Skip to main content
Original Issue

1 Orlando Magic No question, this is now Tracy's Team. But with Grant Hill back, the question is, Who's going to stop them?

At this time last fall Orlando was in the midst of throwing a
citywide housewarming party for the Magic's two prize free-agent
pickups: former Pistons star Grant Hill and unproven but
promising ex-Raptors swingman Tracy McGrady. Despite the duo's
matching seven-year, $93 million contracts, McGrady took pains
to make one thing absolutely clear. "It's Grant's team," the
21-year-old said. "He's the All-Star. I ain't done nothing in
this league yet."

How strange, then, to attend Magic training camp only a year
later and listen as Hill talked about playing on what is now
undeniably Tracy's team. Even stranger still, Hill not only seems
to be accepting this reversal but also fully embracing it. "My
role will be different, and I welcome that," says Hill, who sat
out all but four games with an ankle injury last season while
McGrady was maturing into one of the league's best players. "I'll
give up scoring 30 [points] a night to have a chance at a
championship, and I think we're going in that direction."

Indeed, optimism is the designer drug of choice these days in
Orlando, where McGrady has mentioned 60 wins as a goal, coach Doc
Rivers talks of "expectations [that] are very high, and they
should be" and general manager John Gabriel calls this year's
squad "maybe the best team we've ever had here, including our
Finals team [1994-95]." (That last claim would no doubt be of
interest to a certain Lakers center and former Disneytown denizen
should the two teams meet in the Finals next June.)

Easy as it usually is to discount such preseason braggadocio as
mere hot air, in the case of the Magic it's hard not to agree.
After all, this is a team that finished fourth in the Atlantic
last season based largely on the
make-you-stay-up-and-watch-TNT-on-a-Tuesday play of McGrady, who
capped an All-Star season by going Jordan on the Bucks in the
first round, averaging 33.8 points and 8.3 assists in the
four-game series defeat.

This year the Magic not only brings back Hill, who has looked
healthy, if rusty, in the preseason, but the team also bulked up
by adding free agents (or more accurately, free ancients) Patrick
Ewing, 39, and Horace Grant, 36, who between them have played in
2,448 NBA games, or more than twice as many as the Orlando
franchise. Regardless of their mileage, the pair is a significant
improvement upon last year's starting duo of Andrew DeClercq and
Bo Outlaw, who, though admirable hustle players, contributed
little to the box score outside of the PF column, combining to
average more fouls per game (5.8) than field goals made (5.2).

Thus, in one off-season, the Magic has gone from an undersized
smoke-and-mirrors club to one of the deepest, and tallest, teams
in the East. As such, Rivers won't be starting Mike Miller, the
2000-01 Rookie of the Year, even though the sweet-shooting
swingman probably made the greatest off-season strides of any
Magic player. After being pushed around as a rookie, Miller
spent the summer working out with McGrady in Orlando, adding 15
pounds of muscle and a good dose of confidence--"I gotta have
it," he says with a smile--both of which were on display during
the U.S.'s gold medal run at the Goodwill Games.

Miller broke a bone in his right foot last Friday, and he may
miss up to five weeks. Once healthy he will play close to 30
minutes a night and often team with McGrady and Hill, whom Rivers
plans to use as a point forward this year to create the ultimate
small-guard matchup nightmare. Faced with a trio of players 6'8"
or taller, all of whom can pass, shoot and handle the ball,
opposing teams will either have to send their smaller guards into
the paint to play post defense (welcome to the weight room, Sam
Cassell, Jason Terry and David Wesley) or try to match the
Magic's height. Asked how he would defend such a lineup, Rivers
thinks for a moment and then smiles. "I don't know," he says.
"That's a good question."

It's one the rest of the East will have to figure out quickly, or
the Magic--be it Grant's team or Tracy's team--will be known simply
as the East's best team.

--Chris Ballard

COLOR PHOTO: FERNANDO MEDINA/NBA ENTERTAINMENT SHIFTING GEARS After sitting out last season with an ankle injury, Hill is happy to play the role of set-up man to McGrady.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Magic

"Tracy McGrady is the best player in the East. There are only
five players I would consider trading him for, and they're all
in the West: Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin
Garnett and Chris Webber. McGrady is the guy who gives Orlando
reason to believe it can win a championship.... Grant Hill's
absence last year wasn't as bad for the Magic as you would have
thought because it allowed McGrady to establish himself. Now all
Hill has to do is fit in. It's going to be a bit of a struggle
because he's going to have some rust, but he's an intelligent
player.... I can't overstate the value of Doc Rivers's
leadership. He has control of the team, and he's going to get
[his players] to buy into what needs to be done.... To beat
Orlando you'll have to limit points on the fast break, in the
paint and on offensive rebounds, and that's hard because the
Magic will come at you in a variety of ways.... The Magic has a
collection of guys who can have a bad night and not be missed:
McGrady, Hill, Horace Grant, Mike Miller, Patrick Ewing, Pat
Garrity--any of them can step in and help win a game.... Last
year Orlando was 19th in defensive rebounding, but that's going
to improve with Grant, Ewing and Hill coming in.... This will be
the perfect situation for Ewing as long as he accepts the fact
that he's going to play limited minutes to sustain his quality
of play throughout the year and not disrupt the chemistry of the
team. It wouldn't surprise me if they won the East. But winning
the Finals? Probably not."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 43-39 (fourth in Atlantic)
Coach: Doc Rivers (third season with Magic)

PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Tracy McGrady 26.8 ppg 7.5 rpg 4.6 apg 1.53 bpg 1.51 spg
PF Horace Grant[1] 8.5 ppg 7.1 rpg 0.79 bpg 0.66 spg 46.2 FG%
C Patrick Ewing[1] 9.6 ppg 7.4 rpg 1.15 bpg 0.67 spg 43.0 FG%
SG Darrell Armstrong 15.9 ppg 7.0 apg 4.6 rpg 1.80 spg 35.5 3FG%
PG Grant Hill[2] 25.8 ppg 5.2 apg 6.6 rpg 1.39 spg 48.9 FG%

PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

G-F Mike Miller 11.9 ppg 4.0 rpg 1.7 apg 43.6 FG% 40.7 3FG%
F Bo Outlaw 7.3 ppg 7.7 rpg 1.71 bpg 1.31 spg 61.4 FG%
F Pat Garrity 8.3 ppg 2.8 rpg 0.53 spg 38.7 FG% 43.3 3FG%
G-F Monty Williams 5.0 ppg 3.0 rpg 1.0 apg 0.35 spg 44.5 FG%
C Andrew DeClercq 3.9 ppg 3.5 rpg 0.5 apg 55.4 FG% 57.3 FT%

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)
[2]1999-00 statistics

"I can't overstate the value of Rivers's leadership. He has
control of the team."