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  Tue, November 4, 2003


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T-Mac keeps option open

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

It is morally wrong to wish ill upon others.

Except possibly in sports.

It therefore is understandable that Raptors fans may come to enjoy the uncomfortable situation that has started to develop between the Orlando Magic and Tracy McGrady.

It's sort of like, "Welcome to our nightmare."

During the past few days reports have surfaced that McGrady, who can opt out of his contract at the end of next season, is considering doing exactly that.

McGrady, predictably, has denied this, saying it's too early to discuss such things and that he isn't even thinking about it. But often when an athlete says he isn't thinking about something, he is thinking about little else.

Magic officials have begun to broach the subject of an extension with McGrady's representatives. One of the club's corporate types went so far as to describe the strategy as, "The Tracy McGrady retention plan," which sounds alarmingly like a painful medical procedure.

It's all in the interest of keeping McGrady in Orlando long-term. So what's next, handing out "Come Back, T-Mac" signs to naive fans? We all know how well that works. In fact, the Raptors may have some dust-covered placards to sell.

No one knows at this point how likely or unlikely it is that McGrady would leave his hometown Magic, the club for which he turned his back on the Raptors in the acrimonious summer of 2000. The current era of the NBA's luxury tax has made it harder for players (especially high-salaried ones) to jump teams than it was three years ago. But the mere fact the speculation has begun is indicative of the dangerous mix of tension, disappointment and job insecurity that threatens to paralyze the Orlando franchise.

McGrady, Grant Hill and coach Doc Rivers previously were considered the Magic's triumphant trio. McGrady has held up his end of the bargain and has become one of the best players in the NBA, but Hill's career essentially is over because of injury and the bloom definitely is off Rivers' rose.

Rivers was the NBA's coach of the year in 1999-2000, when he led a collection of castaways to within a game of the playoffs. That summer, McGrady and Hill were signed and while the Magic has made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, it has not won a single series.

"It's the big talk in Orlando that we have to get this team past the first round no matter what, but I always thought that was ridiculous," an increasingly exasperated Rivers said recently. "If your team is good enough, then, yes, you should. But if you're not good enough? That's dumb talk."

Rivers went on to defend his performance and said he was surprised when he first learned he now is the longest-serving coach with the same team in the Eastern Conference, thanks to the resignation of Pat Riley in Miami.

"I think I've done a pretty good job with the Grant Hill (injury situation) and we've overachieved," Rivers said. "But I thought that (tenure status) thing was a joke. It's a shame so many coaching changes have been made. It just says too many people are into the blame game."

If McGrady opts for free agency, it won't matter whether he's specifically mad at Rivers, Magic management for its mixed results in trying to improve the roster, or the basketball gods for ruining Hill's ankle. The end result will be the same. This could be the beginning of two full seasons of questions and rumours and denials and distractions in Orlando.

Raptors supporters will be tempted to laugh and point. But that, of course, would be morally wrong.

MULTI-MEDIA

Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls has a cameo role in a yet-to-be-released movie, Playa's Ball, which likely will cause a stir because of its subject matter. The movie is about an NBA star who is accused of date rape. The fact that the movie was shot before Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was charged with rape won't stop the public from drawing parallels. "I just have a small role," Pippen said. "I never thought about the similarities to Kobe." The film was funded in large part by Dale Davis, Pippen's former teammate with the Portland Trail Blazers, but Pippen threw some money into the project, too ... Karl Malone of the Lakers is writing a diary-type book titled Through My Eyes. "Not through yours, through mine," Malone told reporters. "I've started writing it and it's awesome." That glowing self-review notwithstanding, Malone comforted the newspaper writers in his presence. "Don't worry," Malone said, "none of y'all's jobs are in any trouble." We only can hope Malone writes better than he speaks.

FAST BREAKS

The defending-champion San Antonio Spurs have only six players returning from last season's team. Discounting the 1998 Bulls, who purposely dismantled their roster, only two other teams in the NBA's history have attempted to defend a title with so few returning players: The 1949-50 Minneapolis Lakers and the 1948-49 Baltimore Bullets ... The Phoenix Suns, now in season No. 36, are the oldest franchise that hasn't won a title ... Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he received 300 e-mails from fans about his club's new silvery-beige "third" jerseys, "And three of them were positive."









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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