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rushmore
06-23-2004, 05:26 PM
McGrady Situation Holding Draft Hostage

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

This is what happens when you let a hockey guy run an NBA team.

We're less than 36 hours away from Thursday's NBA draft and Magic GM John Weisbrod, who happens to hold both the No. 1 pick and the NBA's hottest trading commodity, can't make up his mind about anything.

Weisbrod, a former NHL player who was a team executive in both the American Hockey League and International Hockey League, took over from former Magic GM John Gabriel in March and already finds himself in the eye of the hurricane.

The Tracy McGrady trade talk and the indecision it's creating over what Orlando should in the draft is wreaking total havoc in the league.

"This is nuts," one GM told Insider. "I've never seen such a high volume of trade talks in my life. Everyone's taking their shot at McGrady. Everyone's trying to move up or down. I'm not sure which way is up or down anymore."

As the picture gets fuzzier and fuzzier, we'll endeavor to pull things back into focus. Here's the latest around the league on the top 15 picks and the various scenarios in play:

Orlando Magic: As Insider first reported Tuesday morning, the Magic are indeed seeking other offers for McGrady while simultaneously trying to work out an understanding with Steve Francis, who has said he doesn't want to play in Orlando.

As of this morning, nothing is settled. Orlando's hottest talks Tuesday were with the Phoenix Suns, not the Houston Rockets, according to multiple league sources.

As we have reported throughout the week, the Magic are trying to pry Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and the No. 7 pick in the draft away from the Suns. According to several sources, the Magic believe the Suns have the most to offer. However, Phoenix wants to keep Johnson and is reluctant to put him in the mix, preferring instead to deal Marion, Casey Jacobsen and the No. 7 for McGrady.

The stumbling block to making that deal happen may not turn on Johnson or Jacobsen, however. McGrady is still insisting he'll only sign a long-term contract extension with the Rockets. The Suns could and probably should call his bluff. Phoenix is a great place to play, and the Suns would be a loaded team next year if they add T-Mac and are able to use the $14.1 million in cap space they'll have this summer to bring in a top free agent.



The Pacers (with Al Harrington and Ron Artest as the bait) and the Heat (with Eddie Jones, Caron Butler and the No. 19) also have tried to get into the mix. However, it sounds like the Magic aren't as high on either offer.

The Rockets obviously are still in the mix. On Monday, Francis told his agent he did want to play in Orlando. Francis' dig, combined with a flurry of criticism around the league about the lopsided deal, sent the Magic looking for alternative trade partners late Monday night. The Magic spoke with Francis' agent, Jeff Fried, on Tuesday, and feelings seem to be thawing a bit. The base-year compensation concerns about Francis are overblown, according to sources. There are workable combinations of players that would make Francis tradable immediately if the Magic choose to pull the trigger.

All of this trade talk is creating enormous confusion around the league. According to several sources, the Magic were leaning toward taking Dwight Howard with the No. 1 pick if they made the trade with the Rockets. But if they pull the trigger on the Phoenix deal, Emeka Okafor appears to make more sense to them, according to sources.

That's assuming the Magic keep the pick. There's also talk the Hawks, who are desperately trying to get their hands on Howard, still are talking to Orlando about acquiring the No. 1 pick.

The Magic's indecision also is holding up several other deals.

While the Suns are dangling their No. 7 in trade talks with the Magic, sources claim they have several other potential deals in the works for the No. 7, as well.

The Pacers also are in limbo because of the deal. They've been trying to move up into the top 10 picks, using Harrington as trade bait. Obviously their preference would be to get McGrady for Harrington rather than a draft pick, but at some point they'll have to cut their losses and try to get another deal with Harrington.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls at three also are causing some trouble. It appears they've narrowed their choices to Luol Deng, Ben Gordon or Andre Iguodala. Deng and Gordon are both coveted by teams below them, which could put the Bulls in a good trade situation.

One rumor that won't go away? The Bulls swapping the No. 3 to Washington for the No. 5 and Jarvis Hayes. The Wizards would then select Luol Deng at No. 3. The Bulls would take Iguodala at No. 5. The Bulls also still are considering a trade of Scottie Pippen and the No. 3 pick to Indiana for Harrington. If the Pacers got the No. 3 pick, they'd likely take Shaun Livingston. The Bulls also might try to move down to get two first-round picks a little later. They, too, are high on Luke Jackson.

Meanwhile, the Arlington Daily Herald reported Wednesday that the Bulls and Celtics were talking about a Paul Pierce for the No. 3 and Tyson Chandler. That deal doesn't even come close working salary-wise, and it seems like an awful deal for the Celtics -- regardless of who they'd pick at No. 3. If the Celtics did this deal, they'd have to take back one more burdensome salary from the Bulls -- likely either Jerome Williams or Eddie Robinson. The deal would be a slam dunk for the Bulls, who have wanted to trade the No. 3 and Chandler all along.

Los Angeles Clippers: There's still a ton of confusion over who the Clippers will draft at No. 4. The growing consensus is they're leaning toward Ben Gordon, who shut down the rest of his workouts after a stellar performance in L.A. on Sunday. However, other sources insist the Clippers haven't made a decision yet and are still considering Devin Harris (of whom coach Mike Dunleavy is very fond) and Shaun Livingston (considered one of the top two or three prospects in the draft). Why do the Clippers matter? Several veteran teams are trying to trade into the top 10 in an effort to land Livingston. If the Clippers take him at four, there's no use. If they take Gordon, there could be a deal made below that.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards aren't going to find anything at No. 5 that makes a lot of sense for them. They too have been active in trade talks, either trying to move up (to Chicago for the No. 3) or to possibly move out of the first round all together. The Pacers, Rockets and Mavericks all have been talking with Washington about a swap of the No. 5 for a veteran.

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks still are licking their wounds after watching the Bobcats pull off the deal they couldn't to move up to No. 2. Atlanta wanted Howard desperately and still is talking with the Magic in an effort to get the No. 1 pick. It probably isn't going to happen. At No. 6 and No. 17, the returns begin diminishing. Everyone assumes the Hawks will take Livingston if he's still on the board at No. 6, but don't be surprised if they end up moving the pick for a veteran. They have enough cap space to absorb just about any salary a team wants to throw at them. If Josh Smith doesn't go here, he could be in free fall.

Phoenix Suns: If the Suns land McGrady, the No. 7 is going to Orlando. If they don't, there's still a decent chance they'll move their pick. Suns sources told Insider on Tuesday they might end up sending their pick to a team under the cap who's willing to give up a good player and absorb a contract or two (Howard Eisley, anyone?), giving the Suns more cap flexibility down the road.

Toronto Raptors: Portland has targeted the Raptors as a possible trade partner, as have the Jazz and the Pacers. The Raptors are said to be leaning toward taking Luke Jackson at No. 8. For teams like Indiana that are trying to grab Jackson, this may be the place they have to be to land him.

Philadelphia 76ers: They're still trying to move up to No. 3 with the Bulls. However the Bulls are asking for Samuel Dalembert, which is way too high a price. The Sixers aren't trading Dalembert. If they stay at No. 9, the word around the league Tuesday night was that they're leaning toward selecting Latvia's Andris Biedrins.

Biedrins blew off the Sixers for a meeting on Tuesday in an apparent effort to get him to drop to Golden State, but the Sixers are saying they still are considering drafting him. If that happens, Stanford's Josh Childress could be a guy who starts free-falling.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The trade for Aleksandar Pavlovic on Tuesday night addresses Cleveland's need for a swingman. The Cavs have been in heavy trade talks with several teams about moving the No. 10 pick. The Celtics are trying to get up here to make sure they land Robert Swift. The Pacers and Mavericks also have had their eyes on this pick.

Golden State Warriors: The 76ers really could screw things up for the Warriors if they select Biedrins. The Warriors essentially have promised Biedrins they'll take him at No. 11. Biedrins quit working out a few weeks ago with a "foot infection." If he's off the board, there's a lot of talk the Warriors may go ahead and grab Robert Swift here. That's the worst nightmare for the Celtics and Jazz.

Seattle SuperSonics: Again, the team prefers trading the pick, and depending on what happens ahead of them, they may find a willing partner in Utah or Boston. Utah would give the Sonics No. 16 and No. 21 in a heartbeat to get to No. 12. The Sonics probably could get their two targets -- Al Jefferson and Anderson Varejao -- with Utah's picks.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers acquired the No. 22 pick from New Jersey and now own three picks in the first round. They'd like to package two and move up, but so far they've been stymied. Would they select Sebastian Telfair at No. 13? That's the other question that seems to be swirling around the league. The Blazers want him and aren't convinced he'll be there at No. 22.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz appear to be the most set team in the draft. There's roughly six guys they're seriously considering with their three picks. Sergei Monya and Rafael Araujo appear to be locks if they're on the board at Nos. 14 and 16. Robert Swift is also in the mix there. Kris Humphries, Al Jefferson and Anderson Varejao are the three players that will get a look at No. 21. The Jazz still could move up, but as of Tuesday night, that appears unlikely.

Boston Celtics: With three first-round picks and two of them (Nos. 24 and 25) losing value by the day, the Celtics are trying to salvage something out of what they once believed was a deep draft. The Celtics appear convinced Swift, the guy they want, won't be on the board at No. 15. They're trying to move up, but they're not getting a lot of interest in No. 24 and No. 25.