Orlando expected to explore trades
Tracy McGrady, who can become a free agent next year, informed the Magic on Friday that he does not want to re-sign with the club, league sources told the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today.
In order to avoid losing McGrady without compensation, the Magic are expected to explore trade options. McGrady, who has led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, should draw heavy interest.
Magic spokesman Joel Glass declined comment on the reports. McGrady didn't answer phone calls, and someone who answered the intercom at his gated home said he wasn't there Friday night. His agent, Arn Tellem, didn't return a call from The Associated Press.
The Sentinel cited the Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns as potential suitors. One source told the paper that the Magic have asked the Pacers for as many as four players -- Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender, Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley -- in return.
Although McGrady could not be reached for comment on Friday, he has said he would opt to leave if he didn't think the Magic could improve quickly. Orlando fell to a league-worst 21-61 record next season and has the No. 1 pick in the draft.
McGrady had hoped the team would trade the pick for veteran help, but the club wants to keep the selection. On Friday, the team worked out UConn's Emeka Okafor, and plans to do the same with high schooler Dwight Howard on Saturday. The Magic is expected to use the No. 1 pick on one of those two players.
Magic general manager John Weisbrod did say, however, he has received trade bids that are intriguing and getting better by the day.
"There are teams offering three guys and their first-round pick. Three established players and a lottery pick is certainly a respectable offer for a team that has a lot of holes to fill," Weisbrod said. "It comes down to making a judgment of how special you think one of these two kids can be."
McGrady had been pressured by Weisbrod to make a decision about his long-range future in Orlando. Weisbrod does not want to go into the 2004-05 season uncertain about McGrady's status.
McGrady's seven-year, $93 million contract runs through the 2006-07 season. But he can opt out of the deal after next season.
Magic owner Rich Devos was expected to meet with McGrady at some point. It is unsure whether that meeting took place on Friday.
Devos was hoping to persuade McGrady to stay, citing the No. 1 pick and the possibility of Grant Hill coming back from injury.
Instead, it looks like McGrady will follow Shaq out of town -- although this time, the Magic are determined to get something in return.
"That was eight years ago and we're still trying to get our feet underneath us," Magic senior vice president Pat Williams said. "At least with the McGrady thing, we're wiser, we have greater insights into the whole process and we're better equipped to deal with it."
If McGrady is traded, he would be the fourth defending scoring champion in NBA history to be dealt away, and the first since the Buffalo Braves sent Bob McAdoo to the New York Knicks in 1976.
McGrady signed with his hometown team in 2000, thinking he and Hill could turn the Magic into championship contenders.
But Hill's injured left ankle has limited him to 37 games in four seasons, leaving McGrady with the task of carrying the team.
Despite his league-leading 28 points per game, McGrady couldn't make the Magic winners last season.
Evidently, McGrady doesn't think the drafting of Okafor would provide immediate help.
"That's his opinion," Okafor said Friday.
Yet Okafor, a two-time national defensive player of the year, would immediately toughen up Orlando's play in the paint. The Magic finished last in almost every defensive statistic last season.
Okafor averaged almost 4.3 blocks per game in his three seasons at Connecticut, and his 411 career blocks rank seventh in NCAA history. He also averaged 10.6 rebounds.
The knock on Okafor is his offense, although it improved at Connecticut. His career average of 13.8 points has many wondering if his ceiling is limited.
"I'll try to help in as many ways as I can," Okafor said. "I'm not a big guy about talking, 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.' I pretty much just show up and let my play do the talking, and come season time, everybody's questions will be answered, good or bad."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.