NBA: Another Magic overhaul? GM says itís unlikely
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. ó Magic general manager Otis Smith wanted to be clear: He's not looking to overhaul the roster again.
Unless he does.
One eye on the past and another on the future, the never-afraid-to-take-a-chance general manager doesn't expect any major moves this offseason. Even after failing to return to the NBA finals, Smith believes Orlando already has the roster to win its first championship.
"We're not a team that's that far away, so I can't sit here and say, 'Yeah, we're going to make all these drastic changes because we're miles away,"' Smith said Monday. "We're not miles away. We're not at the bottom third of our league. We're at the top of our league.
"And with that said, we have to do things diligently and with the understanding of the aspect that we're putting the team-slash-puzzle together and that everything is going to have to fit."
Of course, that's what he said last year.
Then Smith made the bold move to part ways with Hedo Turkoglu ó and starters Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston ó and acquire Vince Carter from New Jersey. That decision may not have cost the Magic a title this season, but it wasn't enough to win one.
The Magic swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs before falling into a 3-0 hole against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals and losing in six games. The Celtics swarmed Orlando on defense while exposing its reliance on the 3-point shot.
"The season was great," Magic center Dwight Howard said. "We just didn't finish what we started."
That means summer starts early this year.
Players cleaned out their lockers, took home an autographed team photo and said their goodbyes Monday. Some were still in shock that a 59-win regular season ended so abruptly, others disappointed and filled with regret.
Most of them likely will be back next season since the Magic are already over the luxury tax and hampered by big contracts to former All-Stars Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis.
Carter will make about $17.3 million next season in the final year of his contract, with a team option for 2011-12. Lewis is due about $65 million with three years remaining on a $118 million, six-year deal.
There will be a few roster spots to fill.
Starting small forward Matt Barnes said Monday he will opt of the final year of his deal to be a free agent but would like to remain with Orlando. J.J. Redick, who made big strides this season to become one of the team's best reserves, will be a restricted free agent. And backup point guards Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson will be free agents.
So barring a nifty move by Smith to unload a big contract to acquire another All-Star, Orlando likely will have to make progress from within. There surely will be some tweaks.
A second straight reconstruction, though, is something Smith said is unlikely.
"I think this franchise is not that team anymore," he said. "We're not the fun Orlando Magic that throw 13 guys out there and say, 'Oh, let's just see where it lands.' That's not us. Our objective going into (next) season remains the same. As I told the guys (Monday) morning, 'We had a good season. But it ended the same way the past seasons ended. We fell."'
The disappointment also shows how far the Magic have come in recent years.
They bordered on irrelevancy for more than a decade after Shaquille O'Neal departed in 1996. Now, as coach Stan Van Gundy said, "Going to the conference finals and losing is not a success."
The Magic move into a new arena next season, and they're looking to do more than raise another division championship banner.
"I can't set standards that low anymore," Smith said. "We were there years ago. I can't do that anymore."