On the first day that NBA teams could start training camp and make roster moves, the Orlando Magic have been one of the most active teams out there. Active, however, doesn’t necessarily equal improved.
The team used its amnesty clause on Gilbert Arenas and waived him, signed free agents Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt, and—the big move of the day—swapped Brandon Bass for Glen “Big Baby” Davis in a deal with the Celtics. There’s also the Dwight Howard trade and tampering rumors, making the Magic one of the more talked about teams in the NBA right now.
Most of the moves don’t actually improve the team though, which could mean this is only the beginning of a very tumultuous season.
Waiving Agent Zero was expected and smart. Through the amnesty clause, the remaining three years and $62 million of Arenas’ six-year $111 million deal will no longer count towards Orlando’s salary cap. Arenas didn’t produce off the bench and was definitely not worth his price.
With some cap wiggle room made available it was possible the Magic could’ve improved its roster and possibly influence Howard to stay. Going after Shane Battier—a good perimeter defender with a strong basketball IQ and that can knock down the open shot—was a promising sign, even if he did wind up signing with the Miami Heat.
Instead the Magic conducted a sign-and-trade for Davis.
When you think of Davis, what comes to mind is his goofy “Shrek and Donkey” partnership with Nate Robinson, his game-winning shot against the Magic in the 2009 NBA playoffs when he ran down the sidelines and knocked over a little kid, and Davis crying at the end of the bench after Kevin Garnett got in his face. His nickname is Big Baby for crying out loud. He also seems to be out of shape.
There is no sense that Davis has matured, and his numbers don’t necessarily scream "superstar." Last year Davis averaged 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game, and shot 45 percent from the field.
You know who put up similar, if not better, numbers? Brandon Bass. He averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game, and shot 52 percent from the field—all in fewer minutes per game. Bass is also a tougher player and much better free-throw shooter.
Where is the improvement?
Throw in Hughes, 32, who didn’t play last year and has seen his points per game average on the steady decline since a career-high 22.0 points per game in the 2004-05 season, and Pruitt, who hasn’t played in two years and never averaged more than eight minutes a game in his two seasons of work, and the moves are all questionable.
This is the first day of the new season, and the first day since the lockout that moves can be made. The team swapped a tough power forward for one with a baby moniker, signed two players who haven’t played in the league in at least a year, and are on the verge of trading away or losing one of the best players in franchise history.
Usually the start of the season is a day of renewed hope for all fans, where every team is equal and has a chance at the championship. Yet already it seems like the Magic have set themselves up for a long, turbulent season.