Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fran Vazquez's Dilemma: To Settle or Not?

‘There’s no place like home’ and ‘Home is where the heart is’ are two ridiculously played out and cliched lines in our society. Unfortunately for Magic fans, Fran Vazquez is being tempted greatly to go back home. His basketball home. Thus, the appearance of another fork in the road and more critical decision options that have this Magic franchise waiting idly for a resolution. It takes a great player to remain at Barcelona for 6 years, but now there's almost certainly a new destination afoot. Malaga is where his family lives, it's where his professional basketball life began a decade ago, and also where there’s a rumored 1-year 1.5 million Euro offer from the city’s Euroleague team Unicaja. Malaga has about 2 million Euros at their disposal thanks to Joel Freeland's departure to the Portland Trailblazers, but they need some of those funds to retain players for next season. Fran is Unicaja's main big man target. If you recall from my previous piece, Vazquez wasn't impressed by the 1.2 million Euro offer Barcelona delivered to him. Nothing has been put down on paper yet, but Fran and his agent Jose Cobelo have had serious discussions with Unicaja’s front office to bring back home a player they had and developed a decade ago. Malaga has the advantage, there's no denying that. The door isn't shut yet Not with 'Henny' at the helm

I'm still waiting to hear any confirmation or acknowledgement from Rob Hennigan or the remainder of the Magic front office that we're even attempting to negotiate with Fran. Yeah the Magic have had 'talks', but that was nearly a week ago at minimum and no other updates have surfaced. Vazquez has stated that he wants and expects his free agency to end by next week. Real Madrid's 3-year offer (amount still unknown) still hasn't been confirmed by the ACB League so Barcelona's 10-day right of refusal hasn't quite kicked in. Remember, Barcelona has no power in retaining Vazquez if Fran signs with Turkey or the Magic. Cobelo has claimed that several NBA franchises (not just the Magic) have inquired about Fran coming over this summer. Fran confirmed the same inquiries at his basketball camp a few days ago. Most likely it's a negotiation tactic to get Barcelona, Unicaja, and Real Madrid to offer his client the best deal possible. Unlike in past ploys though, because Spain is in economic crisis and its basketball teams are cutting salary, Hennigan can easily offer more money and more years. Besides, the Magic would have to trade Vazquez's rights for Fran to join any other NBA squad other than Orlando.

It's always been a 'comfort' issue with Fran that's prevented him from jumping across the Atlantic. The 29-year-old was drafted 7 years ago, and even I'm exhausted with waiting on this guy after Fran has told us fans to remain patient and that he would come over eventually. He's a great defensive center whose physical play I believe transfers perfectly over to the NBA, but he's no star in the making. I hope Vazquez doesn't envision pulling an Arvydas Sabonis, because he's nowhere near as special or talented. I've been patient. I've seen Fran transform from a joke in the states to a champion with the pinnacle of basketball teams in Barcelona. The man's worked hard, earned his money, racked up his career statistics and records. If he goes "home" to Malaga while still in the prime of his career, then the 'mentally weak' and 'Mr. Indecisive' labels that have been tagged on Vazquez will forever be warrantedDon't accept this sort of emasculation.

I get it, Fran. You're a family man. You married your long-time girlfriend who gets mentioned by the media and fans worse than Doug Christie's wife or even Tim Duncan's wife. You're a father now. But you can go back to Malaga any time you want. No professional athlete goes to a place they want to retire at age 29. Come to Orlando, give us a few years. If you get home sick, fine, join Unicaja when you're 32 or 33 and raise your toddler kid(s) in your beloved city where they can grow up. Spain and its ACB League should be in a much more stable situation by then. But not now when there's clearly a decline at hand. Not when Fran has nothing left to accomplish at club level in his country. Vazquez has cemented himself in Spanish lore. There's already been a mass exodus of players just a few months into the offseason from the best non-NBA domestic league in the world. Being Greek, I've seen that professional athletes can not safeguard themselves or their families from the chaos and desperation of a debt-ridden society. Looting of athletes' homes has been the best outcome at times. Spain is already heading into that similar state of disarray that Greece has gone through. Vazquez should be a responsible head of the family and separate emotions from what's best. Come to Orlando. Last I checked, the City Beautiful has a large Hispanic population that would help Fran and his family acclimate easier to American life. Weather wise, we're not exactly in the Arctic North either. Did I mention you'd be making more money? 

Fran can also erase a vast chunk of the bad draft karma surrounding this Magic franchise by coming in and possibly starting in the position our Superman will vacate for the first time in 8 years. The Houston Rockets' rumored Dwight trade proposal options (as well as cap space to swallow up bad contracts) are infinitely better than what Brooklyn or the Lakers can send to Orlando. If Fran's worried about high expectations, well the Magic are building themselves from the ground up. The 'experts' and mass media won't show any faith towards Orlando being a playoff team, and so Vazquez can go about building chemistry with new teammates and sharing his experience of winning 1 Euroleague championship, 3 ACB titles, and 4 King's Cup trophies accumulated over the years (mostly at Barcelona). Again Magic fans are left playing the hope and see game. I don't want Fran signing another 1-year deal again. There's need to be an endpoint, whether that be positive or negative for us. If he doesn't want to come to our franchise, trade his rights and be done with him. For now, all we can do is be optimistic that we'll finally net our Spaniard. No more Lockout excuses.

On a slight side note as we stick with the international big man theme, the Magic also own the draft rights of 2007 2nd Rounder Milovan Rakovic. Rakovic is a name I haven't really mentioned in a year as another big man whose rights are owned by the Magic, who could come over the Atlantic in the future. Well he's staying at least another 2 years overseas in Europe, and possibly forever. The 27-year-old Serbian has shown great stints of play for Euroleague teams such as Montepaschi Siena and Zalgiris Kaunas. Milovan's English is a lot better than Fran's, by the way. I expect nothing less than another successful run at his new team Bilbao who will be a Eurocup threat. That's another international club competition that's a notch below Euroleague when it comes to quality and prestige. Again, we don't know what Rob Hennigan's opinion on the 'Rak Attack' is either.

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