Earlier this season, when it was plainly obvious that the Orlando Magic would have to do something other than stand pat if they wanted to be a serious contender, the general manager, Otis Smith, pulled off some blockbuster trades. Unfortunately, however, they have not improved the team much. And there is one key reason—Gilbert Arenas is a shadow of his former self.
Arenas was supposed to be the guy who could come in and light it up, giving Dwight Howard some help. In this era of super teams made up of two or three super players, the Magic need one or two to go along with Howard.
They were hoping Vince Carter would be that guy. Unfortunately, Carter wanted nothing to do with the big-time playoff pressure of the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. So they needed to look elsewhere.
The thing about superstars is they don't grow on trees. You don't just order one over the phone. First, you have the locate one that's available. If Carmelo Anthony says he wants to go to New York, then getting him in a trade is nearly impossible. Even if he does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, if he refuses to sign an extension it is not worth it. The Magic couldn't mortgage the future on renting a player for a few months.
So who was available and reasonable? Gilbert Arenas.
But there were reasons why.
First, he was a pain in the rear. His well-publicized locker room gun incident last year was a blight on the league. He had gone from the franchise player to persona non grata in D.C.
Second, he was rusty. Because of this incident, he had not played much basketball lately. Then, when the Wizards drafted John Wall, his playing time suffered further.
Third, he was injured. His bad knees have slowed him down. Plus, he can no longer shoot the three-point shot. At one point last week, he had missed 19 in a row.
So basically, the Magic has traded Michael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter for Hedo Turkoglu, Earl Clark, Jason Richardson and a shell of a Gilbert Arenas. That's a net gain of zero.
In the meantime, the Knicks have acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to go with Amar'e Stoudemire. Great. Now the Magic are the fifth best team in the East.
With Dwight Howard going into his walk year next year, it is getting close to panic time in Orlando.
They can ill afford to have their superstar pull a Shaq or LeBron and go to the Lakers or New Jersey. With the big new arena to pay for, they cannot afford it to be two-thirds empty for home games. And if losing Howard were to happen, you can be sure that would be the case.
I don't know what the Magic can do next year to get Dwight some help, but they better think of something. Getting rid of Arenas would be a good place to start.