Gabriel had a solid run, but Hill's injury was too much to overcome
Posted: Friday March 12, 2004 3:31PM; Updated: Friday March 12, 2004 4:07PM
Magic GM John Gabriel logged onto the Internet Thursday afternoon to read about Tracy McGrady's 62-point game the night before. He then saw a photo of Shaq holding up a basketball after his 61-point game with the Lakers four years ago.
One highlight of John Gabriel's career was signing Tracy McGrady.
"For me personally, it was kind of nice to see that," Gabriel said.
For the GM who was demoted on Friday, McGrady's scoring explosion was a fitting way to end his Orlando career. After having helped build the roster that went to the '95 NBA Finals, Gabriel had to start over after Shaq bolted as a free agent to the Lakers.
The Magic haven't had a real center since, but until this season they never had a losing record. Gabriel deserves some of the blame for the current mess in Orlando. The Drew Gooden trade and the Juwan Howard signing have not panned out as hoped.
But over the years Gabriel made many shrewd moves, such as drafting Mike Miller, hiring Doc Rivers, and discovering Darrell Armstrong and Chucky Atkins. Who knows how good the Magic might have been had Grant Hill been healthy? Gabriel, who made 55 transactions involving 51 players to clear the necessary cap space to acquire Hill, will always wonder could've have been had Hill been on the court. But at least Gabriel brought in McGrady -- and that's not a bad legacy.
T'Mac's memorable night
Speaking of McGrady, his 62-point explosion was truly spectacular -- even if it did come against an injury-riddled Wizards squad. He made 20 of 37 field goals, including 5 of 14 from 3-point range, and 17-of-26 free throws. He sank shots from all over the floor and against several different Washington defenders. Only 11 players in NBA history have ever scored 62 or more points in a game, according to the Magic PR staff. And McGrady wasn't just cherry-picking, either. He also finished with 10 rebounds and five assists.
The scary thing is T-Mac easily could have had 70 (last accomplished by David Robinson in 1994), but he missed 10 of his last 11 shots.
"I didn't lose my legs. I was fresh the whole game," said McGrady, who played 46 minutes. "It was just when you get to a point where you are about to break records, break your career high, break the Magic single-game high, all those things get in your head. It was in the back of my mind, that's why I was missing free throws. That's why I went on a little cold drought missing jumpers, layups, because I was thinking about it."
Skiles tired of the Bull
Bulls coach Scott Skiles continues to battle his young players over their lack of professionalism. Two weeks ago he sat Tyson Chandler for a game for not tucking his jersey into his shorts the proper way. Then Eddy Curry caused a minor flap when his cell phone rang a couple times in the locker room before Wednesday's game against the Pistons, prompting teammate Kendall Gill to tell him to shut it off.
"We have had a sort of constant struggle to embrace what being a professional player for the Chicago Bulls means," Skiles said.
Known for his feisty demeanor, Skiles has thus far avoided losing his cool with his players -- at least in public. He certainly wouldn't be afraid to confront them face to face. He once mixed it up with Shaq when they were teammates on the Magic.
"Shaq got into a scrap with one of my teammates," Skiles said, "and I got tired of everybody separating them, so I went over and said, 'Why don't you guys stop [messing around] and just fight?' Then he took a swing at me, and that's how that started. The thing that led up to it was we were playing so bad, [coach] Brian Hill let each of us have it before practice. So everybody was on edge. It was a melee with a lot of punches landing. Shad had me by the neck, and I don't know if he hit me, but my neck was sore for six weeks."
Mullin misses friendly competition
As Warriors special assistant, Chris Mullin's duties are wide-ranging. Last Tuesday they included shaving the heads of a few fans as part of the Warriors' Chris Mullin Buzz Cut Night promotion. Anyone willing to sacrifice their hair was given a free ticket to that evening's game against Indiana. After the contest Mullin waited outside the Pacers locker room, exchanging warm greetings with several players.
When asked which of his former teammates he missed the most, he replied, "I miss Jonathan Bender a lot. I miss that per diem."
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
It seems Mullin frequently engaged Bender, 23, and others in post-practice shooting contests, with the daily road per diem (roughly $90) at stake. Mullin, 40, says he still shoots nearly as often and as well as he did during his playing career. But he doesn't take on any of the Warriors.
"They don't bring that per diem like them Pacers guys," he said. "For that much I'll go play with my kids."
The ultimate hot dog
Early in the second half of last Wednesday's Lakers-Celtics game, Boston swingman Ricky Davis found himself alone on a breakaway from midcourt. Instead of taking it in for an easy basket, he tried a between-the-legs windmill dunk. The ball caromed off the rim and flew up in the air. Fortunately for Davis, no Lakers player had bothered to run hard after him. He was able to chase down the ball and go back to the rim. Did he go for a lay up this time? No. He threw down another windmill dunk -- but without trying to put the ball between his legs. No wonder so many basketball purists say they don't care for the NBA.