Sports Outside the Beltway

Shaquille O’Neal wants to be Orlando Magic GM

Once his playing career is over. From the Orlando Sentinel-

BOSTON – Center Shaquille O’Neal was traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns last month, but the Orlando Magic — the team with whom he started his high-profile career — never seem far from his thoughts.

Wednesday was no exception.

O’Neal, who was in Boston preparing to play the Celtics Wednesday night, said after a morning practice that he hopes to take over management of the Orlando Magic when he retires as a player following the 2009-10 season.

He also expects to bring Grant Hill — former Magic player and current teammate with the Suns — along to help him.

“Grant will be the team president — he’s a bright guy — and I’ll be the general manager,” O’Neal said. “I’m serious. They need me down there with the new arena coming. Grant and I are coming to do the job.”

O’Neal has talked a few times over the years of returning to Orlando to play — although he said now he will finish his career in Phoenix — and also of returning eventually to become the Orange County Sheriff.

I seem to recall Magic Johnson once saying he wanted to be a US senator. As my wife says, it is nice to dream.


NBA Mock Draft

ESPN’s Chad Ford offers the Sports Leader’s take on the impending NBA Draft.

It’s almost draft day, and the picture is getting clearer and fuzzier simultaneously.

We’ve been able to narrow down the list of prospects that each team is considering, but two things stand in the way of getting a complete picture.

One, this is a time when many GMs are notorious for dropping smoke screens. A source in Memphis swears the team is taking Joakim Noah. Another says to bank on the Grizzlies’ taking Mike Conley. Someone is misinformed or bluffing.

Two, there is a flurry of trade conversation, starting with Memphis, Boston, Charlotte and Chicago all talking about trading away their lottery picks. Meanwhile teams such as Golden State, Phoenix and the Lakers are trying hard to move up. Others — like Portland, Indiana and Toronto — are trying to get in or grab another pick.

The talk in Phoenix about trading up in the draft has gotten so hot that the Suns have gotten Noah, Jeff Green and Corey Brewer to agree to a workout on Tuesday. They’ll try to add Brandan Wright as a fourth. That shows you how much players want to play in Phoenix — they’ll drop everything just for the chance. It could be the most competitive workout of the draft.

Their consensus draft board:

    1. Portland TrailblazersGreg Oden – C
    2. Portland TrailblazersKevin Durant – SF – Texas
    3. Atlanta HawksAl Horford – PF – Florida
    4. Memphis GrizzliesMike Conley – PG- Ohio State
    5. Boston CelticsYi Jianlian – PF – China
    6. Milwaukee BucksJeff Green – SF – Georgetown
    7. Minnesota TimberwolvesJoakim Noah – PF – Florida
    8. Charlotte BobcatsCorey Brewer – SG – Florida
    9. Chicago Bulls (via New York Knicks) – Spencer Hawes – C- Washington
    10. Sacramento Kings- Brandan Wright – PF – North Carolina
    11. Atlanta Hawks (via Indiana Pacers) – Acie Law – PG – Texas A&M
    12. Philadelphia 76ersAl Thornton – SF – Florida State
    13. New Orleans Hornets – Nick Young – SG- USC
    14. L.A. ClippersJulian Wright – SF – Kansas
    15. Detroit Pistons (via Orlando Magic) – Rodney Stuckey SG – Eastern Wash.

Click the link for more in-depth analysis and for the second half of the draft.


Magic Offers Refund to Fans Who Bought ‘Billy Donovan’ Tickets

The Magic are offering fans who bought season tickets to see Billy Donovan coach the team their money back.

The Orlando Magic are offering refunds to fans who bought season tickets just after Billy Donovan’s hiring.

More than 200 packages sold within 24 hours of the announcement that the Magic had lured Donovan away from Florida, where he won two straight NCAA titles. Donovan changed his mind a day after his May 31 introduction, deciding to return to the Gators.

The Magic said they were contacting individual fans who bought tickets within 48 hours of the Donovan announcement. So far some have decided to keep the tickets, the team said without specifying an amount.

A very classy gesture.


Billy Donovan not going to the Orlando Magic?

It looks like the UF coach has changed his mind.

The Orlando Magic today will allow Billy Donovan out of his 5-year, $27.5 million contract that he signed on Friday.

“It’s over,” said a source close to the situation.

Donovan had reservations about leaving the Florida Gators for the NBA on Friday and spent all weekend trying to find a way to get out of his contract. On Saturday, Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith went to Gainesville to try to convince Donovan to honor the deal. Smith talked with Donovan again on Sunday, and so did Magic President Bob Vander Weide.

Unless Donovan wakes up today and changes his mind, the Magic will let him go, the source said.

Almost everyone at Florida, from people on his staff to other NBA coaches to even his wife, told Donovan to go to the Magic — but after Friday’s emotional news conference in Gainesville, he started thinking he might have made a mistake. That was the first time he even mentioned there being a problem.


On Monday morning, Joel Glass, vice president for communications for the Magic, released a statement:

“While Central Florida, the Orlando Magic and Billy were energized with the announcement of his contract signing on Friday, we know there was a different feeling in Gainesville and people have been tugging at him since that time. Billy is conflicted with those emotions and the opportunity he has ahead in Orlando and in the NBA. We’ve had numerous conversations and a personal visit in Gainesville with Billy over the last 48 hours and we have a commitment from him that the dialogue between us will continue.”

I thought all along that Donovan was going to stay in Gainesville. Coaching in the NBA is a whole different affair than college ball and the Magic are a mediocre team at best. The money and close proximity to his current job, were inviting, but Donovan has job security where he is. In five years or less, Billy could be looking for work again. Do you trade long term stability for short term gain? I wonder if that’s what went through Billy’s mind.

This about face may destroy any chance for Donovan to become a NBA coach, but who knows. Some franchises are desperate(like in any team sport). The Gators will be happy to have their coach back, that is for certain.


Billy Donovan to Coach Orlando Magic

After weeks of speculation as to his future, Billy Donovan will stay in Florida — with the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

Rich history wasn’t enough to lure Billy Donovan away from Florida. In the end, it was just riches. Donovan will have plenty of them after he was hired to coach the Orlando Magic on Thursday. The team confirmed the hiring Thursday night and scheduled a news conference for Friday morning.

Donovan agreed to a five-year deal paying $5.5 million annually, an official in the NBA told The Associated Press.

“Billy Donovan is a winner,” general manager Otis Smith said. “We feel he is the right person to develop and maximize the talents of our players. We look forward to Billy leading us to the next level.”

Donovan has been the subject of speculation since the Gators’ second straight NCAA championship in April. He turned down an offer to coach Kentucky, whose storied program launched his career as an assistant in 1990, and was more recently linked to the
Memphis Grizzlies’ vacant coaching job.

He seemed to squash those rumors after turning down the Kentucky position, proclaiming, “I love the University of Florida.” But Orlando, about 115 miles south of Gainesville, proved too strong to resist. The Magic job pays more than twice Donovan’s $1.7 million annual deal with the Gators. “There’s going to be a lot of hamburgers, a lot of filet,” departing Florida star Joakim Noah joked.

Both Donovan and the school had said all along they were negotiating a contract extension. Florida president Bernie Machen said Thursday the deal was basically done, just not signed. “There’s always a next,” Machen said at the Southeastern Conference’s annual spring meeting in Destin, Fla. “Billy Donovan has been here for 11 years, won two national championships. He’s been a great ambassador for the University of Florida. We’ll always love Billy Donovan, whether he’s here 11 years or 21 years.”

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley also emphasized there were no hard feelings. “We certainly wish this run could have gone on forever. It’s been an incredible privilege to be a part of. We’re indebted to Billy Donovan,” Foley said in a written statement. “We hired him 11 years ago to build Florida basketball and he did that beyond anyone’s expectations. We’ll miss him as a coach, but we’ll always be friends and remain close to Billy and his family.”

That’s the right attitude. Despite the AP lede, Donovan was being paid plenty to coach the Gators and could have probably gotten something close to the money the Magic is paying to stay there or go to Kentucky. But with all his stars gone and two national championships under his belt, he has nowhere to go but down. A new challenge just makes sense. And the fact that he won’t even have to move his family to take the job is a huge bonus.

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Orlando Magic make Billy Donovan an offer

From the Orlando Sentinel-

The Orlando Magic have made a whopping offer Thursday morning to Florida Gators basketball coach Billy Donovan, sources close to the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.

The Magic expect Donovan to accept the offer to replace Brian Hill as the head coach by the end of the week.

Donovan, 42, led the Gators to back-to-back NCAA titles.

I don’t know. There is a mighty large difference between coaching college and the pros. Donovan could be successful in the NBA, but the egos a coach has to endure may not be worth it, or the fact that Orlando has been a pretty hapless franchise for most of its history. On the other hand how much more can Donovan due at UF after winning back to back national titles?

My prediction- Donovan stays put.


Orlando Magic coach Brian Hill fired

He was doing as second stint with the NBA team.

Magic General Manager Otis Smith fired Brian Hill as coach on Wednesday because he didn’t believe Hill would get the most out of the team with his style and strategy if he returned.

Some of the issues in deciding Hill’s fate, according to those close to the situation, were Hill’s inability to adjust during the Magic’s midseason slump; his lack of offensive imagination; and whether he was developing young players Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic, Jameer Nelson, Trevor Ariza and rookie J.J. Redick to their potential.


Hill’s second dismissal in Orlando was not a complete surprise even though he led the Magic to their first playoff appearance since 2003 this past season. They were swept in four games by the Detroit Pistons.

Team President Bob Vander Weide three weeks ago initially injected doubt into Hill’s job status with his comments to the Sentinel.

But in the end, it was Smith who made the call, ultimately frustrated by developments during a 40-42 season and eyeing a coach who could take the club to the next level.

With Vander Weide residing in Grand Rapids, Mich., Smith — in his first year as a full-time general manager — was with the Magic nearly every day and kept Vander Weide informed.

Last Friday, Hill had a pivotal meeting with Smith and Vander Weide (Vander Weide attended via a conference call) at RDV Sportsplex.

Vander Weide, son-in-law of Magic owner Rich DeVos, had said that the “process” of evaluating Hill and the basketball operations could take “two to three weeks.” It stretched to the full three weeks largely because Hill went on a short vacation, Smith was out of a town for a period and Vander Weide was busy with the club’s arena issues and other projects.

Hill, 59, was unavailable for comment. He had two years remaining on his contract, although the club held the option for a fourth season. Smith was calling players to inform them of the decision.

Hill’s coaching staff was still in place as of late Wednesday. A news conference is expected today. The Magic are looking for their fourth coach since Doc Rivers was fired in the 2004 season.


Hill was hired for the second time by the Magic on May 24, 2005, taking over for interim coach Chris Jent. Jent had replaced Johnny Davis, who was fired as head coach.

In his first season back with the team in 2005-06, Hill led the Magic to a 36-46 record — the same record they compiled under Davis and Jent the previous season.

This past season, the Magic jumped to a 13-4 start but faded badly before making a furious run to barely reach the playoffs as a No.8 seed.

To me, it sounds like management has a case of ‘thinking the grass is greener elsewhere’. Two years to turn around this mediocre NBA franchise isn’t a great deal of time in my opinion. Then I’m not a impatient owner of a sports franchise. Results are always expected today if not sooner.


Greatest NBA Centers Ever

For Shaq’s 35th Birthday ESPN saw fit to rank the top 10 centers of all time and I can’t disagree with #1 at all.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

As for his achievements: 1967-68 USBWA College Player of the Year; 1969 Naismith Award; Six-time NBA MVP; Six-time NBA Champion; Two-time Finals MVP; NBA Rookie of the Year (1970); and NBA Hall of Fame (1995).

Like no other player, Abdul-Jabbar embodied the maestro team brilliance of Bill Russell and the individual excellence of Wilt Chamberlain. His NBA cup runneth over: six championships, a record six MVPs and a Finals MVP award … at 38 years old!

Possessed the single most unstoppable shot in NBA history — the sky hook — but more than that, he was clutch, consistent and underrated in the toughness department.

He was the starting center on six championship teams and had the presence of mind to cohabitate with stars like Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

He’s the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points; was named to the All-NBA Defensive team 11 times; and is the only modern era player to lead the league at least once in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, minutes played, field-goal percentage and PER.

However, in their explanation of choosing Kareem as #1 I believe they left out on of the most amazing things about Kareem’s career. His expected arrival in the college ranks led to directly to a preemptive rule change by NCAA when they banned the dunk after the 1967 season and reinstated it shortly after his departure from UCLA. No other player that I can think of recieved the same treatment. While the rule was made mostly to limit his size advantage, it didn’t slow Kareem down as UCLA went 88-2 while he was a player.

The other thing to ponder about this list would is where Bill Walton would be if he hadn’t the chronic injury problems.

As for the complete list:
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Bill Russell
4. Shaquille O’Neal
5. Hakeem Olajuwon
6. Moses Malone
7. Bill Walton
8. David Robinson
9. George Mikan
10. Patrick Ewing


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