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The Most Baffling Summer Signing

General managers generally lose their minds this time of year. By now, everyone is aware that the Orlando Magic grossly overpaid for Rashard Lewis in a move that will scrutinized for the duration of his contract. The move has harkened past blunders and brought Jon Koncak back into our consciousness.

Lewis won't be able to live up to the exorbitant contract (believed to be worth about $118 million over six years) and it still remains ludicrous that the Magic would give him an extra year - and about $24 million - so that he will have a deal that places him in the same class as Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett. And even if he does, the Magic weren't obligated to give him that money.

Lewis is 6-10, can score from anywhere on the floor and is a fairly consistent shooter, but he is a one-time all-star - fringe at that - who has only been to the playoffs three times. Lewis is still relatively young (he turns 28 in August), but he's been in the league nine years and has yet to establish himself as anything more than a scorer. He's also never been the best player on his team. He isn't now, with Dwight Howard, the franchise center, signing a 5-year, $85 million extension yesterday.

We've seen teams overpay for star talents many times and live to regret the deals later on. Cleveland feels a bit burned for unloading $70 million on Larry Hughes, but - even given Hughes's run of injuries - that seems reasonable when you consider that the Cavaliers have been to the NBA Finals (albiet without a healthy Hughes) and the Magic made a financial commitment to Lewis that nearly equals two of the largest contracts signed this summer for Vince Carter (four years, $61 million) and Gerald Wallace (six years, $57 million).

Lewis, Carter and Wallace each play the same position. Carter, even at 30, is by far a more exciting player than Lewis, and some would argue that Wallace, still a babe at just 24, is more well-rounded. Yet Lewis is the league's first $100 million man since Kobe Bryant. Bryant is already discovering, much like Garnett, that more money means more problems if your organization can't build a team around you.

This deal makes no sense - and that goes beyond my assertion that a maximum salary player able to lead his team to a championship (or at least make them a consistent title contender) and be first- or second-team all-NBA. The Magic threw this money at Lewis only seconds after it finally escaped the albatross known as Grant Hill's $93 million deal. Hadn't Orlando learned its lesson? Hill's deal was debilitating and his run of injuries left the Magic hamstrung for seven years because both sides were stuck with each other and no team was willing to bite. I'm not saying that Lewis will get hurt (I hope not), but the Magic wasn't even slightly scared of diving head-first into another potentially salary-cap crippling deal?

Orlando has had a string of misfortune strike its only major professional franchise, with the O'Neal's defection to Los Angeles in 1996 still casting a dark shadow. The Magic hasn't won a playoff series since Shaq's departure. Did he take the Magic with him? (Should the Los Angeles Lakers be concerned that Shaq put some "Til You Do Right By Me" Curse on them, too? But I digress.) Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady and most recently, Hill, have all skipped town since then. O'Neal, Hardaway and Hill left the Magic empty handed, and considering how badly things ended for Steve Francis in Orlando, McGrady practically did, too.

The pressure is squarely on Lewis to produce a championship or be considered a bust. It's an all-or-nothing pact. Lewis moved from the obsurity of Seattle to a situation where he has to deliver not only on the floor, but at the box office, with the Magic fighting for a new arena and possibly on the verge of relocating. He will also be asked to exorcise Shaq's ghost (I know Shaq's still alive, but you know what I mean) and save a franchise. Nothing much.

I also find it baffling that the Magic also sacrificed Darko Milicic to secure Lewis. I'll be honest, when I heard Orlando was going after Lewis, I thought they needed to have Milicic, too, to be considered a serious contender in the East. It's ridiculous that they decided to pick one over the other, when they were basically bidding against themselves for Lewis. Charlotte and Seattle were the only teams that could've signed Lewis and neither side was willing to break the bank for a good, but not great player like Lewis.

And considering what it cost Memphis to sign Milicic ($21 million over three years), they easily could've kept both with a little more discipline and savvy.

Say what you will about Milicic - he'll never be in the class of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and other stars selected after him in 2003, he must be a bum if two franchises have already given up on him - but the fact remains that he is just 22, and he's 7-feet tall.

He didn't have to be a monster for Orlando to be productive. With Lewis and Howard getting most of the touches on offense, Milicic only needed to block shots (which is he very capable of doing), rebound and score on occasion. Now the Magic have two cornerstones in Lewis and Howard, but no big men to protect them. I'm not predicting greatness for Milicic in Memphis, but he certainly was worth taking a chance on, considering the Magic already surrendered a first-round draft pick to get him.

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars' decision to deal Milicic for scraps and a draft pick in February 2006 doesn't look as bad today (he'll never be able to live down actually drafting Milicic). And if Rodney Stuckey turns into something special for the Pistons, this Lewis deal will look that much worse for Orlando.

I just hope Lewis is really up for the challenge.

By Michael Lee  |  July 13, 2007; 11:46 AM ET
 
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Comments

ah yeah 1st post?

Heh, and nothing about etan / navarro for camby... shucks.

lol
-g

Posted by: greg | July 13, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

greg,
this post was from Mike not Ivan

Posted by: dante | July 13, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting piece on Brian Chase, Michael.

Posted by: Sean | July 13, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

You guys ever seen the commercial where this guy comes in to buy a house from a couple and says "I had a problem with your asking price...I thought it was a little low..here's an extra XXXX dollars"

That's how I feel about the Orlando/Lewis contract. I would have LOVED to be a fly in the room while the negotiations took place. How did they pull out that number in the end? What was Lewis' leverage?

Orlando is a very strange franchise. Let's just hope for their sake that Lewis' East Coast exposure (and weak conference) turn him into a better overall player. I won't hold my breath though...

Posted by: Nick | July 13, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mike, can you get a hold of Ivan to find out if that was him with that posting about JCN and Etan for Camby? Right now its the biggest mystery since "who shot J.R.!"

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I thought the Magic already got their new arena. In any event, they have just hamstrung themselves again for the next bunch of years. They better get lucky with a draft choice or the MLE because that is the only way they are going to get any better.

Posted by: George Templeton | July 13, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Agree, the Lewis signing is baffling. I don't see how this deal really ramps up Orlando's chances for next season, especially since they lost Grant Hill and Darko in the process.

The more time passes and the teams in the East seemingly do little to fix their issues, the better the chances are for the Wiz.

Healthy seasons from D-Wade and Shaq will make the Heat betetr, but only getting Mo Williams or another scorer puts them over the top. Can't see how the Pistons can win with McDyess or Webber in the starting role for a full season. The Bulls got Noah, but since they had no front court scoring last season, can they play him with Big Ben or Tyrus Thomas? And the Cavs seem likely to lose Vareajo and not get much help elsewhere.

The Wiz already have added Young and Pecsh and now McGuire looks like a steal. If they keep DeShawn and Blatche, the core is intact. Then deal JCN and a contract to help the future (cap space for Arenas and future picksa?) and damn, things are looking up in Chinatown

Posted by: Ben (Bethesda) | July 13, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

C. Bell - except about a half hour ago the fake poster spilled the beans that he made the story up...sorry buddy. It wasn't true.

Posted by: Nick | July 13, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I'm glad its not. Thanks for the update. Its hard to keep up when you're supposed to be working. But I try my best to stay loyal to the blog! Sure sign I got my priorities together. Lol!! Plus that gives me hope that the JCN and Etan to M-Town for Swift and a pick with cash is still available.

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The Memphis paper's are saying the Wiz asked for Conley or Lowry or future picks for JCN. No way Conley comes over, but Lowry would be interesting. This team could use a young (true) point guard to groom.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/mca/grizzlies/article/0,1426,MCA_475_5627388,00.html

Posted by: Ben | July 13, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Ben, I agree about the pg situation. But I like Aaron Miles as well. He slightly taller than both guys and has pro experience, not to mention a stellar college career. If Ernie finds a partner to take Daniels, I think he backs up Gil next season.

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

hey all you EG wannabes and think you're always right (kalorama), let's fire EG and hire Orlando's Otis Smith so we could have gotten Rashard Lewis for that $118M instead of the $15M or $18M for DS2. What do you say? All for it, say "Aye!"

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Any blogger who's seen the SummerWiz and is not disappointed in Pesh after all the hype? Really weak upper body, a step slow, bad shot selection, gets shoved off the boards.

On the other hand, his Spiderman nickname is legit --- he does defend like a spider and seems to have six or eight arms and legs running around out there.

Maybe Wes Jr. can coach him up?

Posted by: joe c | July 13, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Pech - Maybe we should cut him some slack? It's summer league, for goodness sakes. Let's see what he does pre-season and in the first half of the season. He'll find his spot on the team.

Posted by: Nick | July 13, 2007 1:06 PM | Report abuse

No one is trying to be EG. We're speculating cause we got nothing better to do. EG is the best GM in the league. Every move he's made has worked in our favor.

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

right, C Bell, we love Ernie.

Aaron Miles looks solid and I think he makes the club, but most likely as the 13, 14 or 15th spot that is inactive each week. I think it is key to have at least three players that can truly run the point so he would give them that; when Taylor was asked to that a year ago he was brutal and the team suffered.

Posted by: Ben | July 13, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Agree on Pech, got to cut him some slack. He clearly is getting a crash course in NBA speed again; I am sure he doesn't have to deal with to many stud athletes in the Ukraine league.

Plus, when is playing with the Big 3, he will get tons of open looks and that confidence will rise.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 13, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Don't blame the kid, blame the hype machine... or yourself for either buying into it.

Posted by: Stringer | July 13, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Greg Oden and Durant have not looked too good either thus far!

It's WAY WAY too early to give up on Pech.

I do hope the early signs for McGuire are correct. EG may have gotten himself ANOTHER steal. His 2nd round picks are better than a lot of teams 1st round picks. The man is simply a stud in selecting 2nd round picks!

Posted by: Rob P | July 13, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I love Ernie too but I would hate to be in his shoes with this whole JCN thing, seems like a very messy situation... Hopefully some dumb GM (allot of them in the NBA) will make us a great offer.

And I have to agree with Ben in Bethesda, I don't see any of the East teams getting better. I think we make it deep into the playoffs this year (East Conference Finals).

Posted by: Peter | July 13, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Not to be a complete ass, but...

How about separating Mike & Ivan next year? I think folks who want Wiz scoop are consistently frustrated when we come to this space or a chant and Mike only wants to talk about the NBA at-large.

Also, what's new and insightful in this post? This story has been beaten to death in the last week and a half. I suppose it would be one thing if this had been posted a week or ten days ago, or if there was some inside story on how the negotiation went down. This post reads as something that wasn't interesting enough for the paper -- not some inside scoop/rumor that couldn't be properly sourced to print.

Posted by: Finding Fish | July 13, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Until our guards start to hit their shots spacing in summer league games turn into a scrum in the lane. It's really hard to evauluate centers and power forwards in the summer league because it's like bumper cars in the lane. Also Detroit brought a young starter to the summer league to work on his game, I thought Pecherov actually looked better against Detroit than he did in the first game.
Memphis will very likely move one of their points if they can get a good deal. Might be hard to get Lowry and a first next year for Navarro, but it's a talking point. Portland is also still trying to put together something to get Conley, so if they would go in that direction Memphis wouldn't move Lowry. Memphis's asking price for Conley is supposed to be really high too. Could be a potential for a three way there.

Posted by: GM | July 13, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

My thoughts on the Michael/Ivan thing. Way back in the day I suggested that they start their posts with "by Ivan Carter" or "by Michael Lee" to make it less confusing. They did it for a couple posts and then stopped for some reason.

My new suggestion: why not have your web gurus there tweak the format so that every time you guys post your head-shot comes up? That way we know instantly who posted. May make it easier for folks to know who is talking (even though they could look at the bottom of the post for that info).

But I agree with the above. Michael, your posts can often be insightful, but are they really relevant in the "Wizards Insider" blog?

Posted by: Nick | July 13, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

DS and Gil are very tight,
Their act on youtube was quite a sight.
With Gilbert's help, EG saw the light.
Now why can't he just get that BH situation right?

Chorus:

Awvee's a nice guy,
We enjoy just chillin'.
So he cold-cocked a guy:
He didn't kill him :)

You call DSteve a two guard?
Oy, the money of Mr. Pollin!
Malone, Chenier and Ballard,
Their eyes must be rollin'.

EG, why waste
The money of the owner
When you could be signing
The little stud from Barcelona?

Chorus:

Awvee's a nice guy,
We enjoy just chillin'.
So he cold-cocked a guy:
He didn't kill him :)

Yours truly,
Poet


Posted by: Poet | July 13, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks goodness they are in our division. I would hate to have to play D. Howard if that team had any other talent.

Lewis has a really nice game. But it's not worth 120 million.

Posted by: pg posse (go West Green and Durant) | July 13, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

While we're all having a good, well deserved laugh at Orlando overpaying for Lewis. Let us not forget that a few years ago it was Orlando who dumped Ike Austin on us for perenial stud, and fan favorite Ben Wallace.

Posted by: MiamiBrit | July 13, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I like the combo of Carter and Lee. It gives good balance. And Mike does give Wiz info. The reason why Ivan's is more in-depth is because (and I may be wrong) he's the team's beat writer. He's damn near a part of the team.

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I like the combo of Carter and Lee. It gives good balance. And Mike does give Wiz info. The reason why Ivan's is more in-depth is because (and I may be wrong) he's the team's beat writer. He's damn near a part of the team.

Posted by: C.Bell | July 13, 2007 02:56 PM

Right now i think its cause Ivan is in Las Vegas with the team whereas Mike is chillin in DC

Posted by: Dante | July 13, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else have the feeling that trading away JCN will end up like trading away Big Ben?

Posted by: Ernie G | July 13, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The only rational reason I can come up with for why Orlando gave Lewis all that money is that Dan Snyder switched bodies with Otis Smith, Orlando's GM. Snyder loves deals like that!

Posted by: Keithinator | July 13, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Its' not just Big Ben. It's Rasheed, Rip, Ben, Webber. But of course, we got Ike Austin, Mitch Richmond, Otis Thorpe, Laettner in return . We shouldn't complain, right ?
JCN will wind up haunting us. To quote Tony. It's the curse of Les Boulez. Somehow whoever sits in that GM chair occasionally morphs into Wes Unseld.

Posted by: mark | July 13, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Orlando can't laugh too hard, Ben Wallace was a throw-in in the Grant Hill deal.

And anon 12:58 you sir are a complete idiot.

Posted by: George Templeton | July 13, 2007 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Say what you want about my game, but honestly, wouldn't you rather have a center that didn't write limmericks?

Posted by: Brenda | July 13, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

What is it about Orlando management and their penchant to wildly overpay talented, but not dominant perimeter players. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson from the Hill/McGrady debacle. Unless Dwight Howard quickly develops into a dominant interior player and carries the team to the Finals wqith Lewis along for the ride, this has the makings of being near the top of the all-time bad deal list.

Posted by: kalorama | July 13, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Steve Blake goes back to the Blazers.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2936247

Posted by: kalorama | July 13, 2007 10:28 PM | Report abuse

You're giving credit to Basketbawful for digging up the Koncak reference???!!!! Come on, bro! I brought that up a day before those tools, when I posted a comment about Koncak's contract on your "Francis Is Free" blog entry. Give me some credit!

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