However, committing to defense means no excuses are permitted. Van Gundy seemed humiliated after the 87-80 loss. "It's unthinkable how we played in the first half," he said. "Our guys paid no attention to the game plan." A day that had begun so promisingly ended with the coach looking as if he were ill.
The Magic's John Amaechi
Principled—and On the Pine
John Amaechi says he rarely thinks of what might have been: financial security, the house with a view of the Pacific, a starting position with the defending-champion Lakers. "I owe the Magic a great debt of gratitude, and I am repaying that debt," says the 6'10" forward, who turned down a six-year, $16.8 million offer from Los Angeles last summer to accept a two-year, $1.3 million deal from Orlando. "To leave the team stranded would have been poor on my part You can't be a man of principle just some of the time."
It was a hard decision nonetheless. Amaechi was courted by executive vice president Jerry West, who wanted him to accept the mid-level exception to become the Lakers' power forward, permitting them to trade Glen Rice to fill another need. Instead, L.A. dealt Rice for Horace Grant and signed Isaiah Rider as a free agent Neither move has worked out as well as the team hoped.
Amaechi, meanwhile, has lost his starting center job to Andrew DeClercq. Amaechi has struggled to equal last season's surprise success when, grateful to be salvaged from the British League, he averaged 10.5 points for the heart-and-hustle Magic. With the team now isolating for Tracy McGrady, Amaechi has been unable to score in transition, averaging 9.2 points on 39.2% shooting at week's end.
Amaechi, 30, admits he's overextended. He is building a three-court gym in his childhood home of Manchester, England, for young players. He also bought a house in Orlando while maintaining a permanent home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He insists there is no wink-wink agreement to keep him with the Magic when he exercises an option to become a free agent this summer, but the organization takes pride in being known as a players' team, and it will probably reward him for his loyalty. He could be packaged in a sign-and-trade with the Raptors for Antonio Davis, who has bought a house in Orlando and can be a free agent this summer.
Outside the Box Score
Cloak and Dagger in Big D
Acting Mavericks coach Donnie Nelson had a feeling that the visiting Heat was stealing his hand signals last Thursday, so he flashed signs to his guards from behind his sport coat, the way his father, Don, used to in his days with the Bucks. If this saved Dallas a basket, then it made all the difference in a 95-91 overtime victory, the Mavericks' first win over Miami in nine seasons.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]