Thursday, June 17, 2004
Magic ready to let McGrady go?
By Chad Ford
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The NBA season might be over, but the real season is just beginning. Trade talk has been heating up for weeks, and it should reach a fever pitch today as we get within a week of the NBA draft. Insider has its ear to the ground. Here's what we're hearing:
# Magic moving McGrady? We're still waiting to hear the outcome of a meeting scheduled this week between Magic owner Rich DeVos and Tracy McGrady. Apparently, Magic GM John Weisbrod has already made up his mind.
Multiple NBA sources told Insider on Wednesday that they've had discussions with Weisbrod about trading for McGrady and that he's open to a trade. Weisbrod asked McGrady last week to tell the organization whether he planned to opt out of his contract next summer.
If McGrady was dead set on leaving, the Magic would attempt to trade him in an effort to get some value back in return. If McGrady could live with the Magic's rebuilding plan, they'd go out of their way to rebuild quickly in an effort to put the Magic back into playoff contention.
While McGrady claims that he's going into the meeting with DeVos with an "open mind", sources throughout the league are claiming that McGrady prefers to be moved to a contender.
"Of course, I'll meet with Mr. DeVos. Why wouldn't I?" McGrady told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday. "We'll talk. We'll definitely sit down. I'll let him know where I stand, and I'm sure he'll try to sell me on his belief that things will be better here. We'll put everything on the table. . . . What they can and can't do [to improve the team]. I'll get some things off my chest. But at the end of the day, I have to do what's best for me."
"I've been rebuilding here for four years. I'm definitely not trying to rebuild."
The Magic will bring in Emeka Okafor and Dwight Howard on Friday and Saturday in a last-ditch effort to convince McGrady that one of the two top draft choices could immediately help the Magic.
Grant Hill has also been involved. He's told McGrady that his ankle is as strong as it's been since he broke it in 2000 and he's ready to go for next season.
Apparently, the Magic already believe that it won't be enough. Over the past week trade talk has intensified. The Magic don't want to move T-Mac, but they're not going to take any chances. Losing him for nothing would be devastating to the franchise.
Where might he go? The rumors were flying fast and furious on Wednesday. Among the possibilities we're hearing:
Suns: The Suns have been angling to land Kobe Bryant this summer, but they may have an easier, even more attractive option with McGrady. The word around the league is that the Suns are willing to part with Shawn Marion, Casey Jacobsen, the rights to Milos Vujanic and the No. 7 pick in the draft for McGrady. Those same sources say that the Magic want the Suns to substitute Joe Johnson for Jacobsen in the deal. That could be a sticking point for the Suns, who absolutely want to keep Johnson.
This deal would be a slam dunk for the Suns. If they could make this move, they'd still be roughly $9 million under the cap this summer. They could get to $15 million under if they found a way to move Jahidi White to the Bobcats. The Suns could then use their cap space to make a run at a point guard like Steve Nash or a big guy like Mehmet Okur and/or Vlade Divac.
It also makes some sense for the Magic. Marion is capable of being an all-star in the East. The Magic could use their No. 1 pick on a big guy like Okafor or Howard and then turn around and use the No. 7 pick on a point guard like Devin Harris, Ben Gordon or Shaun Livingston. A core of Marion, Jacobsen, the two lottery picks and several Magic role players would be a great start for the Magic.
Pacers: Team president Donnie Walsh said on Tuesday that he's been actively pursuing McGrady. "We could make it work, absolutely," Walsh told the Indianapolis Star. "I have spoken to somebody in their organization, and I sensed there was interest there. What they're telling me is, there's a good chance he's going to be traded. So, yeah, a player like that out there, we're definitely going to be interested."
The Magic want Jermaine O'Neal, but that isn't going to happen. Instead, they'd have to settle for a combination of Al Harrington and either Ron Artest or Jonathan Bender. If that's the way the Magic decide to go, they'd have to wait until June 30th to make that deal. That's the day that both Artest and Bender lose their base-year compensation status, making them available to trade.
The deal's obviously a slam dunk for the Pacers -- though it's a little harder to swallow if they have to lose Artest. Still, having a chance to land a superstar like McGrady comes along only once or twice a decade. The combo of T-Mac and O'Neal would likely shift the balance of power in the East again.
The move also makes some sense from Orlando's perspective. Artest would give them a bona fide all-star in return for McGrady. Harrington is a solid option at the three or the four. They also don't break the bank for either star as both are signed to reasonable deals.
Clippers: The Clippers are also rumored to be in the mix. They could offer a package of Corey Maggette, the No. 2 pick, Marko Jaric and Melvin Ely to the Magic in return for McGrady. Because the Clippers are under the salary cap, they can absorb the difference in salaries.
This could be a very attractive option for the Magic. Having both the No. 1 and No. 2 picks allows the Magic to make a run at both Dwight Howard and Okafor. Or, it would allow them to trade the No. 2 to a team like Charlotte or Atlanta and pocket the No. 4 or the No. 6 and No. 17 picks. They could use the other lottery on one of the top point guards in the draft and the No. 17 pick on one of the young Euros.
Even with McGrady on the books, the Clippers would still have enough cap room this summer to make a run at a top free agent. With a combo of Elton Brand and T-Mac anchoring the team, the Clips could likely re-sign Quentin Richardson and make a run at a point guard like Steve Nash or Jamal Crawford in free agency.
Grizzlies: The Grizzlies will also be active in the Kobe situation this summer, though landing Kobe will be much harder for them to pull off given that I'm sure the last thing Mitch Kupchak wants to do is trade away Kobe to his mentor. The Grizzlies are loaded with young talent and could put together a nice package of Pau Gasol, James Posey, Shane Battier and Earl Watson for T-Mac. Add a player like Emeka Okafor to that mix and the Magic could sport an all new starting five next year.
The Grizzlies would have to give up a lot of their depth to make that trade happen, however, and would be very reluctant to do the deal if it meant giving up Gasol.
"If the Grizzlies did that," one source told Insider, "how much different would they be than Orlando? Depth is the reason the Grizzlies won 50 games. Without it, they're one injury away from heading back to the lottery."
Rockets: There's also a lot of talk about a Steve Francis-and-Bostjan Nachbar-for-T-Mac swap that's been running through the league for weeks. Jeff Van Gundy wants a real point guard running the show and prefers that his No. 1 scoring option not also be the point guard. The Magic have a real need at the point, though it's tough to see how adding just Francis to the mix changes the Magic fortunes next year.
Heat: The Heat have been dangling Caron Butler as trade bait around the league in an effort to get either Brian Grant or Eddie Jones off the books. The Heat would prefer to move Jones, but in this case, the Magic would have more interest in a Butler/Grant deal. That may be enough to scare off the Heat. But then again, a combo of Lamar Odom, Dwyane Wade and T-Mac could be devastating.
# Abdur-Rahim gone? Several sources claim that the Blazers all but have a deal in place to move Shareef Abdur-Rahim. The question is where? As Insider first reported last week, several league sources are claiming that the Blazers are talking to the Nets about trading Abdur-Rahim for Kerry Kittles, Aaron Williams and the No. 22 pick.
# Chasing Stojakovic: After Chris Webber's derogatory comments about Peja Stojakovic after the Kings lost in the second round, several teams have inquired about Peja Stojakovic's availability. One team that could make some sense here is the Pacers. The Kings might consider an Al Harrington-and-Ron Artest-for-Stojakovic-and-Doug Christie deal, though giving up Artest may just be too much to swallow for the Pacers.
# Sheed a Knick?: The Lakers aren't the only team that may lose a valuable player or two this summer. We've all just assumed that the Rasheed Wallace will re-sign with the Pistons this summer. They can offer him more money and he just won a ring there. That, however, doesn't seem to be gospel.
"That's where he wanted to go from Portland and we tried like hell to get it done," said his agent Bill Strickland, adding it's too early to speculate on whether Wallace will sign with Detroit.
"Don't get me wrong, I think they're a great group of guys that I'm playing with," Wallace said. "But my family, they are going to have the last decision."
# Opting out: Several players have exercised opt-out clauses in contracts over the course of the last week that could have a major impact in free agency.
Karl Malone opted out of his contract on Wednesday. His agent, Dwight Manley, claims that if Malone is healthy enough to play next year, he'll likely play with the Lakers. But don't be so sure. As long as the Mailman's knee checks out OK, there will be other contenders bidding for his services. Malone wants a ring in the worst way. The way things are going in L.A., it's unlikely to happen there. Derek Fisher is also expected to opt out by Friday.
Gary Payton has until June 30th to opt out of his contract. But can he get more than the $5.4 million he's due from the Lakers in the open market? Probably not. But with how poorly things have turned in L.A., he may leave anyway.
The Spurs' Bruce Bowen surprised everyone by opting out of the last year of his deal. He gave up $4 million in guaranteed money. It's hard to believe he'll get more than that on the open market. The move allows the Spurs to clear more cap room in an effort to make a big splash in free agency this summer.
The Spurs' No. 1 target is believed to be Kobe Bryant. By clearing Bowen off the books, the Spurs now have the necessary cash to offer Bryant the max. A combo of Bryant and Duncan, along with Tony Parker running the point, has to be scaring the hell out of everyone in the league right now.
Folks are also waiting to see what Erick Dampier is going to do. The Warriors' big man has until June 30th to opt out. Dampier is still hoping that the Warriors come to the table with a contract extension. But short of that, the math, believe it or not, may make sense for Dampier to opt out. He has $16.9 million remaining on his deal right now. However, after two more seasons in the league, it's unlikely that Dampier, who turns 30 in July, will command a large contract after this one expires. If he can talk a team into a six-year contract now, even at a pay cut to the mid-level exception, the numbers work out in Damp's favor.
Another big question mark is Latrell Sprewell, who has until the 30th to opt out of his contract. He has only one year remaining on his deal. It's unlikely he could command anywhere close to the $30-plus million he's owed by the T-Wolves the next two seasons.
Marcus Camby did exercise his opt-out clause, but from all appearances it appears that he already has a deal in place to re-up with the Nuggets.
Brian Skinner's agent, Joel Bell, told Insider that his client plans to opt out of his contract on June 20th, making him an unrestricted free agent. Skinner's name was on the Bucks' unprotected list. However, once Skinner opts out, he'll be ineligible to be selected by the Bobcats.
T-Wolves guard Troy Hudson will opt out of his contract. The prevailing rumor is that the Grizzlies are hot on his trail.