Friday, September 30, 2011
I know I have readers who need their cheerleader fix. Lockout or not, there is a new 2011-2012 Orlando Magic Dancers squad. Although they may be on the decline from say our '09 Finals team, they're still our girls. They've invaded the Philippines with the usual blue and white flare we've come to expect, and it's all apart of NBA Madness 2011.
Currently we're at a critical point in owner-player negotiations. If no progress is made this weekend, David Stern supposedly will threaten the loss of the entire '11-'12 season. By far the most intriguing quote comes from the anonymous NBA executive that said not to expect a 50-game season. Whoops. Seeing a doubtful Russ Granik is never a good sign.
Darrell Armstrong was calling David Stern's bluff, just as I'm sure many current players and writers are this week. Interesting that Darrell's reasoning was that the television networks would apply tons of pressure on the league offices. Tough to deny that's not occurring at this time either. Armstrong also brought up how it took an outstanding home run race to rescue baseball from the backlash they faced caused from their strike. Salute to Tim Povtak once again.
The NBA, trying to put some urgency into labor negotiations with its players union, will consider canceling the 1998-99 season if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached soon.
With the start of the regular season (Nov. 3) almost certainly to be postponed and negotiations going nowhere, the league is debating where it will draw the line in canceling the season.
``There is a point where a season loses its credibility. Where that is, hasn't been determined yet,'' said one NBA executive, who wished not to be identified. ``But we won't do what hockey did one year - play an abbreviated season. There won't be a 50-game season in the NBA. We don't feel that would be worth starting at all.''
The NBA and its players' union are not scheduled to negotiate face-to-face again until Oct. 8, and the two sides remain polarized by the issue of a salary cap.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said he never would accept the hard salary cap the owners want. Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner, said there won't be an agreement without a hard salary cap to give owners some cost certainty.
The NBA generated $1.7 billion in revenue last season with almost $1 billion going to players in salary and benefits. The owners want assurances in the new CBA that will make it a 50/50 split.
Granik, Hunter, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Patrick Ewing, president of the players' union, met briefly Monday in New York, but little was accomplished, according to both sides.
The players are content to wait on the ruling, scheduled to come by Oct. 19, by an independent arbitrator on whether players with guaranteed contracts must be paid if the current lockout extends into the regular season. The owners are counting upon the threat of players missing their paychecks (beginning Nov. 15) to give them an edge in negotiations.
``I never really believed that you could lose a whole season, but now I'm starting to believe that's possible,'' Granik said earlier this week.
Although he said it was premature to talk about canceling the season, Granik admitted it had been discussed. For players, who make an average of $2.6 million, the cancellation would be devastating.
Although owners would lose considerable revenue from ticket sales and sponsorship packages, their four-year, $2.6 billion television package is guaranteed whether there is a season or not.
``I don't think David Stern would take a chance and do that [cancel the season],'' Magic free-agent guard Darrell Armstrong said from Atlanta on Wednesday. ``Even though NBC [and Turner network] paid the owners a lot of money, they gave them that money with the idea of seeing us play. So everybody loses during a lockout.
``You also have to look what it did to baseball a couple of years ago. It took the home-run race with [Sammy] Sosa and [Mark] McGwire for the fans to really come back to the game of baseball this year. In the NBA, we don't know if we're going to have anything like that to draw the fans back, especially if Michael [Jordan] retires.''
Both sides say it will take an estimated four weeks from the time a deal is signed before the regular season could start. There are more than 200 free agents to be signed, trades to be made, and training camps to be held.
The league already has announced an indefinite postponement of training camps that were supposed to begin Oct. 6 and the cancellation of 25 exhibition games. The league is expected to cancel the rest of the preseason games early next week.
``The players are taking a strong stance, and the owners are taking a strong stance,'' Armstrong said. ``It looks like they're going to start talking again soon. So, we're just going to have to wait and see what happens.''
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Here's a 20-minute local Orlando interview involving Dwight Howard from Wednesday night, September 28th. I have to give a respectful nod to the guys at SBK Live on Real Radio 104.1 FM for a surprisingly very solid interview. They didn't hound the Magic superstar like some other local shows and programs I know of, and they were fairly successful in getting Dwight to open up a bit (once he shook off his tiredness).
It starts off with a quick mention of Superman's dogs, but immediately at the 2:30 mark is where Orlando Magic fans really need to pay attention. Dwight really did appreciate SBK's little thank you speech. From there we got into Dwight's worldwide tour, some details with Adidas commercials, cars, local spots, movies, and video games. Funny that Dwight doesn't like basketball video games considering he was on the cover of NBA Live 10.
Howard also mentioned that he wasn't planning on competing in any more charity basketball exhibitions for the remainder of the work stoppage. Dwight would only participate if it was more of a 'goofing around' affair since he's taking his personal training so seriously. Dwight also shows his displeasure with the Orlando Sentinel and some of his Twitter followers.
You can tell 'D12' has been wanting to clarify some of his statements made about the Amway Center crowds, and really appears to be a misunderstood individual. Howard talked briefly about the 'Fat Guy' and 'Sweater Vest Guy', which all of us diehards appreciate listening to. This entire sound bite is arguably the most important one coming from Dwight's mouth since the playoffs ended. Push aside the big man's summer frustrations, and you see a franchise beast who is still in love with the City Beautiful. Let's hope we see him on the court this '11-'12 season, whenever that may be.
Maybe the most impressive 2-hour NBA-dedicated masterpiece I've ever seen. It's from 1996 and it's a celebration of 50 strong National Basketball Association years. Denzel Washington is the host, so you know the money and extra production crews were whipped out for this clip. I'll let the highlights and interviews take it from here. It's a history lesson for sure.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
This isn't a coincidence. I'm telling you folks, David Stern has that '98-'99 calendar on his desk with notable news snippets. On Tuesday, the NBA owners appeared to be budging on their hard cap demands. We now shift to 13 years ago, and the players' union put its foot down and continued to vehemently refuse a hard salary cap in the CBA negotiations. Danny Schayes made his bimonthly Magic player representative appearance in the Sentinel sports section.
Russ Granik, again, was holding strong for the owners. Both sides were at least making some progress as you'll see at the bottom of the article. Also, I'm sure Marcus Camby wasn't too happy about marijuana being on the banned substance list.
``Under no circumstances would the players accept a hard cap, but that's been our position all along,'' Schayes said Monday from his home in Denver. ``We're sensitive to the owners' position - and we'll consider almost anything - but not a hard cap. I think we're unanimous that it won't work. We'll sit and wait for as long as it takes.''
Schayes was in New York on Friday at a Players Association meeting when the owners made their latest proposal, which included a hard salary cap, phasing out the exceptions that allow teams to exceed the cap to sign their own free agents.
The salary cap is the biggest issue separating the players and owners, who exercised their option to negotiate a new agreement, instituting a lockout July1. The players would like the salary cap to remain flexible - with all but seven teams last season exceeding it. But the owners want a hard cap with no exceptions, giving them cost certainty.
The owners already have postponed training camps, which were expected to start Oct.6, and canceled the first week of exhibition games. By the end of this week, they are expected to cancel the rest of the preseason.
``I'm hearing that the league really isn't interested in negotiating at this point. The strategy seems to be `let the players miss a few paychecks, and then we'll get serious,''' Schayes said. ``The latest proposal didn't seem much different than the previous one.''
Russ Granik, NBA deputy commissioner, said the owners are equally adamant about securing a hard cap that will slow the rapid escalation of salaries. He, too, said the owners won't budge on that issue.
Schayes, 39, is a free agent this summer. After 17 years in the league, he said he never has seen the players union as unified as it is now.
``The union has been telling guys for a year this was likely to happen, that they should save their money. I think the players have a great respect for [executive director) Billy Hunter and the job he is doing for us,'' Schayes said. ``The owners, I think, their goal is to divide and conquer.''
Both sides are waiting for an arbitrator to rule early next month on whether the owners have to honor the 200 guaranteed contracts during the lockout. Both sides expect that ruling to change negotiations. But that may come too late to save the start of the regular season Nov.4.
``We'll talk about anything but a hard cap. The owners won't talk about anything but a hard cap,'' Schayes said. ``So things are kind of stuck right now. We're all worried about the fans, but the players didn't start this lockout. We didn't cause it. We're ready to go play.''
Players have agreed in principle to the league's request to add marijuana to the list of banned substances and allow a team to have the right of first refusal allowing them to match any free-agent offer made to a player whose rookie scale contract has expired.
The union's offer also has included replacing the $1 million exception with a $2.5 million exception available every year, and an additional $3 million exception for non-playoff teams.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I hope Olympiakos' owners, the Angelopoulos brothers, were in the OAKA stands tonight when Kobe held up that jersey. Yes, some of the Panathinaikos fans booed. Bryant continued his Athens NIKE basketball tour on Tuesday. Earlier in the morning, 'KB24' played and trained with youth kids (in a much smaller arena) who have been competing in 3-on-3 tournaments over the past week. You can say a similar scene occurred at OAKA. The Los Angeles Laker guard is looking for a full $15 million from Virtus Bologna before he can truly consider suiting up in Italy. I must say the Black Mamba would look good in red and white. He's definitely enjoyed his 2-day stay in Greece as he can't wipe the smile off his face.
Portland Draft pick and current Panionios player Jon Diebler joined Kobe yesterday, while today it was Greek national team legend and current Olympiakos player Vassilis Spanoulis who made his special appearance. 'Kill Bill' gifted Bryant the Olympiakos jersey. 'Mamba' and 'V-Span' shared some time together with the youth players at OAKA. These two dueled in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and both men expressed their massive respect for one another. Gazzetta.gr has been dominating this Kobe coverage these past few days.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I'm in a Grant Hill hating mood for some reason and feel like torturing myself with his infamous 7-year run in Orlando. Here's the dreaded timeline many Magic fans really shouldn't read.
If you still don't want to shoot your faces off, read some fan reaction to G-Hill's exit from the City Beautiful:
Weeks ago, one of my sons asked me what I thought Grant Hill would do regarding the Orlando Magic. I sincerely told him I thought Grant Hill was a man of character and integrity, different than other athletes. I thought he would take the minimum to stay with the Magic and be a leader and almost a player-coach as Stan Van Gundy rebuilt the team.
I didn't believe he would take $93 million of the Magic's money and then run off somewhere else now that he is healthy.
Wow, I could not have been more wrong about a person. Grant Hill turned out to be the same mercenary, selfish athlete that has taken over professional sports over the years. He truly had us fooled as to his character. In 2000, the Magic took a chance on a superstar on crutches and gave away Ben Wallace, arguably the best defensive center over the last seven years. How much different might it have been had we kept Ben Wallace? They took a chance on [Hill], paid him an exorbitant amount of money and got nothing for it.
The Magic had a $93 million cheerleader for the last seven years. He was a wolf in sheep's clothing. And when it came time to pay back the loyalty and favor given to him by the Magic, he turned tail and ran off to another team with a parting comment that it was "time to move on."
Grant, you barely moved at all for seven years, and now it's time to move on? At one time, you might have been held up as a role model. Now, you are a selfish, self-centered mercenary who belongs in the hall of shame. Shame on you, Grant Hill.
Your career will forever be remembered as a "what if." What if the Magic had never signed you, and what if you were a real man of character?
I'd like to wish you well, but I'd be lying. So I will wish you what you deserve. I pray you get everything you deserve in Phoenix just like Penny Hardaway did when he went there. You belong in the same category!
Let me throw in this fan mail, and this final bashing to set the mood for that '07 departure.
Another slow news day on the work stoppage front. But, Kobe Bryant continued his NIKE basketball global tour. He was just recently in Turkey, so Kobe is getting around quickly. From today through at least Tuesday, the Black Mamba is in Athens, Greece to promote various events. Today he was at the House of Hoops for a Foot Locker and NIKE HELLAS showing. Bryant smiled for basically the entire 45-minute appearance as he enjoyed the crowd chanting his name. Kobe talked for a bit to some of the teenage players competing in 3-on-3 tournaments. The 5-time NBA champion also mentioned how his phone won't stop ringing. Kobe paraphrased: 'Anyone can make me an offer for me to play in Europe and Greece.' Clearly it was to appease the crowd, I doubt any Greek team can currently offer anything close to what Bologna is offering.
About 600 people were outside of the store, packing the street to get a glimpse of the Los Angeles Laker legend. The mini-dunk contest exhibition that took place ended up stealing the attention though. One of the teenage kids BROKE the rim on his jam attempt. I don't care how cheap that basket may have looked, it's still quite the feat. Kobe along with Portland Trailblazer second round Draft pick, and current Panionios player, Jon Diebler were 'judging' the jam session. The scene speaks for itself.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
A clip of the NBA's greatest playoff duels alone is a special view, but clearly someone in the ESPN Classic production had the foresight and genius to begin the show with a Gus Johnson call.
Vince Carter v. Allen Iverson, Larry Bird v. Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas v. Bernard King, Pat Riley's Miami Heat v. Jeff Van Gundy's New York Knicks, and Michael Jordan v. Charles Barkley were the main matchups displayed in this piece.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
This is hitting home pretty quickly. Ric Bucher said on Thursday that training camp and some preseason games would be lost, and sure enough, yesterday it came true. Well, 13 years ago the same thing occurred. I'm sure David Stern and associates have that '98-'99 calendar close by for reference. It was only 24 exhibition matches lost compared to the current 43 erased from the schedule, but we know more are coming.
This is the more important article to read. Russ Granik and Nick Anderson provide us with their words on the situation. Here you get the revelation that the league needs a full 4 weeks to begin a season, if and when the new CBA gets agreed upon. Wish we'd hear more from Patrick Ewing. Then you see the mentioning of arbitration and if the players would get paid during the lockout:
``My mom always said to put something away for a dark day, and it's a dark day right now,'' said Nick Anderson, the Orlando Magic's leading scorer last season, who is working out with other NBA players in Houston. ``I'm prepared for whatever happens, but it's not looking good. I'm very pessimistic.''
Training camps were scheduled to open Oct. 6. The Magic lost their opening exhibition game Oct. 13 in Detroit against the Pistons and a home exhibition Oct. 16 against the Houston Rockets.
Magic management declined to comment because of orders given by the NBA regarding the issue.
The NBA could announce as early as today that the second week of exhibition games also is being canceled. Magic season-ticket holders will have their money refunded - along with 6 percent interest - on all exhibition and regular-season games that are canceled.
``Unfortunately, it is now clear there will not be enough time for teams to fill their rosters, go through a necessary period of conditioning and be ready to play preseason games by mid-October,'' said Russ Granik, the NBA's deputy commissioner who made the announcement.
The league and its players have struggled to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. They have been without one since July 1, when the owners imposed a lockout against the players.
The league and the union are awaiting arbitrator John Feerick's ruling on whether 200 players with guaranteed contracts will be paid during the lockout.
Feerick isn't likely to make his ruling until the second week of October. His ruling could change the tone of the negotiations, giving a huge edge to one side or the other. An estimated $800 million in salary is at stake.
The most critical issue preventing an agreement is the salary cap. The owners are intent on establishing a hard cap, giving them a ceiling on what each team can spend on players' salaries. The players want a flexible salary cap that will allow teams exceptions to re-sign their own players.
Neither side is budging.
The impasse is jeopardizing the NBA's standing as the only major professional sports league never to have lost a regular-season game to a labor problem.
``I look at baseball and how many fans they lost because of the strike, and I would hate for our league to have to go through something like that,'' said Anderson. ``It would be tough to overcome.''
Both owners and players admit that it will take four weeks from the time an agreement is signed before they could start the regular season.
The Magic, for example, will need time to sign free agents and finalize their roster. They currently have only five players - Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Bo Outlaw and Johnny Taylor - under contract. They are expected to add at least one major-impact player.
Wednesday's meeting between the owners and players was the first meeting since Aug. 6. It was described as a ``thawing-out session,'' in negotiations. It was attended by Granik, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Billy Hunter, union executive director, and Patrick Ewing, union president.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Awesome endings in NBA history. There are finishes you'll recognize and plenty you won't. Derek Harper's debacle definitely jumps out at you. Strange to see Sports Illustrated involved in this production. I really don't need to say much more than that. There shouldn't be much convincing needed to view all of this craziness.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I decided to provide my input on who I thought the Orlando Magic’s best position players were in its 22 seasons of existence. That’s not a long period in comparison to many prestigious professional teams. Even though we’ve never hoisted the championship, the Magic made it to two NBA Finals in our 6th and 20th seasons.
Throughout these rankings, keep in mind that it’s not just statistics involved but also intangibles and whether the player did what they were supposed to do in their assigned role. Winning also plays a large factor as you’d expect. Any personal opinions will be controversial. All numbers are from regular season games only and it’s the seasons themselves being averaged out, not on an individual game basis. So the numbers may look different from other sites.
Anfernee Hardaway took the best point guard spot, Tracy McGrady was just recently crowned as the #1 shooting guard in Orlando Magic history, Hedo Turkoglu lit up a victory cigar for taking top honors as best small forward, and Horace Grant got some Windex to shine up his goggles for being the best power forward.
Let’s see who reigns supreme as the best center.
Missing the cut:
2001-2002; 65 games played; 4 starts; 13.9 mpg; 6.0 ppg; 4.0 rpg; 44.4% FG shooting.
Orlando, where end of the line centers come to finish their careers. Because clearly Pat didn't want to retire in Seattle. 'Chewing', as we've come to know the NBA legend, probably prefers we remember him as a Magic assistant coach than player. The Georgetown product had racked up a lot of miles on those legs of his. But he was still a better option at center than DeClercq and Don Reid.
It was pretty sweet even if you weren't a Knicks fan to see Patrick get several massive ovations on his last visit to Madison Square Garden in April of '02. The video I'd imagine gives any NYC sports nut chills, especially when the chants begin.
Severely hampered by his dead knees, Ewing really gutted out his farewell tour. The Tracy McGrady-led Magic did make the playoffs that season, but Ewing and Horace Grant were too old and ineffective for a fast Charlotte Hornets team. Currently we get to enjoy Patrick for eating in the locker room and making guarantees. Let's see if he'll fulfill his goal of becoming a Head Coach in this league.
1998-2001; 207 games played; 50 starts; 16.9 mpg; 6.5 ppg; 3.5 rpg; 44.6% FG shooting.
A product of the shortened '98-'99 season, Michael Doleac was a rookie on the rise it seemed like. Doleac sadly didn't have a place in this franchise once Chuck Daly stepped down. Daly loved his jump-shooting centers, and Mike was definitely that. A 4-year senior out of Utah, his tenacity and grit were rare qualities for fresh meat. Slow-footed, but a good court runner for his size (go figure), Doleac wasn't a rebounding or defensive force. Still though, Michael became quite popular coming off the bench. Doleac was named to the All-Rookie 2nd Team.
It also helps when your best game in a Magic uniform came in Shaq's first return to Orlando. That jumper looked like it'd drop every time the ball left his hand. It's no coincidence that his first season in the league would be his best in a Magic jersey. Big Mike would not be used as efficiently under Doc Rivers' reign. So the front office saved some money in the summer of 2001 by trading Doleac for Brendan Haywood (who was then immediately shipped off again for garbage).
2002-2003; 79 games played; 54 starts; 20.7 mpg; 6.8 ppg; 5.7 rpg; 41.8% FG shooting.
There was definitely no 'Reign Man' in Orlando. Believe it or not, Shawn's time in Orlando was a bit better than Portland. Don't get me wrong, he needed an oxygen tank with him at all times. So many terrible or over-the-hill big men on that 2002-2003 squad. Horace Grant had that falling out with Doc Rivers, Pat Burke was only great in the preseason, Olumide Oyedeji, Steven Hunter, Ryan Humphrey...I think I'm going to be sick.
I thank God every day that the Magic ended up acquiring Drew Gooden. Yeah it wouldn't work out come '03-'04, but we probably get swept by the Pistons (rather than choke in 7 games) if we had to depend solely on DeClercq. Come that first round, Kemp was beyond worthless. The towel boy was contributing more.
Other very notable players missing the cut, but not worth going into detail over:
Andrew DeClercq, Danny Schayes, and Tree Rollins.
10. Isaac Austin
1998-1999; 49 games played; 49 starts; 25.7 mpg; 9.7 ppg; 4.8 rpg; 1.8 apg; 1.0 spg; 40.8% FG shooting.
Ike is another one-year wonder on this list. If he was in just decent shape, his stay would have gone better. However, he let down Chuck Daly and Penny Hardaway (who begged the front office to diligently seek his services throughout the Lockout) by coming into January training camp overweight and no where near as mobile as the organization had expected. Wasn't anywhere near the same physical condition as his Most Improved Player season in Miami. Sure Ike and Penny had chemistry, but it didn't really matter when the games counted.
You don't go from one of the best teams in the league to getting knocked out of the postseason by a younger, faster Philadelphia 76ers team in the 1st round without some player performances dropping off. Austin managed to play even worse in the postseason than in his 49 regular games.
Austin would get traded in August of 1999 to Washington in a salary cap saving move that would bring us Ben Wallace. Sounds like a 'Heart & Hustle' upgrade that new coach Doc Rivers can look back on and say that was worth it (even if Big Ben was around just one season). Austin proved to be a $5 million Magic mistake that would continue to decline for his final few years in the Association. This is why you don't trust former Miami Heat players.
9. Kelvin Cato
2004-2006; 85 games played; 50 starts; 18.8 mpg; 5.4 ppg; 4.7 rpg; 48.5% FG shooting.
Probably one of the more underrated bigs in this team's history. The forgotten man from the Tracy McGrady deal with Houston. Damn you, Francisco Elson. Until then, the 30-year-old was on his way to a career season. It's just night and day after his shoulder injury. The game logs never lie, and neither does the footage. Cato's playing career was immediately shortened as he lost much of his rebounding and shot blocking dominance. His superb shooting percentages also crumbled.
People look at that '04-'05 team and blame the Cuttino Mobley-Doug Christie trade for the implosion. But the team's decline began before Cuttino was shipped out in large part because we weren't as strong in the paint without a healthy Kelvin. Then we all remember Steve Francis going nuts and there vanished our playoff hopes.
Kelvin was your Theo Ratliff-type of big man. Yeah he may get posterized on occasion, but that wouldn't stop Cato from trying to swat your shot. I give Kelvin big props for helping Dwight grow up in his first few years in the league. Just a shame really because him and Dwight were quite the twin towers duo. Kelvin transferred some of his fearlessness and paint leadership to the rookie. Cato would be involved in that Detroit deal that brought us Carlos Arroyo and Darko.
8. John Amaechi
1999-2001; 162 games played; 89 starts; 21.0 mpg; 9.2 ppg; 3.3 rpg; 1.1 apg; 41.9% FG shooting.
Known more for coming out of the closet after his career, and for having a British accent, John is mostly forgotten in this community. Big John had quite the solid European career before joining the Magic. One of the main pieces of 'Heart & Hustle', the Utah Jazz would financially reward Amaechi after his second season in Orlando. If you're ever involved in basketball trivia, just know that John Amaechi scored the very first NBA points in the new millennium. It was in a loss to Miami.
Amaechi was another center with a jumper, and that can lead to some rough shooting percentages. Doc clearly didn't trust John to get the job done come postseason time. The 2000-2001 campaign was quite a pleasant surprise with McGrady leading things, and yet John's statistics suffered. But Amaechi barely saw court time in our 3-1 first round defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks. John couldn't defend his opponents. That means Doc won't play you. Still surprised Utah wanted Amaechi so badly to triple his salary.
7. Stanley Roberts
1991-1992; 55 games played; 34 starts; 20.3 mpg; 10.4 ppg; 6.1 rpg; 1.5 bpg; 52.9% FG shooting.
The original LSU big man that warmed up Shaq's locker room for a season. Let's ignore his later substance issues. Injuries really cut down his potential with this franchise. Stanley was quite the thunderous player. Because the Magic front office needed to clear cap space to pay Shaq, Stanley would be sacrificed in September of '92. Looking back now, it was definitely the smart choice. Roberts' legs were failing him, which caused unwanted weight gain (Doesn't this sound familiar?). That takes away a lot from your abilities.
Stanley really only had two mostly injury-free seasons out of eight in the NBA. His rookie season in Orlando proved to be fairly solid when he was on the court, making the All-Rookie 2nd Team despite missing a good chunk of his inaugural year. The Magic had fresh meat at center and power forward with Brian Williams (a.k.a. Bison Dele). In hindsight, that '91-'92 campaign was all about transitioning towards league legitimacy. Still, a Stanley-Shaq LSU reunion big line would've been mighty interesting to watch at the O-Rena.
6. Darko 'Serbian Swatter' Milicic
2006-2007; 110 games played; 17 starts; 22.4 mpg; 7.8 ppg; 4.8 rpg; 1.0 apg; 2.0 bpg; 48.1% FG shooting.
Raise your hand if you still have one of those fly swatters? With Kelvin Cato at the end of the road, the Magic were willing to take a risk right before the trade deadline of the '05-'06 season. His confidence shot thanks to Larry Brown, Darko's playing career was salvaged once he left Detroit. He was still a crazy S.O.B. but he produced. His defense was DPOY worthy at times.
The 2003 second overall Draft pick showed glimpses of why he was selected so high. No one really knew that Darko could be so resilient on defense. Brian Hill showed trust in Milicic where the Detroit coaching staff hadn't. Yeah, B-Hill would always complain (and rightfully so) that Darko was taking way too many jumpers. Let's just say he wasn't open on a lot of them (DRIVE TO THE HOLE!). The other problem the crafty lefty had was that he had zero skills with his right. He may as well have been an amputee he was so left-hand dominant.
Even though he has that 2004 Pistons championship ring, Darko didn't get his first true playoff experience (and only postseason since) in 2007. Despite the Pistons sweeping us, Darko played damn well. Scored double figures in each contest, a form of consistency that few other Magic men showed in that series. Then his contract was up, the Magic didn't exercise his $6.8 million qualifying offer, and the Memphis Grizzlies paid for Darko's services where he regressed. I'll ignore the very unkind words Darko's agent gave upon his exit.
Plus, with new coach SVG coming into town, Orlando's main front office summer priorities focused on signing Rashard Lewis, extending Dwight, and possibly extending Jameer Nelson. We had our core, and there just wasn't enough money to keep Darko in the mix. Milicic is doing better in Minnesota currently, but it's an easy argument to make that his best years were in Orlando.
5. Marcin 'Polish Hammer' Gortat
2007-2010; 175 games played; 5 starts; 12.2 mpg; 3.6 ppg; 4.0 rpg; 52.9% FG shooting.
Probably the best second round selection we've ever stolen away for peanuts. Another unique character, Warlock's statistical impact gets laughed at, but we Magic fans know to focus on his pure effort and emotion. The 'Polish Hammer' definitely belongs in here. There's no way I won't include a very important bench player from the 2009 Finals run. Upon immediate arrival in Orlando, Gortat never hid his Association goals. He's pretty much accomplished all of them, with a long NBA career ahead of him remaining. The few times Dwight didn't play, Marcin proved a constant double-double threat. Gortat is proving his starting capabilities currently in Phoenix.
'Warlock' is a hero in Poland. He has quite the assortment of special fans that's almost Vinsanity-like. What distinguished Gortat mostly was that he wasn't a Euro stiff. Far from it. The hang-time Warlock displayed was ridiculous. His hustle and athleticism do not match your typical 6'11" European. Once Marcin picked up some steam, say off a pick-and-roll, he would not be denied. I always referred to J.J. Redick and Gortat as Stockton-Malone Version 2.0 they had such good chemistry.
Having a man as intimidating and imposing as Marcin, yet who still shows off the softest of touches at his size, is quite the dangerous mixture. He feared no one, including mammoths like Shaq. Business was business, but Marcin always had time to have fun and enjoy his rise in popularity. Such an entertaining personality. Orlando may indeed have had two top 10 centers on the roster. Dwight on a few occasions (especially when Yao was injured) said that his toughest center competition came from Marcin during practices.
The Polish Hammer was a beast in the postseason where other centers on this list have fallen apart. He's never more than a 4th offensive option, but he was still a very efficient scorer. Gortat always produced, even throughout our '09 Finals run. Especially that Game 6 first round clincher against Philadelphia where he posted a double-double when Dwight was out. We knew the day would come where as long as Dwight was in town, Gortat wouldn't be able to spread his wings and full potential until we let him go. There could be a lot of regret for trading Marcin to Phoenix if Dwight bails from Orlando.
4. Sidney Green
1989-1990; 73 games played; 31 starts; 25.5 mpg; 10.4 ppg; 8.1 rpg; 1.4 apg; 46.8% FG shooting.
The legitimate 1st Orlando Magic player ever, Sidney Green is yet another one season wonder on our list. Sidney was actually a pretty serviceable big man in an ugly inaugural season. At 6'9", Sidney seemingly had no right to play center, but that's what he did for the most part. Whether it was as a great bench player, or not so good starter. Sidney clearly didn't care for his height disadvantage and managed to lead the Magic in rebounding. I'm not going to B.S. my way into thinking I knew how the man's game play looked.
Sidney didn't take long to leave a mark on the community with his charity work. So you can imagine the surprise when he was involved in an oddly late trade. Pat Williams dealt Green to the San Antonio Spurs on October 30, 1990. The Magic received Mark McNamara and a 1st round pick (which is what we were most interested in) that would later become Stanley Roberts. Seeing all the bad quotes about Mark is pretty hilarious reading material.
The youth movement was on after one year with the keys being handed over to the likes of Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott. There's no denying the franchise had a vision, as the draft picks and ping pong balls would start falling into place towards building a contender. Green would never come close to the statistical success he enjoyed in pinstripes. I'm sure the old school Magic fans will never forget Sidney's 36-point, 15-rebound performance.
3. Rony Seikaly
1996-1998; 121 games played; 115 starts; 33.5 mpg; 16.2 ppg; 8.6 rpg; 1.4 apg; 1.1 bpg; 47.4% FG shooting.
There's a massive gap between the top 3 and everyone else on this list. Sort of Greek but mostly Lebanese, there will always be a soft spot in my basketball heart for Rony. I nicknamed Seikaly 'butter fingers', and rightfully so, before I think I'd ever tried the chocolate bar. Guy could do almost anything with the ball on offense. The problem was, he couldn't always catch the Spalding. On several occasions during any typical game, Rony would fumble the ball a few times in the post before either turning the ball over or pulling a phenomenal move and shot out of his ass. With that said, the man was very crafty and super light on his feet.
Most people today probably know Rony for mistreating Elsa Benitez (She's only 33 now?!), or currently being employed as a DJ. There's no denying, dude could ball. He never made an All-Star game, but when you're a consistent 17 and 10 contributor, it's sucks to not have been voted in even just once. Rony was just unfortunate to be playing in a golden age of big men.
Here's an early season trade for you, November 2, 1996. The Magic even played one regular season game, which we lost, before flying out to Japan for 2 games that would count where Rony would meet the team. John Gabriel was celebrating like it was Christmas. So tapped to fill Shaq's shoes (easy task I know), Seikaly quickly won fans over and made them forget he was a hated ex-Heat rival. Plus, we fans were focusing too much on the Brian Hill-Magic locker room drama that played out throughout that 1996-1997 campaign to hold a grudge.
Rony's tendency for scary leg injuries though would eventually become too stressful for the franchise to deal with. Hell of a regular season player before that Heat series, but the wear and tear was catching up to him. A finesse center just can't exactly succeed if he's got bad extremities to work with. That's the side effect of sacrificing your body constantly. February 19, 1998 was the day we said farewell to a big man we had high hopes for. On a quick side note, who said you can't win a game with just 6 players?
2. Shaquille 'Man of Steel' O'Neal
1992-1996; 295 games played; 293 starts; 37.7 mpg; 27.2 ppg; 12.4 rpg; 2.5 apg; 2.7 bpg; 57.9% FG shooting.
Controversy is officially upon us. Yes, the man who put Orlando on the basketball map is not number one. The man who put up 53 points in front of an elated O-Rena crowd. A mountain of an individual with never before seen skills and athleticism. The 1992-1993 Rookie of the Year, and a 3-time All-Star selection in his pinstripe days, Shaq was causing havoc in the Association immediately. It took a lot of patience and cap clearing effort, but Orlando was blessed to have the LSU legend even for just 4 years.
There will never be another Shaquille O'Neal. So much power, explosiveness, finesse, hops, excitement, skill, hilarity, personality, versatility, and killer instinct for any opponent to overcome. O'Neal was just as godly in the playoffs. Shaq officially became a superstar during the '94-'95 season when he became the league's leading scorer. I still find it odd that Shaq was never on the All-NBA 1st team until he became a Laker. Look at O'Neal's playoff logs, and you saw a guy that would definitely lead others to championships. There was that legendary playoff duel with Hakeem.
Despite the sweep, endorsement deals, a rapping career, movie appearances, and stardom were constant summer projects by that point. O'Neal wanted to become a worldwide icon and eventually our 'small' city was holding him back.
Then of course, one of the saddest days in franchise history happened when we Magic fans witnessed the original 'decision'. O'Neal may have never brought us that championship, but I think Orlando Magic fans were gifted with his prime as a consolation prize. I do fully appreciate that Shaq still embraces Orlando as his home, and his constant charitable contributions should never be ignored.
1. Dwight 'Superman' Howard
2004-Present; 567 games played; 566 starts; 36.0 mpg; 18.3 ppg; 12.9 rpg; 1.5 apg; 1.0 2.2 spg; bpg; 57.6% FG shooting.
Slow and steady wins the race. 'D12' did it. If he never laces up for Orlando ever again, he's the best center in franchise history. Let's hope we see the new school Superman in Magic pinstripes after this NBA Lockout. A 5-time All-Star selection, 3 consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, and a 4-time All-NBA 1st Team honoree. Oh yeah, and he won a dunk contest. Considering he was a raw high school kid that barely weighed 235 when drafted, 'D-Flight' was never going to have the blistering start to his career as Shaq accomplished. Emeka Okafor who? Thank you, John Weisbrod and company.
The attributes I bestowed upon O'Neal, I can easily copy-paste into this Dwight section. Dwight's an even more athletic freak than Shaq. The kid has blossomed into a grown man right in front of us. Dwight has astounded even his best opponents. He places fear in all big men's eyes. The good news for Orlando is that Dwight doesn't have to leave our city to be a global icon since he already is one. I can for certain claim Howard is much more mature than Shaq maybe ever was and he won't make any brash free agent decisions. Oh he's still a big kid, but as long as he keeps his usual on-court demeanor, we're more than happy with that.
His training regiment (and there's always a bit of luck needed) and assertiveness are a big reason why Dwight's only missed 7 regular season games in 7 years. That type of longevity will help net you countless franchise records that I will not bore you with because of such a long list. Shaq was never the defensive force that Dwight has been. Multi-time rebounding and blocking crowns will help give you the reputation that no one will come at you in the paint. You watch Howard, and he just seems extraordinarily unreal. Which is why he's our 'Superman'.
If he masters his bank shot and makes the occasional 3 (kidding), he'll be perfect. He can do everything. Yet, he's still trying to improve himself while being an NBA world ambassador simultaneously. Dwight steps his play up to unbelievable level in the playoffs. The 2009 Finals run was D12's official coming out party. If he can stay healthy and show that continuous drive for glory, Howard will win a championship. There's little doubt about that. But will it be in Orlando? Either way, Dwight is the best Magic center in franchise history.