Wednesday, June 30, 2004

McGrady says trade helps both teams

Florida Today

ORLANDO, Fla. - When the Orlando Magic's 21-61 season ended in April, Tracy McGrady promised that he if he did eventually leave, he would make sure the Magic got plenty of talent in return.

Growing up as a Magic fan in nearby Auburndale, McGrady remembered the shock and devastation felt when franchise center Shaquille O'Neal jilted Orlando in the summer of 1996 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now that the long-awaited trade between the Magic and the Houston Rockets is official, McGrady said he thinks both teams came out of the deal in good shape.

In Houston, McGrady will team with 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming in what could be the NBA's most formidable duo considering that O'Neal and Kobe Bryant might be on the verge of breaking up in Los Angeles. In return, the Magic get the point guard they desperately need (Steve Francis), a physical interior presence who can block shots (Kelvin Cato) and more wing scoring (Cuttino Mobley).

"I really think the Magic are getting three solid players and they should be all right next season," McGrady said. "I really think it's a trade that can benefit both organizations."

As late as Monday, Magic general manager John Weisbrod said he was still weighing offers from four teams. Indiana, Phoenix and Miami were reportedly the others involved, but they were not willing to unload the number and quality of players that the Rockets were.

Francis is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the Magic's haul. For months, Weisbrod has said that he felt the Magic were in greater need of a top-notch point guard than a dominating center. The Magic missed Darrell Armstrong last season after he was not re-signed. His replacement, Tyronn Lue, struggled mightily on defense and seemed reluctant to push the ball on the fast break.

That shouldn't be a problem for Francis, one of the game's most athletic point guards. He should fare much better against bigger Eastern Conference guards such as Jason Kidd, Baron Davis and Chauncey Billups because of his strength and athleticism.

Jeff Van Gundy used Francis as both a point guard and a shooting guard in Houston, something that allowed him to run off screens and get open shots. A big part of the Magic's thinking in trading for Jameer Nelson in last week's draft was so that Francis could play some shooting guard.

And if Grant Hill is able to make a return from an ankle injury that has limited him to 47 games the past four seasons, the Magic will have two players capable of dominating a game in many ways. In 2000-01, Francis became just the 18th player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists. And last season he joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Hill as the only players to average 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of his first five seasons in the NBA.

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