Most Magical Center

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Though they may be done for the offseason, if the Orlando Magic could do any trade, it would be to get a big center. With the recent small snag encountered with the anticipated Erick Dampier sign-and-trade to New York, Orlando would love to get their hands on him to counter Shaq in Florida. Unfortunately, they don't have either enough cap room to sign him as a free agent or enough expensive tradable pieces to interest the Warriors. Their own big trading chip is the relatively cheap contract of Drew Gooden; the irony is that if Gooden were earning more, it would be easier.

If Gooden were earning closer to $7 million per year instead of his $3 million, he could be packaged with one of Orlando's other young tradables but as it stands, the only way to match salaries in a sign-and-trade that results in Dampier getting anywhere near his apparent target of $9 million is to offer them Grant Hill. Unfortunately, the Warriors are fairly stocked with swingmen, and they wouldn't want to take on his contract for his remaining years.

Among other names still floating around are Boston's Chris Mihm, but he would only be a backup to Cato at best, unless he suddenly discovers and realizes his potential. To be fair, Gooden is likely to still be a backup this year as well, and to a rookie at that.

It's an odd position: in Gooden, the Magic have a player worth more than his current contract but because of salary cap restrictions, they cannot get equal value for him. The Magic would love to pay a little more money to land Dampier if it means moving Gooden, but the NBA's collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow it.

One team that clearly needs a young power forward just like Gooden is Cleveland. And the Cavs do have a young and cheap center in DeSagana Diop: a one-for-one trade matches salaries quite nicely.

But is the 22-year-old, seven-foot, 300-pound, Diop (selected eighth overall in 2001 straight out of high school) enough to stop Shaq? And will he earn more minutes than the 13 per game he got last year on the Cavs?

Hey, if the Magic can finagle a pick or some cash out of that deal, they might almost have to do it. If nothing else, Diop can provide another six fouls to use against O'Neal. In his only game against the Lakers last year, Diop got six points, five rebounds, a steal and a block... and six fouls. Shaquille O'Neal scored 37 points, grabbed 12 boards, and handed out six assists.

Not exactly a Shaq-stopper. Or at least not yet.

The Orlando Magic selected its new 2004-2005 Orlando Magic Dancers Thursday night at Disney's Pleasure Island. See pictures at the main web site at nba.com/magic.


Jerry Greene ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: New Magic players Cuttino Mobley and Hedo "H-Turk" Turkoglu are among the five NBA players named to the "All Under-the-Radar Team" by Inside Stuff Magazine.No jokes, please. It's an honor.

You may also be interested in all of the newslines about former Magic and former Laker Shaquille O'Neal. Please scroll up to Miami's newslines. Among other things, Shaq's quips and quotes are not to be missed.