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Continuing the flurry of news today, ESPN.com reports that the Magic have withdrawn their offer to their own restricted free-agent, Darko Milicic.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.

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