Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rumor of Orlando Magic Move to KC Persists...

Orlando Sentinel sports columnist Mike Bianchi is keeping Kansas City hoops fans aware of the situation unfolding with the Orlando Magic and a possible move to Kansas City. Bianchi's March 18th column finds him pleading with the team’s management to ante up the big bucks and lure former Laker Phil Jackson back into coaching before the fledgling franchise heads for the Land of Oz.

Before KC hoops fans get too excited about the prospect of the Magic moving into the Sprint Center when it's ready to go in a few years -- consider the history of where the franchise has been. Might we be getting another perennial lackluster sports product (one that gives the Royals a run for their money…or lack thereof)?

After reaching the 1995 NBA Finals (where they were swept by the Houston Rockets) the Orlando Magic has experienced the following:

1. Shaq leaves for LA ('96) -- for which they received nothing in return (unless you count almost a decade of first round playoff exits and consistent .500 records).

2. The hiring of Chuck Daly ('97) -- Daly was a lame duck coach from the moment he arrived. The players (fresh off an organized ousting of Brian Hill the previous year) knew the ex-Pistons coach only had two to three years with the franchise. Daly took the team to two forgettable playoff births in as many years and then retired (again).

3. Holding on to Anfernee Hardaway too long (even if it meant losing “Lil’ Penny” as well)--
By the time the Magic dumped the often injured Hardaway on the Suns in '99, all that the former All-Star could generate in return was an over-the-hill Danny Manning, Pat Garrity (the white equivalent of Sam Perkins), and a couple of draft picks.

4. Grant Hill signed to a seven year contract worth $93 million (2000) -- Hill was acquired through a sign-and-trade with his old team, the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons acquired Ben Wallace, establishing a defensive foundation for their 2004 championship squad, and unloaded an already injured Hill. Hill's contract (which runs through 2007) and health have kept the Magic from advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs. After a dreadful 2003-2004 season, the Magic drafted Dwight Howard with the #1 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft. They said they hoped that the 18-year-old would some day supply the defensive ferociousness that Wallace supplies the Pistons.

5. The Drew Gooden experiment (2003-2004)-- Orlando gives Memphis Mike Miller (Tracy McGrady's best friend on the team) in exchange for Gooden and Gordan Giricek in 2003. The fourth pick in the 2002 draft, Gooden shows some promise in the 2003 playoffs, but then fizzles out last year leading the Magic to deal him to Cleveland in a package that lands them Tony Battie (who you’ll remember as showing great promise as a player…in the Big 12).

6. Tracy McGrady moved for nothing (2004)? ---- Look at the generous trade they made with Houston: McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines to the Rockets for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato.

Result: Mobley has already been shipped to Sacramento for Doug Christie (who is currently M.I.A., or as his bat shit crazy wife says: "not feeling well"). The 30-year-old Cato is averaging 7 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes per game -- typical lackluster stuff for the overpaid Iowa State seven-footer. Francis just got suspended for kicking a photographer during a game, after missing the All-Star game for the first time in four years. The undersized guard has four years/$58 million left on his deal.

Meanwhile, McGrady and Yao Ming have the Rockets at their best regular season record since 1997, when the team featured Barkley, Olajuwon, and Drexler.

Advantage: Houston.

7. Failed (Miserable) 1st round Selections (1991-Present) ---
To name a few:

Brian Williams (Bison Dele), Stanley Roberts, Geert Hammink, Brooks Thompson, David Vaughn, Brian Evans, Johnny Taylor, Courtney Alexander, Jeryl Sasser, Steven Hunter, and Reece Gaines.

8. They Came and Went (*Most of these players were shipped in 2000 in an effort to remake the roster and make room for free agent signings. This resulted in the sign-and-trade acquisitions of Hill and McGrady.) --- A list of players starting or making significant contributions elsewhere in the league:

Chauncey Billups, Ron Mercer, Corey Magette, Matt Harpring, Michael Doleac, Keon Clark, Mike Miller, Gordan Giricek, Keyon Dooling, Early Boykins, and Troy Hudson.

You take away the four year period in the mid-90's ('92-'96) when the Magic enjoyed the media spotlight cast on Shaq, and what you have is the NBA's east coast equivalent of the Clippers. O’Neal was responsible for the franchise reaching 50 wins or better in the three out of four years with the team. In the nine years since he split, the team has failed to reach 45 wins, and has not gotten past the first round of the playoffs (this year's team is on pace to go roughly 39-43).

Assuming we inherit the franchise's current ownership and management (all signs point to yes!!); there is no reason to expect anything but a continuance of the shortcomings that have plagued the franchise for the past decade. A series of ill-timed free agent signings and unsuccessful drafts have caught up to the team, as it went 21-61 last year and appears to be falling short of the playoffs again this year in the .500 friendly Eastern Conference. Next year looks no better for the franchise, as they are already capped out for the 2005-2006 season.

By the time the Sprint Center is ready for action in '07 the remaining Magic players under contract will be: Steve Francis and Hedo Turkoglu (a poor man's Peja Stoijakovic). Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson's rookie contracts call for the team to pick up salary options that year. Given the Magic's history, there's no guarantee the club will extend the contracts beyond that season if the duo's production begins to exceed their price range.

Next to the Bobcats (Charlotte), Hornets (New Orleans), and Raptors (Toronto), Orlando is the least attractive NBA franchise to inherit/acquire. Twenty years after the Kings and the NBA left town for Sacramento, KC taxpayers may be asked to overpay in order just to have an incompetent franchise call cow town home.


Anonymous Ex-Orlando Fan said...

This would have never happened if Nick Anderson had just hit 1 of 4 free throws in the 1995 NBA Finals. Shaq stays, Hardaway stays as a sidekick, all is well.

6:22 PM


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