Magic, Wizards, Suns make major changes to rosters
It was a busy afternoon for the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, and Phoenix Suns Dec. 18 as one team removed a problem, one solved a problem, and one made a desperate push to keep up in the East.
Pending the successful completion of player physicals, the Magic have traded Rashard Lewis to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas and a combination of Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, their 2011 first-round pick, and cash considerations to the Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark.
The Magic, having lost five of its last six games before the trade, felt that changes were necessary to keep pace with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat in the East.
Turkoglu returns to Orlando after leaving as a free agent in the summer of 2009. He struggled in stopovers in Toronto and Phoenix, but the Magic are hoping that he will return to the player who played a key role on their 2009 Finals team.
Richardson, who was leading the Suns in scoring at 19.3 points per game and shooting a career-best 41.9 percent from three-point range, will replace Carter in the starting lineup, where he will essentially be a younger and more athletic version of Carter.
Clark is a versatile young big man who worked hard but could not crack the Suns’ rotation.
For Phoenix, the most important piece in the trade was Gortat, who will significantly help improve the Suns’ rebounding and inside presence woes.
Gortat has longed for an expanded role for some time, trying to escape his fate as Dwight Howard’s backup in 2009 by signing an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks that Orlando eventually matched. Now in Phoenix, he will get that opportunity, teaming with Robin Lopez to form a big front line.
Carter will step into the vacant shooting guard spot, and Phoenix hopes that the combination of Steve Nash and the team’s renowned medical staff can return him to the Carter of old — at least for one season.
Pietrus can provide more outside shooting for the Suns and solid defense, but with a glut of wing players remaining on the bench (Josh Childress and Jared Dudley also play the same position), another trade could be coming soon.
The most curious of the trades that were completed, however, surrounded Arenas and Lewis.
For the Wizards, they rid themselves of Arenas’ baggage and four remaining contract years but acquire a similar burdensome contract. Even more strange is that Washington has no room in its frontcourt for Lewis, with Andray Blatche, Al Thornton, Yi Jianlian, and the now-healthy Josh Howard all occupying places in the rotation.
The situation is similarly curious for Orlando. The Magic still have Jameer Nelson at point guard, and with Richardson, Turkoglu, Brandon Bass, and Howard expected to be in the starting lineup, either Nelson or Arenas will become the Magic’s sixth man — unless, of course, the Magic choose to tempt fate and put Turkoglu at power forward like Phoenix did early this season with disastrous results.
Overall, it was an eventful day in the NBA, one that will make the East a little more interesting in the coming months.
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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