The Orlando Magic has announced the official extension of Dwight Howard's career by signing a deal for 5 years and at least $85 million. The extension will start next year and the exact amount will depend on next year's salary cap.
The great Darko Debate can come to a close now, becuase Milicic will be signing a 3 year, $21 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. Personally, I'm glad the ordeal is over with. I much rather overpay a potential superstar in Rashard Lewis than overpay a #2 draft pick bust. So, the Magic lose Grant Hill and Darko to free agency, but they pick up a player who nearly matches their output combined (Lewis, 22.4 6.6 2.4 - Darko/Hill 22.4, 9.1, 3.2). I'll take that swap. I think Rashard has the IT factor that the other two don't. He has the personality to drive his teammates and become a vocal leader - something the Magic have been missing since Darrell Armstrong last played in a Magic uniform.
According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel this morning, Travis Diener and Bo Outlaw will not be returning to the Magic for the upcoming season. I could care less about Diener, we don't need another undersized guard on our team - regardless of good he might be. But Outlaw, well, you have to keep your biggest cheerleader. Unless the Magic have plans to sign a couple big men, I think Outlaw is probably one of the top 5 players to have deep on your bench. I don't think I have ever been to a game where Outlaw's name was chanted throughout the building. Hell one time, when Phoenix was visiting, the crowd was even calling for him to come into the game. I'll definitely miss Outlaw and the decision to leave him off the roster doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
Grant Hill has officially been announced as joining the Phoenix Suns roster. Said this Magic fan, "Well, bye..."
Rashard Lewis has officially been signed by the Orlando Magic. A press conference was scheduled for 1pm to announce the signing. The Magic acquired Lewis in a sign-and-trade with Seattle with the Magic sending only a second round pick to Seattle. When asked if the deal would have been done with or without the 6th year, Lewis spoke over Otis Smith and said he could absolutely answer that question. He was coming to Orlando regardless. I like Rashard and I think he'll be a great fit for the team. I only have two lingering questions. First, how much will his contract affect the franchise over the next couple years? Second, what do the Magic have left for the offseason. We're still lacking in a few areas, but we did lock up Lewis for 6 years and still have a few assets that can be traded for another big. Let me know what you guys think!
Steve Francis accepted a buyout from the Portland Trailblazers worth nearly 30 million. If no team claims him off waivers, Francis will be an unrestricted free agent in 7 days. I seriously doubt any team will claim him, because they would then be responsible for his fat contract. However, his agent said Francis is now able to find the right role instead of looking for the most money. My question to the fans, should the Magic be interested in bringing him back? My answer, hell yes. Francis is the best available point guard out there right now. And if anyone thinks he would be worse than Jameer, your nuts. Personally, I think Francis would be very successful under the offensive scheme that Van Gundy is likely to run. The offense would be more up tempo and not so scripted. The problems with Francis during his Magic days were mostly related to the way the offense was run, of course, that's just my opinion. Francis would bring back a little of that toughness and also allow the team to package Jameer in a deal that might bring in a good role player or cap flexibility for Darko money. I seriously doubt this would happen, but I do think it would be a good fit, the second time around. And it will also clear up any problems in dealing with Jameer's contract. Nelson is a good player, just not a great point guard.
I was reading a forum post that I've been following most of the day in order to gauge how other Magic fans feel. One thing that popped up a few minutes ago was what will we do about losing all the Serbian fans if Darko leaves the Magic. What the hell kind of stupid question is that? First, I think we'll pick up a few hundred new fans that want to see Rashard Lewis. And that number will be greater than the amount the Serbian fan base provides us. Seriously, do we think our fan base will die that much if Hedo or Darko isn't with the Magic next year? Secondly, who cares. They're not attending the games in large numbers and they are certainly not contributing to the overall tax revenue that will be used to build a new arena. People, winning is what brings new fans to the team. Some fans have been around for a very long time. And I think any loyal fan can tell you the difference in the atmosphere of the arena depending on whether or not the team is winning. Build a team that can win, and the team won't have to worry about losing 53 Serbian fans or 101 Billy Donovan fans.
I wish everyone would get off the Darko bandwagon. I don't want Darko out of Orlando - but I would not go out of my way to retain his services. Face it, Darko has pretty much been labeled a bust since day one in the league. One could argue playing time all he or she wants, but Darko has had his chances. I like Darko and I think he would compliment Howard given the right conditions. But Darko (or his agent) has an over inflated idea of his value to the team. He's not option #1, or #2 or even #3. At best, he's an overpaid role player. During the '06 seasoin he averaged 8 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 23.9 minutes. Tony Battie averaged 6.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG in 23.9 minutes. Is Battie worth $10 million a year? Hell no. He's barely worth the $6 mil or so. My point is, anyone 6'10" making close to the MLE should be able to get you 5 rebounds a game. The points are a non-factor - because we just added 22.4 PPG (and 6.6 RPG) by bringing Rashard Lewis to O-Town.
The Magic announced the assistant coaches for the upcoming season. Brendan Malone, Patrick Ewing, Steve Clifford and Bob Beyer were all named as assistant coaches. I was a bit surprised not to see Tom Sterner on the list, but oh well. A fresh start is good. I am glad to see Patrick Ewing back with the Magic. I think almost everyone can agree he will be a great influence on Dwight Howard.
If the Magic agree to a sign and trade with Seattle, we would obviously have to send a player or two that are somewhat fan favorites. From the couple emails I've received and then a few postings on forums across the net, don't believe what you hear about having to give up JJ or anyone else the Magic want to keep. Seattle has zero leverage in any dealings with Lewis. The Magic can sign him without a sign and trade. A trade scenario would simply be courtesy on the Magic's part and a bit of salary dump in order to resign Darko or another free agent. So, the Magic are not going to offer anyone they consider a core part of next years team in order to do Seattle a favor. However, the Magic might through the Sonics a bone just so they get something in return for Lewis. But I can almost guarantee it won't be anyone that the Magic want to keep - it will be players that are disposable for any team.
ESPN is reporting that Rashard Lewis will be signing a max contract with the Orlando Magic when contracts can officially be signed on July 11th. I've resisted posting the last couple weeks so as to not jinx any potential free agents. Now that it is highly likely (not exactly 100%) that Lewis will be signing with the Magic, we can discuss Darko's position. Local media is making more of the issue that what's really there. Basically, Darko is a restricted free agent and we can match any offer. Aside from one or maybe two teams, no one can sign him to a deal any better than we could without a sign and trade.