Where do the Magic go from here?

While it takes more than one player to lose a series, this season was about Vince Carter, and the Magic’s decision to trade for him last summer in lieu of re-signing Hedo Turkoglu. Here’s what I wrote about the move in mid-July:

Let’s see, your team just lost in the Finals — losing two games in overtime — and your main ballhandler is a free agent. What do you do? It’s tough to create the kind of chemistry that gets a team to the Finals, so you re-sign him, right? Not the Orlando Magic, who balked at Hedo Turkoglu’s $10 million-per-season asking price and instead pulled the trigger on a trade for Vince Carter. So essentially they gave up their most consistent player (Turkoglu) and a budding star (Courtney Lee) for the 32-year-old Carter. A healthy Jameer Nelson (along with a savvy mid-level signing) may have been enough to put this Magic team over the top, but now we’ll never know.

Turkoglu has had his problems in Toronto, but on a per minute and per shot basis, he was just about as productive as he was in Orlando. We’ll never know if the Magic would have beaten the Celtics if they had kept their Finals core intact, but one thing is for sure — the Vince Carter move was a bust. Against Boston, he averaged 14-4-2, shot 37% from the field and just 21% from long range. The question remains: Does Vince Carter have what it takes to win an NBA Championship?

If the Magic have learned their lesson, they’ll try to move Carter this summer. He has one more year on his contract (at the tune of $17.5 million) and another year that is a team option. So he essentially has an expiring deal, which could be valuable to a team trying to get out of another big contract. Three trade partners spring to mind…

Perhaps Golden State would be willing to take on Carter’s contract for a year to get out of the four years remaining on Monta Ellis’ (26-4-5, 45% shooting) deal, which would allow the Warriors to fully commit to rebuilding around Stephen Curry. Along with Jameer Nelson, Ellis would give the Magic the league’s smallest backcourt, so that may not be a very good idea.

The 76ers would almost certainly be willing to trade Elton Brand (13-6, 48% shooting), though that would force Rashard Lewis to the three. (Andre Iguodala is another possibility, but the Sixers would want something else in return, like Marcin Gortat.)

Finally, the Wizards would love to unload Gilbert Arenas (23-4-7, 41% shooting), and Carter would take some of the scoring pressure off of rookie John Wall. The move would also create a ton of cap space (for the Wizards) in the summer of 2011 for a possible run at Carmelo Anthony. Arenas would represent another roll of the dice for Orlando, but if he can get back to All-Star form, he could give the Magic the playmaker on the perimeter that they had hoped to find in Carter.

I’m not sure if any of those options sound good to Magic fans, but this is where the team is at with regard to Carter. Given his inability to win in the postseason, no one will want him at his current salary, so the possible trade partners are limited to teams looking to dump a bad contract of their own.

Or the Magic could elect to hold onto Vinsanity and tweak the roster around the edges, hoping that this core has better luck next season. Clearly, that hasn’t been Otis Smith’s style, so I’d expect a big change or two as Orlando tries to find the right players to surround Dwight Howard.

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Decade Debate: 10 Biggest Betrayals

To betray is to “be disloyal to one’s country, organization, or ideology by acting in the interests of an enemy.” In the world of sports, a betrayal can refer to any number of things: a beloved star choosing to play for a bitter rival, someone who breaks the public’s trust or even a head coach who lies to his boss about where his loyalties lie. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, we chose the ten biggest betrayals of the last ten years. (By the way, we’re focused on sports business related betrayals only, so Tiger Woods, Mike Vick and Roger Clemens are safe. For now.)

10. NHL cancels the 2004-05 season.

After failing for months to come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL finally canceled the 2004-05 season in February of ’05. The dispute between the owners and the NHLPA covered a number of issues, but the biggest was the owners’ proposal of a salary cap that was tied to league revenues, similar to the NBA salary cap. The NHLPA rejected every offer that included a salary cap and the season had to be canceled. A majority of fans blamed the players due to their out-of-control salaries and unwillingness to accept a cap, which is something that both the NBA and NFL – two very successful leagues — have in different forms. Finally, in the summer of 2005, the players association ratified an agreement (which – surprise, surprise — included a salary cap tied to league revenue) and the lockout ended after 310 days. It marks the only time that a North American professional sports league ever canceled and entire season over a labor dispute. In the end, the NHLPA’s stubbornness was fruitless; the owners got their salary cap and the fans got screwed out of year of hockey. Way to go, guys. – John Paulsen

9. Damon skips Bean Town for the Big Apple.

There are some things in life that are just wrong. One is watching any of the “Twilight” movies alone as a single man. Another is flossing in public. Wearing sandals with a nice pair of slacks is also a terrible idea. Regardless of your opinion of these faux pas, we can all agree that a player jumping ship from the Red Sox to the Yankees (or vice versa) is a huge no-no. Babe Ruth never wanted to leave – he was sold. But guys like former Red Sox manger Ed Barrow (took over as Yankees GM), Wade Boggs, and Johnny Damon – they had a choice. Only one season removed from helping the BoSox capture their first World Series since 1918, Damon signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox Nation cried “foul,” but Damon claimed his former team didn’t push further than their initial four-year, $40 million offer. Nevertheless, the fans felt slighted. Damon had flourished in Boston, racking up career numbers and gaining celebrity status. He hit the memorable leadoff homerun in Game 4 of the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The blast was all the Red Sox needed to extinguish the curse. (They would go on to win the game 3-0 and the World Series in a sweep.) But he was gone, ready to face the chorus of boos from former fans, and prepped to win a championship in pinstripes four years later. In the end, a t-shirt I saw at a Fenway Park merchant’s booth said it all. A crude picture of Damon adorned the front: “Looks like Jesus, throws like Mary.” – Christopher Glotfelty

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NBA Rumors: Stoudemire, T-Mac, Brand and more draft talk

T-Mac for Amare?

According to the same source that disclosed Terry Porter was about to be fired as Suns coach, the Rockets are leaning toward swapping Tracy McGrady’s expiring $22M contract, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks for Leandro Barbosa and Stoudemire, who owns an escape clause after next season and is demanding an extension this summer to waive it.

I’m not sure what the upside is for the Suns. Stoudemire will likely opt out of his contract after the season, so they aren’t gaining any financial flexibility. They do get a couple of good young players (Landry and Brooks), but is that really enough? McGrady is a very good player when healthy, but he can’t seem to stay upright.

This would be a bold move for the Rockets, but it would leave them awfully thin at point guard. Kyle Lowry would be the only experienced PG on the roster, but Houston could use its mid-level exception to go out and get a veteran like Andre Miller or Mike Bibby, though the MLE may not be enough.

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Griffin is a great fit for the Clips

Truthfully, Blake Griffin would be a great fit just about anywhere, but the Los Angeles Clippers can really use him. He’s athletic, has an improving offensive game and can really rebound. He has the potential to be a franchise power forward.

When the Clippers signed Baron Davis to a fat contract last summer, things we’re looking up for a franchise that only had one winning season in the last 185 years. But the Baron Davis/Elton Brand marriage was not to be when the latter signed his own fat contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers (a.k.a. GM/coach Mike Dunleavy) overreacted by trading for Zach Randolph, and they would be so much better off right now had they showed some restraint.

Had the Clippers held onto Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas, they would have an additional $17.3 million in cap space (for a total of $27-$28 M) heading into the summer of 2010. With that much cap space and a core of Griffin, Davis, Kaman, Eric Gordon and Al Thornton, the Clippers would have really been in business. They wouldn’t have been able to woo LeBron or Wade, but Bosh or Stoudemire would be possibilities, as would Joe Johnson. Now they are locked into Randolph for two more years at the tune of $33.3 million and won’t have the cap space next summer to sign a star.

Obviously, landing the right to draft Griffin last night was huge for this franchise. Now they just need to can Dunleavy and find someone who knows what they’re doing. Honestly, he should have been fired on the spot when he suggested the team trade for Randolph.

It’s going to take a while for the Clippers to turn things around, but with a young core of Griffin and Gordon, the potential is there. Last night was a big step in the right direction, though don’t underestimate Dunleavy’s ability to screw things up.

Who is Bill Simmons’ MVP?

Every year, Bill Simmons runs down the MVP race from No. 450 to No. 1 (don’t worry, he skips over a lot of players), and this year is no different.

450. Elton Brand
Dramatically edged out Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady for the coveted LVP (“Least Valuable Player”) Award. Here’s what pushed it over the top: Not only did EB destroy Philly’s cap through 2035, he left the Clips with enough cap space that they reacted the same way looters react during a riot. They wanted to walk out of the store with something … or in this case, Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, Zach Randolph and a 27-inch Sharp LCD. In a floundering economy, should they have guarded that extra cap room and bided their time like The Team That Shall Not Be Named did? OF COURSE!!!! OF COURSE!!!!! When you include Brand’s luring of Baron Davis to the Clippers, causing the Warriors to overreact with $66 million for Corey Maggette and Ronny Turiaf, you could argue that Brand murdered one franchise and gravely wounded two others. Sounds like an LVP to me.

166. Manu Ginobili
Ways I’d dissuade my stars from participating in the Olympics or World Basketball Championships if I owned an NBA team: $1 million under-the-table bonus for NOT participating; free lease of a brand-new Maybach every year; bribery with help from a secretly recorded sex session with a hooker I hired to seduce them; blowing up the aforementioned Maybach as a final threat not to go; and finally, kidnapping.

Simmons goes on to compare Wade’s career with Jack Bauer’s, and describes all the different reasons why ___________ is his 2009 MVP.

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