Both take shots at McGrady's leadership

Updated: July 1, 2004, 4:39 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Orlando Magic general manager John Weisbrod believes the Magic will be a whole lot better without departed star Tracy McGrady.

Steve Francis
Steve Francis said Orlando's acquisition of him, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato will help the Magic turn the page on a 21-61 season.

Weisbrod took some parting shots Wednesday at his former player, implying McGrady wasn't capable of leading a winning team.

"It starts with how you define a superstar," Weisbrod said. "I think a superstar is defined by wins, by making the players around him better and by making the team better. On that part, my perception is a little different than most."

Marking only the fourth time a defending scoring champion has ever been traded, McGrady was sent to the Houston Rockets in exchange for point guard Steve Francis, shooting guard Cuttino Mobley and forward Kelvin Cato on Tuesday. Orlando also parted with power forward Juwan Howard, and guards Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines.

McGrady was an All-Star in each of his four years in Orlando, averaging 28.1 points, and quickly became the Magic's most popular player. But his behavior during last season's 61-loss disaster convinced Weisbrod that McGrady was part of the problem.

In McGrady's place are players who want to win.

"We're here to fill voids the Magic know they have lacked in the last couple of seasons," said Francis, a three-time All-Star. "You're going to get a gutsy effort every single night from all three of us. There's no trying to be too cute or trying to be too cool basketball from us."

Added Mobley: "I don't think we have a loser mentality at all."

Francis said it was obvious the Magic lost heart last season after an early 19-game losing streak. It was during the slide that McGrady -- selected team captain in the offseason -- startled the organization when he openly discussed quitting.

"You have to display a sense of urgency. I thought their players didn't do that," Francis said. "Once they got on a losing streak, it looked like they hung their heads."

Weisbrod said that by the All-Star break, it was clear McGrady wanted out. When McGrady told team owner Rich DeVos two weeks ago he wanted to be traded to a contender, that made it easier for the Magic to part ways.

"We just came to the conclusion that if he wanted to leave, we thought that could very well be best for our basketball team," Weisbrod said.

McGrady can opt out of his seven-year, $93-million contract after next season, so it appeared he held leverage through the unspoken threat of his team receiving no compensation if he left. But Weisbrod refused to limit his talks to teams where McGrady wanted to play.

"There were seven or eight teams that were perfectly comfortable trading for Tracy whether he wanted to go there or not, whether he would opt in or not," Weisbrod said. "So, we certainly weren't in any kind of corner."

Last season, Francis averaged 16.6 points and Mobley 15.8 as Houston's starting backcourt. At times, they struggled against new coach Jeff Van Gundy's desire to make center Yao Ming the team's focus and both players saw their statistics drop from the previous season.

"We were basically a half-court team," said Francis, who shot a career-low 40 percent last year. "You know we wanted to try to run, but it was tough. We didn't really work on running in practice enough for us to be real comfortable in the games with running."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press