Published On: Wed, Dec 22nd, 2010

Magical Trade

By: Pedro Heizer

The Orlando Magic, desperately trying to keep up with the Miami Heat in the southeast division, decided not to stand pat this past Saturday, blowing up a team with championship aspirations that had been in first place in the Southeast Division for most of the first month of the season.

On the same day that the team sent Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Orlando agreed to  cut ties with forwards Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus, center Marcin Gortat, a future first-round pick and $3 Million to Phoenix for veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu, guard Jason Richardson and second-year center Earl Clark.

The mega deals completely change the face of the Magic, who are sitting with a 16-10 record this season, and reunites Turkoglu with the team where he played his best basketball with.

Turkoglu has been a disaster ever since he left Orlando. He signed a big free agent contract in Toronto, lasting just one season with the Raptors before being dealt during the offseason in a trade for guard Leandro Barbosa, and Turkoglu also struggled in Phoenix. The Suns had hoped he could play the hybrid power forward position that they’ve used to great effect in past seasons with Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. But Turkoglu never figured out a way to play with Steve Nash, and his energy was so low, a team source said, that he was beginning to drag down the effectiveness of backup guard Goran Dragic as well.

The Suns had to do something, barely on the periphery of the playoff race in the west at 13-13 after making the Western Conference finals last season. Phoenix needs size, and the 6-foot-10 Gortat should be able to step in immediately and help inside. Pietrus had fallen out of favor with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, but seems tailor made to play the up-tempo style Phoenix loves to run with Nash at the controls. The gamble is with the 33-year-old Carter, who has not been the same high-flying player he’d been earlier in his career.

The hope is that the Suns can get Carter interested “in being a helluva player again,” a source said, but the gamble is minimal because Carter’s $18 million contract for next season is only guaranteed for $4 million next season.

At the same time as the Phoenix trade, the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic agreed to send guard Gilbert Arenas to Orlando in exchange for forward Rashard Lewis.

Arenas returned to the Wizards this season and has played reasonably well, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 assists for Washington. He would give Orlando someone who can create for himself and others off the dribble, something the Magic have sorely lacked this season as they has struggled at times against the league’s better teams.

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