The Wait Begins For New Coach And New Player!
Forget Vince, Magic may chase Rashard By KEN HORNACK SOUNDING OFF
Wherever it was that Otis Smith spent Tuesday night, the general manager of the Orlando Magic must have sported a grin that stretched halfway to, shall we say, Seattle.
For starters, his boast of a year ago that the Magic would stop being annual participants in the NBA Draft lottery proved to be correct, even if a 40-42 record and being the last of the eight Eastern Conference seeds wouldn't suggest the franchise is on the rise.
At least he didn't have to sit in a studio in Secaucus, N.J., while ESPN's insufferable Mark Jones tried to make small talk by prefacing a question to Larry Bird with an Oprah-esque command of "Let's chat."
And Smith was not standing in the line of fire of a vintage Tommy Heinsohn laser-like staredown after the Boston Celtics learned they'd be choosing fifth despite tanking games left and right in March and April.
But the best part, from a Magic point of view, was seeing the SuperSonics unexpectedly leap up to second in the draft order behind Portland.
Provided the Trail Blazers don't pull a LaRue Martin or Sam Bowie this time around and wisely select Ohio State center Greg Oden, two predictions can be made with a fair degree of certainty:
· The Sonics will take Texas forward Kevin Durant.
· Cue Magic public-address announcer Paul Porter: "At one forward, 6-10, from Alief Elsik High School, Rashard Lewwwwwwwwwis."
You'd better believe the Sonics, assuming they're still calling Seattle home next season, aren't bringing in Durant just to have him accumulate bench minutes as a rookie at the same pace J.J. Redick did in Orlando.
And had Lewis accepted a contract extension the Sonics offered him in February which would have him signed through 2010-11, Durant might be looking at backing up a 20-point scorer who only turns 28 in August.
Lewis is two years younger than Vince Carter. He canned almost the same number of 3-point shots as Carter this season despite playing in 22 fewer games.
No, he hasn't played with a young big man comparable to Dwight Howard. In Lewis' second season with the Sonics, their leading rebounder was Horace Grant, who no longer fit in the Magic's plans. The following year, it was the fossilized Patrick Ewing.
Then again, what has being in New Jersey with Jason Collins in the middle done to prepare Carter for the possibility of life as a complement to Howard?
THE TERRIBLE TEENS
You can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times the Magic haven't had a first-round draft pick. Their choice this year, which will be 15th overall, went to Detroit in the trade for Darko Milicic.
Maybe that's just as well. The last thing the Magic need is another Johnny Taylor, Reece Gaines, Ryan Humphrey or Steven Hunter clogging up roster and salary-cap space -- although Matt Harpring, who was taken by them with the No. 15 pick in 1998, is now a valuable reserve for the Utah Jazz.
Whoever their coach is when training camp rolls around ought to be clamoring for is a veteran who can stop Howard from getting double-teamed and triple-teamed so often.
Thanks to the fortuitous bounces of some ping-pong balls, Lewis could well be the Magic's man. Sources: Magic contact agent for Donovan
The UF coach says he hasn't spoken with the team, which wants to check his interest. The Orlando Magic have contacted the agent for University of Florida Coach Billy Donovan, trying to gauge his interest in becoming their next head coach.His interest, though, remained unclear Tuesday because neither Donovan nor anyone from the Magic was discussing the issue. Much of the Magic staff was at the NBA Predraft Camp that opened Tuesday at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Donovan was in Destin for the Southeastern Conference spring meetings.
"I haven't talked to those guys," Donovan told the Tampa Tribune in Destin Tuesday afternoon. Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley also said Tuesday that Donovan was "close" to agreeing to a contract extension to remain in Gainesville.Two NBA front office executives attending the camp confirmed that the contact had been made with the agency representing Donovan, although neither was certain of Donovan's interest. Donovan had spoken with the Memphis Grizzlies about their vacancy but he declined a formal interview.Magic General Manager Otis Smith, who fired coach Brian Hill last week to create the job opening, declined Tuesday to make any comment on his coaching search.Donovan may be at the top of their list of candidates -- he is coming off back-to-back NCAA titles at Florida -- but they also are expected to interview, or at least inquire about, several others, including Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni, Pistons assistant Terry Porter, former Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy and Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo.Another possibility for the Magic could be veteran Larry Brown, who has won both an NBA title in Detroit and an NCAA championship at Kansas. Brown, now a front-office executive in Philadelphia, said Tuesday that he could envision a return to coaching, but he declined to discuss the Magic opening or any other specific jobs.The Magic already have asked and received permission from the Suns to talk with Iavaroni.Carlesimo won't be available until after the San Antonio Spurs are finished with their playoff run."Marc is ready to become a head coach," said Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni. "He will do a great job wherever he goes. Anyone would fit in Orlando with the young talent they have."The Grizzlies, one of the five teams with a head-coaching vacancy, are expected to target Iavaroni, according to another official at the draft camp.Although Donovan doesn't have any NBA coaching experience, his success in Gainesville makes him extremely attractive to the Magic.And even competing NBA coaches believe he could overcome the inexperience at this level."If he took the Orlando job, he would be successful," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, who coached the Magic for 41/2 seasons. "He has the ability to be a great teacher and still allow his players to play with some freedom. That's a great combination."Rivers said Tuesday that he had no idea if Donovan would be interested in coaching the Magic, but he believed strongly that he would succeed despite all the failed attempts by previous college coaches trying to make the jump."I've never bought into that thinking that they can't make it in the NBA. It's still just basketball. If you're a good coach and you have talent, you can be successful,'' Rivers said. "He [Donovan] can coach. To win back-to-back national titles tells you a lot. He would be a good hire."Tim Povtak can be reached at email@example.com.