Adding Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek helps Orlando finish strong in the regular season.
By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2003
Reeling from the loss of Grant Hill, the Orlando Magic entered the last third of the season with a 26-29 record and the realization that something had to be done to help forward Tracy McGrady.
Inside and outside, McGrady was doing it all.
So on Feb.19, Orlando traded guard Mike Miller, McGrady's closest friend, rookie Ryan Humphrey and a first-round draft pick to the Grizzlies for two rookies, power forward Drew Gooden and guard Gordan Giricek.
Since then, the Magic has been a more balanced team and posted a 16-10 record, working its way into today's opening round of the NBA playoffs at Detroit.
The team has had a history of questionable trades, including the one that sent forward Ben Wallace and point guard Chucky Atkins to the Pistons for Hill. But this one had teeth.
"I think what makes a trade work is if it fits your team, if it's in compliance with your team's identity," Orlando coach Doc Rivers said. "If players come in and somehow change your team's identity and chemistry, it has to be in a positive way. I think Drew Gooden and Gordan are great examples of that. They have changed the fire of our team, the spirit of our team.
"They both play with a high-intensity level. They both show emotion, and that changed our makeup as a basketball team."
And not a minute too soon.
The Magic faces a Detroit team that got better inside because of the Hill trade. Wallace, 28, is the league's leading rebounder, averaging 15.4, and is tied for first in blocked shots with 3.2 per game. He has been slowed by a strained medial collateral ligament in the left knee, but he is probable for Game 1.
Orlando will counter with center Shawn Kemp, Gooden and 7-foot center Steven Hunter.
Gooden's active legs and willingness to mix it up inside should give the Magic more defensive presence and an offensive option.
"I'm comfortable playing, and the reason is that I know as long as I play hard, it'll make up for any mistakes that I would make," said Gooden, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft. "Any mistakes can be made up through hard work."
Since arriving in Orlando, the 6-10, 230-pound Gooden has averaged 13.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 28.4 minutes. He missed seven games with a sprained big toe but returned to the lineup against the Hawks on April 14, scoring 15 and grabbing 10 rebounds. He has had moments of brilliance, grabbing 18 rebounds in a loss to the Knicks and scoring 26 in a win over the Bucks.
Gooden likely will get a postseason baptism trying to defend Wallace. His teammates have told him to let the game come to him.
"I tell him to slow down, there's no need to rush," McGrady said. "I think at his position, nobody is really quicker than him, and all he has to do is take his time and he can get whatever he wants.
"Right now, he's young and impatient, and when he gets the ball, he's thinking score right away. He's out there just playing and doesn't understand yet what we're trying to get out of (each) possession."
The Magic also should benefit from Giricek, a 6-6, 210-pounder from Zagreb, Croatia. Giricek (12.3 ppg) will help Orlando in the open floor by matching up with guard Richard Hamilton.
"I fit in nicely, and I am surrounded by a great atmosphere," Giricek said. "It's a great experience and a lot different to what I experienced before. ... Here, I'm more involved in the game. Here, they expect more from me, and I like that."