortunate.

My summer-league game-ball goes to Marcin Gortat, whose performance this week has all but assured him a spot on the team's roster. The seven-footer posted per-game averages of 10 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.2 blocked shots. The loss of Darko left us with only one shot-blocker, Dwight Howard, and he can't play the whole game. If Gortat can play 10-15 minutes a night and protect the rim, I'll be happy.

Marcin Gortat attempts a layup against the Chicago Bulls during a summer-league game. Gortat's strong showing throughout the league has strengthened his case for inclusion on the Magic's roster.
Photo by Fernando Medina, Getty Images

Another player who turned heads was Kevin Kruger of UNLV. The departure of Travis Diener leaves the Magic in need of a third point guard. Kruger played competently and unselfishly, although his 2.6 assists per-game average doesn't show it. Like Diener, he's deadly from three-point territory, as he shot 10-of-22, or 46%, from that distance. Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo would absolutely get the nod over him, and Keyon Dooling figures to see time running the point as well, but the Magic could do worse than have Kevin Kruger as their last option at the point.

With whose summer-league performance are you most impressed? Vote in the sidebar on the right-hand side. If anything big happens this weekend, I'll chime in. If not, I'll enjoy a respite from the internet... by working at my "actual job" for 12 hours this weekend.

11 July 2007

Bill Simmons and his Fans take Shots at the Magic

Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons and his loyal readers torched the Magic at every available opportunity in a chat today. Some highlights:

Chris Maine: Simmons, you got an iPhone yet? I've heard disappointing reviews.

SportsNation Bill Simmons: I didn't get one - the device seemed so complicated and ambitious that it scared me off, I wanted to wait until they worked out the kinks. I wish Orlando had done this with their cap space - instead, they spent $126 million on Rashard Lewis. Please send me 500,000 questions on that signing. I want to devote the whole chat to it.

JKL(Boston, MA): If you're Orlando aren't you better off saving that cap room used up on Rashard Lewis to see if you can grab someone better next season?

SportsNation Bill Simmons: Wait, you think they would have been better off not paying a $50 million player $126 million? Are you sure?


Kevin (Chicago, IL): Rashard Lewis' deal is awful, but it can't be the worst Max deal ever. Who is the worst player ever to get a max deal? Marbury?

SportsNation Bill Simmons: No. it's the worst max deal ever. It's the worst sports contract in history. They gave a max contract to someone who has one skill (scoring), and he's not even that good at that skill. He's like a better Hedu Turkoglu. He plays 40 mins a game, scores 20 points and grabs you 5 boards. Congratulations.


Dan (NY): Worst player to get a max deal? Wrong Knick. It has to be Allan Houston. I'm a Knicks fan, and this huge mess they call a franchise all started with him getting top 2 guard money. They even had to make a rule for his contract.

SportsNation Bill Simmons: At least Allan Houston was the best guy on a team that made the Finals. What has Rashard Lewis ever done? Sonics fans thought he was soft and unreliable... even in their one playoff run two years ago, he was hurt half the time.


Jens (Copenhagen) : Bill can u explain what the Magic were thinking when they gave Rashard "I'm a skinnier Antoine Walker" Lewis a deal worth $125 mill?!? Please take me trough their thought proces, because I have no idea what they were thinking!

SportsNation Bill Simmons: It's inexplicable. I can't do it. There's no possible way to explain it or justify it.


Sam (Austin, TX): Basketball Reference shows Rashard Lewis has a .002 Hall of Fame probabilty, plus he scored 2 points in his one all star appearance. Of course he gets max money.


Doug, Toronto: Shouldn't an NBA player have to have a signature sneaker to receive max money? Or at least be the reason why people go to games? Rashard Lewis is a nobody.

SportsNation Bill Simmons: You should either be able to A) sell tickets, B) call yourself one of the best 5-6 people at your position, or C) have two first-class NBA skills. You know who's kicking himself right now? Mike Miller. If Rashard is worth $126 million, he's worth at least $110.


Bill (Chicago, IL): As I see it, Orlando dodged a close one. With Grant Hill's ankle finally off the books, they were legitimately at risk of fielding an '07-'08 team with *no* franchise-crippling long-term contracts. That's not Orlando Magic basketball. Glad they got back to basics with this Lewis deal.

Fairly or unfairly, we're officially the laughingstock of the sports world. Only a good showing in the coming season will reverse that.

The Future Is Now: Rashard Lewis Formally Introduced at Press Conference

Magic General Manager Otis Smith, Rashard Lewis, and coach Stan Van Gundy pose together at the press conference announcing Lewis' arrival.
Photo by Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel

The Magic made official what had been known for over a week by signing Rashard Lewis to a six-year deal believed to be worth $118 million. To be technical, he actually signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, his former team, which enabled him to get the maximum dollar and year amounts on his deal. Nonetheless, Rashard Lewis is now a part of the Magic.

Expectations for the Magic this coming season will undoubtedly be high. Lewis' deal is, by far, the largest in franchise history. Lewis will be paired with All-Star center Dwight Howard to form what we can only hope will be a deadly inside/out combination. Appearing on 'The Finish Line' on 740 AM, Otis Smith called his team "contenders." We'll certainly find out if he's right in the coming months.

Lewis' arrival creates a logjam at the small-forward position -- the Magic already have Hedo Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza -- but Smith didn't seem concerned. He dismissed the idea that Turkoglu, who started last year, is now expendable: "We'll play two forwards, two guards, and a center. We don't worry about power-forward versus small-forward," is the equivalent of what he said -- I have to paraphrase; I heard the program in the car and had no recording equipment.

Otis' stance indicates that he believes the Magic should play Turkoglu and Lewis at the same time, despite their similar builds and skill-sets. That's all well and good, but the Magic have to be concerned about rebounding with that unit, as both players do not perform well on the boards for someone their size.

Otis also alluded to Trevor Ariza's versatility: "Having Trevor Ariza play more than one position for us, that's important." If Otis is implying that Trevor Ariza will play shooting-guard, Magic fans should be concerned. Ariza lacks the outside shot that shooting-guards require, and playing in the backcourt neutralizes the impact of his athleticism.

Based on Smith's comments, the opening-day depth chart could look like this:

PGJameer Nelson1
--Keyon Dooling2
--Carlos Arroyo3
SGTrevor Ariza1
--J.J. Redick2
--Keith Bogans3
SFRashard Lewis1
--Hedo Turkoglu2
PFTony Battie1
--Pat Garrity2
--James Augustine3
CDwight Howard1

Magic fans, does that roster make us contenders? I don't think so, but it should move us up the ladder in the East. Is a marginal improvement worth $118 million? Decidedly not. If the core of Lewis and Howard does not win a championship, then Otis Smith deserves all the criticism he's received.

UPDATED: Magic, Sonics Agree on Sign-and-Trade to Send Rashard Lewis to Orlando

ESPN reports in this item (scroll down to "Free-Agent Buzz") that the Orlando Magic and the Seattle SuperSonics have agreed on a sign-and-trade deal which will send Rashard Lewis to Orlando in exchange for as-yet-unrevealed players and a second-round draft selection. This agreement allows Lewis to get the biggest deal possible -- $126.4 million over six years -- while playing for his preferred team. The Magic could only offer him a five-year deal.

More on this story as it develops.

UPDATE - John Denton of Florida Today added the following information about the signing in this report:

The Magic will finalize a contract with Lewis, the most coveted small forward on the free-agent market, today. A news conference will be held this afternoon where the Magic will announce that Lewis has signed a six-year sign-and-trade deal worth a staggering $127.2 million. According to a source close to the negotiations who asked to remain anonymous, Orlando will send a second-round pick back to Seattle as compensation in the sign-and-trade deal.

Lewis, who turns 28 next month, will get a starting salary of $16.8 million next season -- the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement for a player with nine years of NBA experience. From there, he'll get 10.5 percent annual raises and the deal will be worth a whopping $25.6 million in the final season.

I'm no salary-cap expert, but I don't think a maximum-contract player can be traded straight-up for a future second-round draft pick. It'll be interesting to see which players, if any, are shipped out. Here's to hoping that Keyon Dooling isn't one of them.


UPDATE AGAIN: John Denton writes the following via email:

I'm told the Rashard sign-and-trade will be done and the Magic will only be sending back a second-round pick. Apparently, Seattle didn't want the Magic's expiring contracts.
Perhaps this deal is the most lopsided one of all time, then.

10 July 2007

End of an Era, Such as it Was: Darko Milicic, Orlando Magic Part Ways

The Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz reported earlier this afternoon that the Magic have broken off contract discussions with Marc Cornstein, who represents Magic free-agent Darko Milicic. The impasse ends any chance that Milicic will re-sign with the Magic.

"We've moved on and Darko's moved on," Magic General Manager Otis Smith said.
Moved on from what, exactly? Oh yeah, the idea that Milicic would pair with franchise cornerstone Dwight Howard to form the NBA's most formidable frontcourt since Robinson/Duncan and dominate the Eastern Conference for the next decade. They showed glimpses that it could be accomplished. Consider the Magic's defeat of the Chicago Bulls on February 26th of this year: Milicic and Howard combined for 35 points, 32 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots. The Bulls, as a team, had only 31 rebounds, making the duo's totals even more impressive.

Darko Milicic and Dwight Howard will never get the chance to dominate the East side-by-side.
Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

Yeah, well so much for that.

I don't know what to make of Darko's time here. For every brilliant performance, like the one against Chicago to which I alluded, there was a boneheaded one, like the one against Toronto in which he played seven minutes, scored no points and was ejected after receiving his second technical foul for arguing a call made against him.

The fact that we paid a high price to acquire him only added to the frustration with his inconsistency: we gave up Kelvin Cato's valuable expiring contract and our first-round draft choice this season. The draft choice turned out to be two-guard Rodney Stuckey, who has played well in summer-league action. Along with Darko, we received point guard Carlos Arroyo.

Essentially, we Magic fans have to deal not only with our hypothetical questions, but also the fact that the team is now down a first-round draft pick in a talented draft class and $8 million -- the value of Cato's contract -- in cap space. The net return? A backup point guard whose contract will expire after one more season... at only $4 million.

If the Magic are unable to shore up the power-forward position, and/or Darko Milicic develops into an All-Star, Otis Smith is going to have a lot of explaining to do to Magic fans, who are no stranger to botched free-agency periods. But this is not the place for a discussion about Shaquille.

It's amazing how often I can run this picture and not have it lose its relevance.

When Grant Hill left, I wished him good luck; the team and the city got the chance to know him over the course of seven seasons. His reputation as a nice guy preceded him anyway. With Darko, I can't offer such wishes. It's not that I dislike him; it's just that he's as enigmatic a player as this team has ever had, and there's no telling what he wants.

And to tell you the truth, I don't think he knows either.

09 July 2007

Redick Scores 30 in Summer-League Debut; Magic Beat Nets 85-74

NEWSFLASH: J.J. Redick can score.

Unable to compete in last year's Pepsi Pro Summer League due to injury, the Magic's second-year guard made up for lost time by scoring 30 points on 7-of-18 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. His team came away with the victory, as the Orlando Magic held off the New Jersey Nets by a final margin of 85-74.

I'll say this about J.J.: I had him all wrong. I figured him to be fairly one-dimensional on offense. It's true that he relies upon the three-point shot, but he also drives to the basket quicker and harder than one might think. Most of his three-pointers tonight were set up by screens on the low-block, which J.J. would curl around before catching the pass and shooting. The skeptic in me points out that those shots are easier to make in summer-league play because they are not defended as well, but the realist in me counters that the basket is the same height in the regular-season and that the screens will be coming from Dwight Howard and Tony Battie rather than non-roster invitees. A promising offensive display from the Magic's two-guard of the future, to be sure.

But Redick was not the only Magic player who impressed: Marcin Gortat, a second-round draft choice in 2005 who has spent the past few seasons in Poland, posted 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists; James Augustine, the Magic's second-round draft choice in 2006, added 11 points and 5 rebounds; Kevin Kruger, an undrafted point guard out of UNLV, filled up the stat line with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal; and Steven Smith made a strong case for his inclusion on the Magic's 15-man roster with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

Marcin Gortat played well for the Magic in the first of five summer-league games. The seven-foot center lead all players with 6 assists to go along with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Photo by John Raoux, the Associated Press

There were some rough patches, however. The Magic's defense, and Marcin Gortat in particular, was sometimes late in rotating, leading to open Nets shots. The Magic also turned the ball over 22 times, which can be expected of a team composed of mostly strangers. The team should be worried, though, if its players are still committing turnovers at that rate as this week's games progress.

Of the non-roster players who made an impact tonight, I'd say Kevin Kruger was the strongest. We already have three point guards -- Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling, and Jameer Nelson -- under contract for next year, and that doesn't even include free-agent Travis Diener. However, Arroyo and Dooling are mentioned as pieces of a sign-and-trade deal that would send them and Pat Garrity to Seattle for Rashard Lewis and Earl Watson. Diener's potential departure would leave the Magic with only Nelson and Watson to bring the ball up. Kruger would fit in nicely as the third point guard. He had three assists tonight, and made plenty more great passes that didn't lead to buckets. He also has three-point range. The Magic should keep their eye on him, especially if they are still in discussions to make that trade with Seattle.

The Magic take the floor again tomorrow to face the Indiana Pacers. The game will start approximately 20 minutes after the completion of the Heat/Nets contest, which starts at 3:00 PM. Each game in this week's League is streamed live and free of charge on this page of the Magic's website.

08 July 2007

Which Free-Agent Big-Men Should the Magic Pursue?

The likely departure of Darko Milicic via free-agency leaves the Magic with glaring holes at the center and power-forward positions. The team has some prospects -- James Augustine, Marcin Gortat, and Mario Kasun -- who could shore up those deficiencies, but none of them are NBA-ready yet. The Magic should have enough salary-cap room to address their frontcourt needs, so on whom should they use it? 3QC takes a look:

P.J. Brown
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: UNRESTRICTED
Magic fans should be well-acquainted with the 37-year-old Brown, who spent the most productive years of his career with the Miami Heat. As expected, his skills have dropped off considerably, but he scored double-figures in 19 of his 72 games last season -- not bad for an old guy. He's not a total stiff, but the Magic should think of signing someone who could play for at least two seasons. That seems to eliminate Brown, who's rumored to be mulling retirement.
Chuck Hayes
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: RESTRICTED
Chuck Hayes may lack height -- he's only 6'6" -- but you wouldn't know it by looking at his rebounding numbers. Like a certain other undersized Rocket power forward, Hayes uses his tenacity and will to beat out taller players to rebounds. He'd be a great boost off the bench. That said, he's a complete non-factor offensively; unless he's two feet from the basket, he's toast. Hopefully, the Magic would have enough offensive weapons to offset Hayes' deficiencies on that end of the floor. Obtaining Hayes is a pipe-dream, though. The Rockets are determined to re-sign him.
Jamaal Magloire
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: UNRESTRICTED
At 6'11" and 265 pounds, Jamaal Magloire is a real handful in he paint. He rebounds well, has a decent low-post game, and can play 20+ minutes a night. Magloire is still skilled, but the Trail Blazers would likely let him go, as Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge are their big-men of the future. Despite being the least-deserving All-Star in the history of the sport, Magloire would be a worthwhile pickup for the Magic.
Mikki Moore
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: UNRESTRICTED
Mikki Moore has bounced around this league for his entire career, playing for seven teams over nine seasons. Moore's renaissance in 2006/2007 with New Jersey did wonders for his free-agent value, as he averaged career-highs in points per game and rebounds per game. He also lead the league in field goal percentage. Much of that is due to playing with Jason Kidd, one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, whose ability to spread the floor and to make improbable passes lead to several easy buckets for every Net, but Moore especially. He can't be expected to post similar numbers this season unless he stays with the Nets, and the Magic should be wary of that fact.
Joe Smith
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: UNRESTRICTED
Joe Smith never quite lived up to his billing as a first-overall draft pick, and his name has been tarnished thanks to the under-the-table dealings he had with the Timberwolves, but he's actually a solid NBA player. Considered a throw-in in the Allen Iverson trade, Smith went from warming the bench in Denver to playing a key role in the 76ers' second-half resurgence; as hard as it is to believe, the 76ers were still in playoff contention during the second-to-last week of the season, largely due to Smith's consistent production. He'd fit in nicely in Orlando as a slightly better version of Tony Battie. As an added bonus, he has a career free-throw percentage of .794, which is quite good for a guy who stands 6'10" tall.
Anderson Varejao
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: RESTRICTED
Anderson Varejao has become one of the league's most polarizing players. Some fans love his intensity and energy, while others loathe his tendency to flop on defense. I fall into the latter category, as I believe flopping ruins the integrity of the game. But Varejao's questionable sportsmanship is not the only reason for the Magic to be wary of him. Although he's only 24, Varejao has reached his offensive ceiling and relies on putbacks to score. His flopping forces turnovers by drawing offensive fouls, but people would be clued-in as to how lousy a defender he is if it didn't. In short, he's not overly talented, nor is he likable. The Magic, and others, should avoid him.
Chris Webber
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Points Per GameRebounds Per GameField Goal %
Free-Agency Status: UNRESTRICTED
It'd be almost poetic for Chris Webber to sign with the Magic, the team that drafted him with the first pick in the 1993 draft, only to send him to Golden State for the rights to Penny Hardaway. He's one of the top-ten power-forwards in NBA history, but knee troubles slowed him down considerably. He was miserable in Philadelphia last season, but his play magically improved once the 76ers bought out his contract and allowed him to sign with Detroit. Like Vince Carter, Webber appears to be able to "flip the switch" on his talent and play hard only when he wants to, which should make him unattractive to us. He's also chasing a championship, and he's unlikely to win one in Orlando before he retires, which should make us unattractive to him. He's still an NBA-level talent, but I'd be disappointed to see him in Magic-blue next season.

Also available:
  • Rafael Araujo, a former eighth-overall draft selection who posts robust career averages of 2.8 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game.
  • Andray Blatche, the 20-year-old project whom the Wizards are determined to re-sign.
  • Pat Burke, the former Magic player who has spent the past two seasons making hair-restoration commercials and high-fiving the Suns' regular rotation players during timeouts.
  • Melvin Ely, a career underachiever whom the Magic tried to acquire before the trade deadline last season.
  • Marc Jackson, a 6'10" former rookie-of-the-year candidate who, to his detriment, fell in love with his jump shot.
  • Chris Mihm, a 7'0" stiff who missed all of last season following ankle surgery.
  • Dikembe Mutombo, [insert your own age joke here].
  • Michael Olowokandi, arguably the worst first-overall draft pick in history.
  • Jake Voskuhl, a foul machine who's never been able to play big minutes.

Slim pickings, to be sure, but the Magic have to prefer almost any of those players to the inexperienced ones already on their roster. Which of the players suggested would you prefer?

07 July 2007

Carlos Arroyo Spices Up Artest-for-Turkoglu Rumors

On Thursday afternoon, Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz that there was no truth to the rumor that the Magic were in talks with the Sacramento Kings about swapping Hedo Turkoglu for Ron Artest. Mark Stevens, Artest's agent, corroborated what Smith said: "I haven't heard anything like that. As far as I'm concerned, Ron is still with the Sacramento Kings."

Case closed, right?

Not so fast.

CGM of the MagicMadness forums posted a link to this interview with Arroyo conducted by Raúl Álzaga Sánchez-Bretón for the Spanish-language site Primera Ahora. I am not a Spanish expert -- it's been over a year since I took a Spanish class -- but I did my best to translate the juciest part of the article:

“Rashard Lewis es un fichaje de impacto, un anotador consistente que no teníamos en el equipo y nos va a ayudar mucho. Pero esa no es la única movida que hará Orlando. Hay otro 'caballo' que viene por ahí”, indicó Arroyo haciendo alusión a los rumores de que los Magic están cerca de adquirir al delantero Ron Artest proveniente de los Kings de Sacramento en cambio por el alero turco Hydayet 'Hedo” Turkoglu.“Artest es tremendo jugador y es un veterano probado. Ese nos cuadraría la línea frontal.”
In English (roughly):
"Rashard Lewis is an impact signing, a consistent shooter who we did not have last season. He will help a lot. But that is not the only move the Magic will make. There will be another 'horse*' coming this way", indicated Arroyo referencing the rumors that the Magic are close to acquiring forward Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings for Hedo Turkoglu. "Artest is a tremendous player and a proven veteran. He firms up the front line."
A rough translation, to be sure, but it sure appears as though Carlos knows something we don't. Earlier in the interview, Arroyo mentions that he's met with Stan Van Gundy recently, which gives this story a bit more weight. If not, Sánchez-Bretón may just be trying to make waves. That'd be somewhat appropriate, considering that "Arroyo" translates into "stream."

*UPDATE: MAGICmanSAM of MagicMadness writes "
In Puerto Rico, the word 'caballo' or 'horse' is used to describe someone that is really good at something. So when Arroyo said that, he was pretty much using Puerto Rican slang." Thanks for clearing that up, Sam.

06 July 2007

Another Perspective on Grant Hill's Departure

Basketbawful offers its take on Grant Hill's Magic career in this post. I assure you that I planned to write a retrospective post about Hill for this blog, but I couldn't write one any better than that. Particularly interesting is this snippet:

Hill didn't give the Magic a chance, though. Instead, he immediately bolted for the Phoenix Suns in what we must assume is one last, desperate gamble for a championship. On the one hand, it's hard to begrudge him that opportunity after all he's suffered through. But on the other hand, Hill really should have rewarded some of the loyalty the Magic have shown him over the last seven years. What happened to Mr. Good Guy? I mean, it's hard to argue that he left Detroit for the money back in 2000, and it's even harder to argue that he's leaving the Magic for a shot at glory. You expect that kind of behavior from most NBA players, but Hill was supposed to be above that sort of thing, a character guy, a Sportsmanship Award winner.
If Grant weren't such a nice guy, it'd be much easier to hate his friggin' guts. The only emotion I can muster is disappointment.

05 July 2007

ESPN: Grant Hill to Sign with Phoenix Suns

Just a day after withdrawing their offer to Darko Milicic, the Orlando Magic lost another free-agent on Thursday when Grant Hill agreed to a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns. ESPN.com has the story, as does the Orlando Sentinel.

Grant Hill is leaving the Magic for Phoenix Suns, with whom he will attempt to rock 'n' sock the West's best teams next season.

Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

I made the case for keeping Grant Hill a month ago, and I stand by all my statements. I would have loved to see Grant in a Magic uniform for another season, at least long enough to let J.J. Redick prove himself as a starter. Alas, that won't happen, and Grant's departure leaves a huge void at the two-guard.

With Grant Hill's departure, Keith Bogans, Keyon Dooling, and J.J. Redick all figure to play more minutes at shooting guard next season.
Bogans photo by Bill Koshroun, the Associated Press; Dooling photo by Jacob Langston, the Orlando Sentinel; Redick photo by Phelan M. Ebanhack, the Associated Press

That said, I'm happy for Grant. He made the decision that was best for him, and I can't fault him for it. Not only will he play for a title contender, but he may even get the chance to start for one; the ESPN article to which I linked mentions that either Hill or Boris Diaw will get the starting nod for Mike D'Antoni's team next season. Grant's choice speaks volumes about his character. He's not content with riding someone else's coattails on the way to a title, as Mitch Richmond did with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002; he wants to contribute and to earn his money, which will be $3 million over two seasons.

I'll close with some ammunition for those of you who do not share my admiration for Grant Hill. We paid Grant $93 M over the course of his contract, which translates into approximately:
  • $455,882.35 per game, or
  • $27,844.31 per point, or
  • $14110.15 per minute.
Grant Hill may be a great basketball player, but if NBA-ers were rated in Consumer Reports, Hill would certainly not be a 'Best Buy'.

04 July 2007

Sac. Bee: Kings Inquire About Hedo Turkoglu, Might Trade Ron Artest

John Hollinger pointed out in his analysis of the Rashard Lewis signing that Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu are both 6'10" small forwards who like to shoot three-pointers from the corner. As Hollinger put it, Hedo Turkoglu is "redundant" now that Lewis is on the Magic's roster.

The Sacramento Kings have picked up on that fact, and Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee reports that the Kings have contacted the Magic about making a trade for Turkoglu. Although he has not confirmed which player the Kings are offering in return, Amick suspects that it might be Ron Artest, whose salary is close enough to Turkoglu's to make the trade work under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

Ron Artest of the Kings eyes a loose ball as he fends off Corey Maggette of the Clippers. Artest is rumored to be Orlando-bound as part of a deal that would send Hedo Turkoglu to Sacramento.
Photo by José Luis Villegas, the Sacramento Bee

My take? Just say no.

The problem with this rumored trade has nothing to do with Hedo leaving and everything to do with Ron Artest arriving. Putting aside character issues for a moment, he doesn't make sense for the Magic. Stop me if you've heard me express this sentiment before: We don't need any more small forwards. Rashard Lewis and Trevor Ariza have us set at that position. Why not play him at shooting guard? Because he's not near good enough a shooter; teams would leave him wide-open to double Dwight Howard in the post. Given Dwight's turnover problems, that's not something we need.

What Artest is most known for, at least on the basketball court, his is stellar defense. Not only does he shut opponents down, he also forces turnovers, with a career steals-per-game average of 2.1. As hard as it is to believe, the Magic were among the league's top defensive teams last season, so Artest's primary skill does not do the Magic any good.

There's also Artest's dubious history of questionable behavior. Last March, he was charged in a domestic abuse case involving his wife, and subsequently pleaded no-contest. That incident occurred less than a month after his dog, Socks, was removed from his mansion for being underfed; Artest did not face charges in that instance.

Then there's the famous "Malice at the Palace," which occurred in Detroit in a game featuring the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers, for which Artest played at the time. The brawl started when a fan threw a beer at Artest after Artest committed a hard foul on Ben Wallace. The teams fought with each other, and then with the fans, as Artest charged into the stands and threw punches.

He was suspended for the remainder of the 2004/2005 season and postseason. Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson, his Pacers teammates, also received hefty suspensions for their actions. Without three of their best players, the Pacers' hopes for a title faded, and the franchise is now in a state of limbo.

I don't know Artest personally, but I do know he's bad for a team to have on its roster and in its community. That said, he's a terrific basketball player, and is a real bargain at $7 M annually when his production is taken into consideration. However, even if he were well-behaved, that wouldn't change his incompatibility with the Magic team, which is reason alone for the team not to make this deal.

If the Magic agree to send Hedo back to Sacramento, where he started his career, I worry about what we might receive in return. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas are two serviceable power forwards who could shore up our frontcourt deficiencies, but Abdur-Rahim just underwent knee surgery and Thomas is overpaid at $7 M annually. Neither of their contracts come off the books until 2010, which limits the Magic's ability to trade them or to sign free-agents until then.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim and his bionic knees are not the answer to Orlando's deficiency at power forward.

Photo by Randy Pench, the Sacramento Bee

Sacramento may want Hedo, but the Magic shouldn't want anything to do with any of their players. Otis Smith should keep the line open and listen to other teams' offers for Hedo before making a foolish deal with the Kings.

All that said, happy Fourth of July.

Twentieth Century Fox

03 July 2007

UPDATED: Magic Withdraw Offer to Darko Milicic, Who Refuses to Play for Orlando if Otis Smith is GM

This picture of Darko from the final game of last season's playoffs may depict the last time Darko wears a Magic uniform.
Photo by Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel

Continuing the flurry of news today, ESPN.com reports that the Magic have withdrawn their offer to their own restricted free-agent, Darko Milicic. The move makes Darko an unrestricted free agent, meaning the Magic do not have the right to match any offer another team makes. Marc Cornstein, Darko's agent, minced no words when discussing the withdrawal:
"I think it is unfortunate how dishonest and deceitful Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic have been in the process. However, I think it can be a good thing for Darko. I believe Darko is the most coveted free agent in the market now. We are excited to get a fresh start with a team that truly believes in him."
It looks like we've seen the last of Darko here in Orlando, at least if Cornstein has his way. But there aren't too many teams that can offer Darko the money he wants, meaning he still might return to the Magic:
Only three teams, the Bobcats, Grizzlies and Bucks, have the cap room available to offer more than the mid-level exception. A fourth team, the Chicago Bulls, might be able to clear enough room if they were to renounce their rights to free agent Andres Nocioni.
UPDATE: The Orlando Sentinel has late-breaking news on this story: Marc Cornstein told the Sentinel that Darko Milicic will not play for the Magic as long as Otis Smith is the team's GM. Barring a bold executive decision to fire Smith by team owner Rich DeVos, the Magic have indeed seen the last of Darko. My take? Otis Smith genuinely wants to keep Darko, but is pissed at the games Cornstein has played in the media trying to drive up Darko's value, which is why he's been slow to negotiate a new deal. What a mess this has become.

This move is puzzling to me, as it means the Magic traded away an expiring contract (Kelvin Cato) and a valuable first-round draft pick for a net of a backup point guard, Carlos Arroyo. The ESPN article to which I linked quotes an unidentified team's general manager as saying Otis Smith has not returned phone calls regarding trades for Darko. Complicating the matter, Otis remains on record as saying that re-signing Darko is a top priority. Whom do you believe?

The last time we let a 7-footer leave in free-agency, he went on to dominate the league and win three straight titles.

Photo by the Associated Press

While I'm not saying Darko will ever replicate that success, I am saying there is a bad precedent here. Ominous.

Patrick Ewing Among Orlando's New Assistant Coaches

As if the Rashard Lewis news weren't exciting enough, the Magic announced the hirings of four new assistant coaches: Brendan Malone, Steve Clifford, Bob Breyer, and Patrick Ewing. The release to which I linked summarizes each coach's respective resume.

It should surprise no one that I think this is exciting news. I admittedly know nothing about the first three coaches listed, but Patrick Ewing's presence speaks for itself. He'll work with the Magic's post players, like Dwight Howard, on perfecting their low-post moves; as of right now, Howard's greatest post weapon is the dunk.

Under the tutelage of Patrick Ewing, Dwight Howard will expand his limited offensive game. We'll still see plenty of dunks, like this ferocious one over New Orleans Hornet Jannero Pargo.
Photo by the Associated Press

The only way this summer could get any better is if we could work out a way to keep Darko without having to trade Trevor Ariza.

Reaction to the Rashard Lewis Signing from Around the Web

  • There are two sides to every story, and dyed-in-the-wool Sonic fan Nuss of SuperSonicSoul offers his perspective on Rashard Lewis' time spent in Seattle in this eloquent post. Apparently, for all his talent, Lewis never really endeared himself to Sonics fans. It's a great read. Plus, where else in the sports blogosphere would you find an E.M. Forster quote?
  • ESPN.com's John Hollinger offers his analysis of the Lewis signing in this Insider post, which is available for free at the moment. He concludes that although the deal doesn't make the Magic contenders instantly, it still works because it puts them on a reasonable timetable. He adds that, between the hiring of Stan the Man and the signing of Lewis, the Magic are off to the best offseason of any team in the NBA. After the Billy Donovan mess, who woulda thunk it?
  • Henry Abbott of True Hoop points out in this post that the Sonics have, in the span of a week, lost their two best players and received "an oft-injured veteran [Wally Szczerbiak], the backup point guard from the second worst team in the league [Delonte West of the Celtics], and a draft pick [Jeff Green]." Despite all that, Abbott writes, the Sonics have a bright future. Something tells me the drafting of Kevin Durant has something to do with that.
  • For more Magic-centered perspectives, I recommend reading the latest posts on OrlandoMagicFan and on Black and Blue, as well as the forums at MagicMadness.

It's Unofficially Official: ESPN Confirms Lewis Will Sign With Orlando

When ESPN reports something, I tend to believe it. And earlier this morning, ESPN confirmed the rumor that Rashard Lewis will leave the Seattle SuperSonics to sign with the Orlando Magic.

It also confirms that the team will have to let Darko Milicic become an unrestricted free agent if they can't find a taker on someone else's contract:

The price for Lewis' services could grow, though. Unless a sign-and-trade arrangement can be worked out with Lewis' old team or unless it can otherwise shed a contract or two to create more salary-cap space in the next week, Orlando will have to renounce the rights to restricted free agent Darko Milicic to create the cap room to fund such a lucrative deal, instantly making Milicic an unrestricted free agent.
I was a bit cranky last night when I heard that part of the story, but the more I think about it, the calmer I become. Lewis is a top-30 talent in this league. Pairing him with Dwight Howard, who is arguably the league's second- or third-best center, should make the Magic contenders in the East for the next several seasons. It'll be sad to see Darko leave, because he showed a ton of potential in last year's playoffs, but he had still yet to prove himself.

Of course, all of that talk is rendered moot of the Magic are able to dump the necessary salaries so they can retain Milicic and sign Lewis. Let's hope that becomes the case.