Work in Sports
Magic make salaries disappear
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic didn't look at draft night as a chance for addition as much as for subtraction.
As part of its rebuilding process, the Magic made several trades in the process of dumping salaries and clearing out salary-cap room for the upcoming free-agent frenzy.
"We're set and loaded. Now we have to go out and do something about it," coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday night after the team selected Florida's Mike Miller with the fifth pick and made two trades that freed about $5 million more to pursue big names such as Tim Duncan and Grant Hill.
The Magic overachieved with a roster full of role players last season, narrowly missing out on a playoff berth with a 41-41 record that brought River coach of the year honors.
Now, they've added an exciting young player in Miller and have as much as $21 million in salary-cap room -- making Orlando one of two teams able to sign two free agents to maximum allowable contracts that would pay $9 million in the first year.
General manager John Gabriel's wish list begins with Duncan and Hill, who reportedly are set to visit Orlando shortly after the free agency period begins Saturday. Tracy McGrady and Eddie Jones are among the other players who will attract interest if he can't land his top choices.
Freeing the money to be in a position to pursue two stars, instead of one, has been a year-long process.
During an eight-month period from June to February, the Magic made 37 transactions involving 38 players and created about a little more than $13 million in cap room. Four starters, including Penny Hardaway, were dealt from a team that made the playoffs two years ago, but it took Wednesday night to keep the master plan together.
Orlando took an unprecedented three lottery picks into the draft, but had no desire to use all of them for themselves.
After unsuccessfully trying to move up to pick Kenyon Martin or Darius Miles, the Magic selected Miller, who left Florida after leading the Gators to a runner-up finish in the NCAA tournament as a sophomore.
Gabriel then selected Missouri guard Keyon Dooling with the 10th pick and sent him, Derek Strong and Corey Maggette to the Clippers for a future first-round pick. The rights to the 13th pick, Fresno State guard Courtney Alexander, were sent to the Dallas, also for a future No. 1.
By dealing Strong and Maggette, as well as getting rid of two draft picks who would have received guaranteed contracts, the Magic cleared about $5 million in cap room. In addition, the team will have up to nine first-round picks over the next four years.
"This isn't a one-step process. This is a two-stepper," Gabriel said. "It starts tonight. We'll finish with a player we feel will be a meaningful part of the mix, and we look forward to the weekend."
Rivers said what he liked most about what the Magic had done was that the team will not have to renounce the rights to any of the players who played key roles in the team's surprising success last year.
He acknowledged, though, that the pressure will be on to sign free agents who can take the team to the next level.
"But the heat was on last year. The heat was on the day we traded Penny Hardaway, the day was traded Horace Grant," Rivers said. "I don't know if I'm more confident than I was yesterday, but I am more confident that we can do it without bankrupting our team."
Gabriel launched the ambitious rebuilding plan on draft night a year ago, sending Grant to Seattle for Maggette, a player that Miller would have competed with for playing time if both had remained on the roster.
Miller averaged 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds last season. His driving jump shot in the lane as time expired gave Florida a one-point victory over Butler in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and the most successful season in school history didn't end until a loss to Michigan State in the national championship game.
When the 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision to enter the draft after just two years of college, he conceded he probably wasn't ready for the pros. But he reasoned that he also wasn't ready for college ball when he began at Florida.
He's ecstatic about remaining in the state.
"To say that next year if I came out I would end up in a better situation, I don't think so," Miller said. "I ended up in the best situation possible, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.