T-Mac Out, Musselman In?

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Two hot rumors today for Orlando, going coast-to-coast. New York's Peter Vecsey, citing an anonymous confidant of Tracy McGrady, claims T-Mac will officially inform the Magic after the Finals that he is leaving, and that he has narrowed his choices to the Suns, Rockets, Spurs, and Lakers. Meanwhile, California's Jeff Faraudo says that reports indicate Orlando was waiting for coach Eric Musselman's availability before making a decision with their coaching staff. Which of these rumors has the ring of truth?

Let's work backwards, shall we? The first rumor of Musselman being under consideration at the Magic was under a section called "Hot Rumors (Not Necessarily True)" by Tim Kawakami ofThe San Jose Mercury News, written eight days ago, before Musselman was even fired. Kawakami presciently wrote: "I've been tough recently on Warriors Coach (for now) Eric Musselman. But I will say this: If Orlando is looking for a coach, the Magic's first call should be to Musselman."

Today,The Oakland Tribunelists some of Musselman's options, among them Atlanta and Orlando. As my colleague Jason Fleming pointed out in yesterday's Golden State part of the NEWS@ Pacific report: "If the coach the team just fired is in so much demand by the other teams looking for coaches, shouldn't it be apparent the wrong decision was just made?"

Indeed, Musselman would not necessarily be an unwelcome sight on the Magic bench, and the idea that the Magic would wait for his availability before making a shake-up sounds plausible though not probable (wouldn't it make more sense to release Davis early so they have more time to consider more candidates?). But whether he comes or Johnny Davis stays, that would only be the start of the Magic's changes. It is not likely that Musselman would succeed with the same lineup that flummoxed both Davis and Doc Rivers. The Magic need a roster overhaul.

There can be no bigger overhaul than the trading of the NBA's scoring champion for the second year in a row, and one of the most versatile players in the game. If his team had done better, McGrady would be in the running for MVP; as it is, he's just in the running.

Now, is it true what Vecsey reports, that McGrady is certain to fly? The way he put it doesn't seem to make much sense. There are two possible stories, each of which could have made sense by themselves, but together are a contradiction.

One story is that McGrady told a confidant that he will certainly leave after next season, and that he will inform the Magic officially after the Finals. Fine. That's a possible story.

Another possible story is that the Magic have already worked out possibilities with four different teams, the Suns, Spurs, Lakers, and Rockets.

But to suggest that McGrady has narrowed his choices to those four makes not a lick of sense. If he is going to leave, it's not going to be his choice where he goes, at least not until next summer, if he is not traded and doesn't change his mind. Sure, the Magic franchise will give consideration to his preferences, but that is by no means the only or even the most important consideration.

If Boston deals Paul Pierce plus others in a deal that the Magic simply can't overlook (giving McGrady an opportunity to be the first Celtic ever to lead the league in scoring), would T-Mac refuse to play for his former coach? Would he intentionally fail a physical? Not likely.

Another glaring issue with the report is the source. Sure, it's a confidant of McGrady's, and of course he's anonymous. But he also seems to know an awful lot about Midwest-division teams: "the Rockets, the source claims, almost assuredly would give up Steve Francis." That is quite a well-placed source, not only to know McGrady's innermost thoughts but also to receive assurances from the Rockets on potential trades.

The only way to reconcile those two stories is to ignore the glaring problem with the source, and suppose that there would be a sign-and-trade involving McGrady. That way, T-Mac must give his approval to any deal, and any team that does end up getting him gets him for many years, and not just for one year.

With that caveat, Vecsey's report may be true. The Suns would offer Shawn Marion, the Rockets would offer Steve Francis, the Spurs would offer Manu Ginobili, and the Lakers? Even Vecsey can't imagine what they'd offer, noting that Kobe is not likely to switch addresses. If only we could get some assurances from the the self-assured source.

One good thing about Vecsey's report is that he gives a testable prediction. Let's wait until after the Finals, then, and see what McGrady says.

In the meantime, let's not limit any of our choices. Speculation by its nature should be open-ended: there's no reason to rule out Boston, New York (which has a plethora of big contracts), or others.

In fact, there's not even a reason yet to rule out that McGrady will be with the Magic two years from now. If John Weisbrod pulls a Kevin McHale on McGrady and surrounds him with an unquestionable talent upgrade, perhaps McGrady will in turn pull a Kevin Garnett and sign a whopping extension.

Even a source as well-placed as McGrady's confidant may not know what Weisbrod has up his sleeve.

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Jerry Crowe ofThe LA Timeswrites: The original plan was to lure forward Juwan Howard to Minnesota and retain center Rasho Nesterovic.But when Howard signed with the Orlando Magic and Nesterovic with the Spurs, McHale had to change course.

Peter Vecsey ofThe New York Postwrites: For obvious reasons, Tracy McGrady has narrowed his choices to play next season - or the following one, at the latest, should the Magic unfathomably fail to arrange a trade - to four teams, all of whom flaunt a centrifugal force. According to a confidant of the rundown compulsive scorer, he has targeted the Suns, Rockets, Spurs and Lakers, but won't officially alert Orlando management of his decision to opt out of his contract at the end of 2004-05 until after The Finals.As previously reported, the Suns would be prepared to swap Shawn Marion for McGrady, whereas the Rockets, the source claims, almost assuredly would give up Steve Francis.

OurSports Centralwrites: The Blue Ducks recently began their third year of USBL action. The USBL is in its 19th season and has sent over 140 players on to the NBA. Stars such as Avery Johnson, Anthony Mason, Chris Childs, Charlie Ward and former Orlando Magic player, Darrell Armstrong all came from the USBL.

Jeff Faraudo ofThe Oakland Tribunewrites: Musselman likely won't have to wait long to find new employment. He is a former assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, who currently are interviewing candidates, and reports indicate the Orlando Magic would not fill its coaching position until Musselman's fate with the Warriors was determined.