Hello Hedo

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Though Orlando's most famous and most regretted former player may now be officially a member of their division and state rivals, the Magic tried to distract some attention to their own ostensibly positive steps forward as they signed Hedo Turkoglu to a six-year deal worth $38 million. The Spurs renounced Turkoglu in order to have cap room for their own purposes, freeing Orlando to sign him immediately as a free agent rather than having to wait the 15 days it would have required had he been a restricted free agent.

Turkoglu is expected to start at the small forward position, and Grant Hill is as always being considered a nice bonus if he is healthy. While $38 million may sound like a lot of money, it is actually even more than you think. Whether Turkoglu deserves it or not doesn't even seem to be up for debate: few GM's around the league seem to think he is. The only question is: has John Weisbrod spotted an opportunity ahead of the curve or has he been taken in, like so many have, by his size, quickness, and skills? The problem being, of course, that he still hasn't been able to fully realize the enormous potential that he has.

The remaining priority appears to be getting some kind of quality center. Given the Magic's roster and salaries, that would have to be accomplished through trade. If the Magic are really pinning their hopes even for this coming season on Dwight Howard, they will likely have a problem with Drew Gooden. He is older, more experienced, and arguably a better player at this stage of their careers. If he is forced to sit as the high school rookie draws in fans, he may find himself very unhappy. Gooden would be an attractive piece to someone like Miami but there's no way that kind of deal would work. The question is: what center out there do the Magic want? And what team is willing to give up their center in a trade for a young power forward, possibly plus spare parts?

Perhaps now is the time to just wait. Though Shaq is in the division and in the state, it may be best to forget about trying to stop Miami and just play with the five best players you've got. Kelvin Cato is a very serviceable center. If coach Johnny Davis wants to go lean and fast, he can put Gooden in the center spot, a tactic New Jersey has often used with Kenyon Martin when they go small. It won't always work, and he'll get bullied by the bigger centers, but he'll give them just as many fits on the other end.

And who knows -- it may work against Shaq too. They say running Shaq back on defense is the best strategy for dealing with the big guy. And what better big guys to fill the lanes as Jameer Nelson, Cuttino Mobley, or Steve Francis push the fast break than Dwight Howard and Drew Gooden? And who better to spot up for the trailing three than Hedo Turkoglu or Grant Hill?

Orlando has Cato. They have Andrew DeClercq. Maybe it's time to stop fiddling with the roster for now.

The Magic are participating in the inaugural Las Vegas Summer League
July 13-18 at the Cox Pavilion. Their next game will be against the Washington Wizards tonight, Thursday, July 15, at 8:00 p.m. EDT/5:00 p.m. PDT. The Magic's portion of the League schedule, likely to be carried on NBA TV, is as follows: 

*Orlando 110, Denver 105
*Thursday, July 15 - Washington - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Friday, July 16 - Phoenix - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Saturday, July 17 - Boston - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Sunday, July 18 - Cleveland - 2:30 p.m. PDT

Dwight Howard did not play in last night's game (an excused absence) as he was accepting and attending various award presentations. He will rejoin the team today. In last night's 110-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets, Jameer Nelson had 13 points and 7 assists in 32 minutes of action. Keith Bogans scored a team-high 24 points. Mario Kasun, a center, scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field plus a perfect 3-of-3 from the line to go with nine rebounds in 34 minutes. Maybe Weisbrod needs to look no farther than his own summer league team for a backup center to Kato? On the other hand, Kasun did tally eight fouls (you cannot foul out of a summer league game). On the third hand, he also had four assists, showing some versatility for the big man.

The Magic will select the 18 dancers that will make up the official squad for next season tonight, Thursday, July 15, from 7-9 p.m. at Disney's Pleasure Island. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.


Dave Hyde ofThe South Florida Sun-Sentinelwrites: Just in this particular trade, O'Neal initially expressed an interest to return to his hometown Orlando, despite the Magic being so buried in the standings the last few years that moss grows around them.And you know what the Magic honchos did? Speed-dialed the Lakers, right? Tried to trade Tracy McGrady for him, right? They did nothing. No calls. No proposals. Nothing to suggest their losing philosophy won't detour no matter what opportunity comes. M-I-C ... K-E-Y ...

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Turkoglu, 25, is the sixth new player the Magic have added to their rebuilt roster since the end of the season.All five of the Magic's starters should be different next season with Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley at the guard slots, Turkoglu and teenager Dwight Howard at the two forward positions and Kelvin Cato the likely center. Point guard Jameer Nelson, acquired in a draft-night trade, is expected to be one of the team's top reserves.

John Denton ofFlorida Todaywrites: Shaq is back . . . that is, back in Florida. Only this time instead of playing for the Orlando Magic he will star at center for the Miami Heat.

The Orlando Sentinelwrites: The San Antonio Spurs renounced their rights to small forward Hedo Turkoglu today, making him an unrestricted free agent and allowing him to sign the previously agreed upon, six-year, $39 million contract with the Orlando Magic.Turkoglu was flying today to Las Vegas to meet with Magic General Manager John Weisbrod, who's in Las Vegas for a summer league. Until the Spurs renounced his rights, Turkoglu was a restricted free agent, which allowed the Magic to sign him to an offer sheet and gave the Spurs a right of first refusal on the contract. The Spurs would have had 15 days to decide on whether to match the Magic's offer. But the Spurs renounced his rights to create enough salary-cap space to sign Seattle guard Brent Barry. They also are signing Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili. 

Jerry Brewer ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: Magic General Manager John Weisbrod wants to identify young players just as they are about to reach their full potential. Though Turkoglu's numbers might not suggest he's worth the money, Weisbrod said he believes he will prove to be."We definitely think that way," Weisbrod said. "We try and get guys before their apex. The best teams get guys before their apex." The Magic say they hope their new running, open-court style will suit Turkoglu, who played well in San Antonio but was used more as a shooter. The signing also gives Orlando insurance in case small forward Grant Hill cannot return from a fourth ankle surgery.