By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Dec 18 2010 3:22PM
The Orlando Magic decided not to stand pat on Saturday, blowing up a team with championship aspirations that had been in first place in the Southeast Division for most of the first month of the season. On the same day that the team sent Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Orlando agreed to jettison forwards Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus, center Marcin Gortat, a future first-round pick and cash to Phoenix for veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu, guard Jason Richardson and second-year forward Earl Clark.
All-pro center Dwight Howard is on board with all of the deals the Magic made, according to a source, feeling that Orlando did not have the same energy this season that it had had in the last couple of years. Howard can opt out of his contract after next season and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012, the same offseason that New Orleans guard Chris Paul would be free. That would obviously create a free agent frenzy similar to that of this past summer, when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade headed a star-studded free agent class.
The mega deals completely change the face of the Magic,who are sitting with a solid 16-9 record this season, and reunites Turkoglu with the team where he played his best basketball, helping lead Orlando to the Finals in 2009 at power forward alongside Howard. It also will reunite Arenas and Richardson, who starred together early in their careers in Golden State.
But Turkoglu has been a disaster ever since. He flamed out after signing a big free agent contract in Toronto, lasting just one season with the Raptors before being dealt during the offseason in a trade for guard Leandro Barbosa. And Turkoglu also struggled in Phoenix. The Suns had hoped he could play the hybrid power forward position that they've used to great effect in past seasons with Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. But Turkoglu never figured out a way to play with Steve Nash, and his energy was so low, a team source said, that he was beginning to drag down the effectiveness of backup guard Goran Dragic as well.
"It was almost like he retired," the source said.
The Suns had to do something, barely on the periphery of the playoff race in the west at 12-13 after making the Western Conference finals last season. Phoenix needs size, and the 6-foot-10 Gortat should be able to step in immediately and help inside. Pietrus had fallen out of favor with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, but seems tailor made to play the up-tempo style Phoenix loves to run with Nash at the controls. The gamble is with the 33-year-old Carter, who has not been the same high-flying player he'd been earlier in his career.
The hope is that the Suns can get Carter interested "in being a helluva player again," the source said, but the gamble is minimal because Carter's $18 million contract for next season is only guaranteed for $4 million next season.
The Orlando-Phoenix deal was first reported by ESPN.com.
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