The Man, The Plan, It's Banal: Age

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

GM John Weisbrod is going through the same growing pains as Danny Ainge did last offseason, where every initially headshaking trade brings questions about "The Plan," as if it could be about anything other than winning. I am pleased to report that I have cracked the elusive code and, if you allow me to mix metaphors, I can take you behind the scenes and through the iron wall for a peek at the blueprints. It's all very simple really. Despite drafting a high school player, Weisbrod has aged the team.

If Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Hedo Turkoglu, Dwight Howard, and Kelvin Cato are the projected starters, their average age is 26 years old. That's despite the inclusion of an 18.6-year-old in Howard. The second-youngest Magic next season will be (or rather, so faris) Jameer Nelson at the not-so tender age of 22.5. Beyond that, judging by expected playing time, the Magic are fielding a team of players in their late 20's.

Does Weisbrod subscribe to the general notion that players peak around 27-29? If so, he has assembled the right cast for trading. He must believe two simultaneously contradictory things in order for his stockpiling to make sense: (1) that players tend to peak in their late 20's and (2) that nobody knows about it. Perhaps he is expecting a lot of his acquisitions to have career years so that other GM's will break down his door trying to trade for them.

If that's the strategy, hopefully no one is holding his or her breath. One look at Erick Dampier immediately shows you that GM's are not as gullible as one would hope. Even a banner year for a legitimate center is not enough to guarantee a long-term free agency deal. If peaks are relatively well-known then future contributions must be downplayed in expectations.

Given this fact, then we have come full circle. Weisbrod could only have assembled this team thinking they will win, and win now. He's not building for no future 3-5 years down the line. He needs to win and win now.

Perhaps the ideal situation for the Magic would be to slip into the lottery again. That seems to be the standard path of most GM's (Boston's Ainge excepted). New Jersey did it. Detroit did it.

Fortunately and ironically, the Magic are in a great position to both significantly increase their overall victories and still miss the playoffs.

An enviable position indeed.

The Contra Costa Times notes: Drew Gooden, former Orlando Magic (now Cleveland Cavaliers) player and former El Cerrito High School All-American, will be holding a camp for boys and girls ages 7-14 Aug. 9-13 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Albany High School. Campers will receive T-shirt, customized ball and picture with Gooden. Proceeds benefit Scholar Athletes, Inc. 510-223-5518, drewgoodencamp@yahoo.com or www.drewgooden.net.

Tim Povtak ofThe Orlando Sentinel notes: [Shaquille] O'Neal, who is spending much of his summer in Central Florida, will put on the boxing gloves and climb into the ring against Antonio Tarver, the light heavyweight world champion, at Universal Studios on Aug. 6. It's the main event in a charity fund-raiser titled: Shaq's Mama Said Knock You Out. It benefits the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund, which provides a scholarship fund for individuals seeking careers in nursing. Tickets for the event are $125. For more information, call 813-286-8300.


Brian Schmitz ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: It's late July, but the Orlando Magic already have penciled in rookie Dwight Howard as their starting power forward.If Magic Coach Johnny Davis didn't officially confirm it while attending the opening of the Team USA basketball training camp Monday, an odd scene did. There was LeBron James talking about his newest NBA teammate, Drew Gooden, a few feet away from his former teammate, Carlos Boozer. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Gooden last week in order to fill a vacancy at power forward left by Boozer, who shocked the Cavs by signing an offer sheet with the Utah Jazz as a free agent. The chain reaction was felt down in Orlando... James said that, "Gooden is going to be great for us. He's energetic and he can score. I love to pass, so he can take all the shots."