Denton: Magic Make Major Moves; Acquire Big Names
By John Denton
December 18, 2010
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic made two bold moves on Saturday to dramatically revamp their roster to championship form, reacquiring small forward Hedo Turkoglu and also getting Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark in two trades with the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns.
The Magic dealt Rashard Lewis to Washington for Arenas, giving them a dynamic guard with more scoring punch. Orlando then executed a six-player deal with the Suns where they will get Turkoglu, Richardson and Clark in exchange for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus.
The deals vastly altered the look of a Magic team that had lost five of the past six games heading into Saturday night’s game at Amway Center against the Philadelphia 76ers. With the Magic sitting at 16-9, President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith clearly felt the team needed a shakeup to vault it back among the game’s elite.
The trade gives the Magic three new projected starters – Turkoglu at power forward, Arenas at shooting guard and Richardson at small forward. Smith was able to use the big contracts for Lewis and Carter and some of Orlando’s depth – arguably the best in the league – to restructure the roster.
The Magic will most likely unveil their new-look roster for the first time Monday night in Atlanta against the Hawks. The Magic then play the Dallas Mavericks at the Amway Center in Orlando on Tuesday.
Turkoglu spent five seasons in Orlando from 2004-09, helping the Magic reach the 2009 NBA Finals. He enjoyed his finest season in the NBA in Orlando in 2007-08, averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He’s struggled since leaving Orlando for more money in Toronto and spent the past two seasons with the Raptors and the Suns.
Back this season after serving a 50-game suspension last year, Arenas showed this season he still has plenty of explosiveness and scoring ability. He has three years and $62.4 million remaining on his contract after this season.
Arenas, a 10th year pro who turns 29 on Jan. 6, averaged 17.3 points a game this season with the Wizards while playing in 21 games and starting 14 of them. He’s shot a low percentage from both the floor (39.4 percent) and the 3-point line (32.4 percent). But he’s shown his explosiveness in his eight 20-point games and his two 30-point games.
He put on a showcase for the Magic back on Nov. 27 when he scored a season-best 31 points. He made just nine of 23 shots and only one of six 3-pointers that night, but got the free throw line 14 times with 12 makes. Arenas is expected to start at shooting guard for the Magic and spend some time at point guard alongside of Jameer Nelson.
Richardson, who turns 30 on Jan. 20, can play both shooting guard and small forward. He averaged 19.3 points and 4.4 rebounds a game this season for the Suns. He’s shot 47 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from the 3-point range. He scored 29 points earlier in the week against the Minnesota Timberwolves and had big games earlier this season against Denver (39 points on Nov. 28) and the Los Angeles Lakers (35 points on Nov. 14).
Both Richardson and Arenas are familiar with Smith from their time together in Golden State. Arenas played with the Warriors for two years while Smith worked there and still considers the Magic GM to be a close friend and mentor. Richardson played in Golden State for the first six years of his 10-year NBA career.
Lewis, who was making $20.5 million this season and was still owed $45.8 million over the next two years, slumped this season in Orlando. Carter’s play also took a dip this season in Orlando, and his $17.3 million contract was attractive to teams because next season’s option year can be bought out for $4 million.
Gortat had spent the past four seasons in Orlando, going from a lightly regarded second-round pick to a player considered to be the best backup center in the NBA. The Magic matched a $34 million offer sheet for Gortat in the summer of 2009 to keep him out of Dallas and in Orlando.
Pietrus, who was in his third season in Orlando, has been in and out of the regular rotation with the Magic this season. Pietrus’ time in Orlando was highlighted by his play during the 2009 run to the NBA Finals, but often marred by injuries to his thumb, wrist, knee and ankle.