Trade clears expansion-draft hurdle

Updated: June 23, 2004, 1:27 PM ET
ESPN.com news reports

The Tracy McGrady-for-Steve Francis deal is still on track after Tuesday's expansion draft.

ESPN's Jim Gray reported Monday that the Rockets and Magic had finalized the deal pending the outcome of the expanion draft. The multi-player deal could have been derailed if the expansion Charlotte Bobcats had selected unprotected players included in the proposed trade.

Tuesday, June 22
Tracy McGrady can opt out of his contract next year. He made it clear that he will not re-sign with Orlando. So the Magic felt like they had to do something, so they started to listen to offers.

We reported on Friday that Indiana had made an offer and Houston made an offer. When Indiana would not put Ron Artest in the deal, Orlando felt like this offer of Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato was the best one they could get to put a star player in Orlando and also try to rebuild a franchise.

So they felt like with the No. 1 pick along with Francis, that's a good start for rebuilding. ... The problems Francis had with Jeff Van Gundy were obvious all season. We talked about it many times. It was clear when the season was over, Van Gundy was going to move Francis. There was some talk about going to Seattle for Ray Allen ... when you get a chance to get a guy like Tracy McGrady, you try and do it.
Depending on which additional players are in the trade, the deal might be held up. Since Francis' contract extension went into effect this year, he is considered a base-year player, meaning the Rockets can take back only 50 percent of his contract value in trade until June 30.

With the right players included, the deal could be completed immediately. However, a different combination of players and salaries would require the Rockets to wait until after June 30 for Francis' base-year status to expire. In that scenario, though, the trade could not be completed until after July 15 because of the NBA's moratorium on player movement from July 1-15.

Despite the timing issues, there are no major obstacles now to prevent the trade from happening.

McGrady would not comment Tuesday on any potential trades.

"I don't know what you're talking about," McGrady said when questioned by the Orlando Sentinel.

The New York Times reported that the Magic may be reconsidering the trade because of Francis' comments about not wanting to play in Orlando. Francis, however, has no leverage or veto power.

"[Magic general manager] John Weisbrod is setting a bad precedent by caving in to this guy," one agent told the Times.

The Times, as well as newspapers in Florida, Arizona and Texas, are reporting that the Magic have entered "serious discussions" with the Suns. Orlando reportedly wants Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and Phoenix's first-round draft pick Thursday (No. 7 overall) for McGrady. But the Times also stated that most league executives still expect McGrady to end up in Houston.

Provided the trade goes through, the other players believed to be involved in the deal include Orlando's Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines, and Houston's Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato.

Jeff Fried, Francis' agent, told the Houston Chronicle on Monday that Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson told him the trade was not complete but was close.

"I spoke to Carroll and it was not a done deal," Fried told the paper. "It's close. It's subject to a few contingencies."

McGrady can opt out of his seven-year, $93 million contract after next season, and has said he will exercise that option unless Orlando improves dramatically from the 21-61 record this past season. But the Magic have vowed to trade him, rather than letting the four-time All Star leave without any compensation -- like Shaquille O'Neal did eight years ago when he signed with the Lakers as a free agent.

Since McGrady's declaration, trade rumors involving the NBA's leading scorer have been flying, although last weekend the Magic denied that any trades are on the horizon.

In fact, Weisbrod said Saturday that the club is still in contract discussions with McGrady.

"I certainly will not confirm that T-Mac is going to be traded," Weisbrod said. "I'm going to continue to say on T-Mac what I have said for the last month, which is that Arn [Tellem, McGrady's agent] and I are in discussions."

McGrady told the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday that he could not discuss the situation "until it's official ... after the draft."

Added McGrady: "I can't let my tricks out of the bag. I don't have any comment."

Francis, who has a $75 million contract, has told the Rockets that he does not want to be traded to Orlando. The Magic had the NBA's worst record last season while the Rockets made the playoffs. But Gray reports that the deal does not hinge on his approval.

"I thought we were really building something, something very good in Houston," Francis said. "Obviously that's not the direction they want to go. I still think we could be a very good team.

"I'm not crying. Like I told you before, I know this is a business. Things like that happen. I'm not mad. I'm not upset. This is what they're trying to do. But like I said, I still think we could be something."

Francis wouldn't comment about the possibility of going to the Magic.

Fried told the newspaper that Francis wasn't happy about the prospects of playing for the Magic in a rebuilding situation.

"Steve's preference is to not go to Orlando," Fried said. "Steve's tasted the playoffs. [The Rockets] got a series under their belts. He was looking forward to going further with the same Rockets team but with another year of experience together. This is certainly not his preference. He loves Houston."

Francis told Houston television station KRIV on Monday that if he goes to Orlando, he wants Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal as a teammate. He said he talked to O'Neal on Monday.

Nate Peake, another of Francis' agents, told KRIV that the Rockets and Magic may need to get another team involved for a trade to work

"Just like Tracy McGrady made it be known that he would like to come to Houston, I believe Steve Francis should be able to go to a place where he can succeed at," Peake said.

Francis has averaged 19.3 points, 6.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds in five seasons with the Rockets.

McGrady led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 28 points per game last season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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