Shaq gives advice to McGrady
Ex-Magic star tells friend to relax before deciding future
By Jerry Brewer | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted June 15, 2004
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Shaquille O'Neal has been there before. He has been Tracy McGrady, a frustrated Orlando Magic superstar pondering an escape.
With the Magic again at catastrophe's welcome mat, it is only proper to ask the Big Fella to opine.
"I talk to him all the time," said O'Neal, a close friend of McGrady who has become a sounding board in this stay-or-go dilemma. "I really can't tell you what we talk about, but I just tell him to take it easy and just sit back and see how things are going to go."
O'Neal has chosen to respect McGrady's privacy and offered no insight into which way his buddy is leaning. But he did defend McGrady, who has been criticized for harsh comments to reporters about his team and fantasizing over trade scenarios.
"T-Mac is a very emotional guy," O'Neal said. "He has a lot on his shoulders, and sometimes he speaks out of emotion."
Recapping the McGrady/Magic dilemma: Owner Rich DeVos and team president Bob Vander Weide expect to meet with their superstar Friday. They want to look him in the eye and try to get a glimpse at his heart.
McGrady has three more years on his Magic contract, but he can opt out after next season. General Manager John Weisbrod has said the team wants him to sign a contract extension before the season begins.
Otherwise, the Magic would trade McGrady out of fear that he would bolt and leave them with nothing in return.
Eight years ago, O'Neal left the Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent. The organization lost a transcendent figure at center, received no compensation and had to start over. Four years later, it signed McGrady, who has blossomed into Orlando's second superstar.
"Shaqitis," a condition that causes the Magic and their fans to think in the past, prompted this panic over McGrady. It is overblown to say the meeting Friday will decide McGrady's fate, but it has become apparent McGrady is getting close to taking up the Magic on that trade.
"I always tell him, from experience, just to sit back and relax," O'Neal said. "Whatever happens, happens."
His mind is on the NBA Finals, but sources in Los Angeles say O'Neal has reason for an even greater interest in the McGrady situation. Reports are true that O'Neal, who returns to his Isleworth home every summer, has envisioned an Orlando reunion some day. It's a long shot, though, and some say he only mentions it out of his frustration with the dysfunctional Lakers. Chances are the Magic would have to retain McGrady to welcome back O'Neal.
O'Neal has two more years left on his Lakers contract, but he can opt out after next season, too. He has declared he'd like to buy the Magic franchise once he retires. Teammate Horace Grant, another former Magic player, said O'Neal mentions Orlando often and keeps up with Magic happenings.
It's a big jump from curiosity to homecoming, though. Besides, if McGrady leaves, the place might be barren.