Orlando Magic Daily Mailbag Vol. 42
"Seattle and Las Vegas were reportedly promised expansion teams. What do you think of that and Paolo Banchero? Given the situation with Washington and Duke and Italy and USA teams? I am a little worried about it -Daniel Hidalgo on YouTube"
This is not the first time I have heard this concern. It is deeply embedded in Orlando Magic fans to worry about their superstars rejecting the franchise and the city and moving on.
We saw that with Shaquille O’Neal when he suddenly departed Orlando for Los Angeles in 1996 — that was about a lot of different things including the Magic’s misjudgment of the growing sports contract market, a quirk in the CBA and O’Neal’s desire for a bigger market.
We saw that when Tracy McGrady asked out of Orlando at the peak of his powers in 2004 — a disagreement with the current general manager and poor roster management throughout his tenure led to that.
And we saw that when Dwight Howard asked out of Orlando in 2011 — again, poor roster management and perhaps a player looking for a bigger market.
That concern is always going to be in the background. And each of those three exits was really bitter. Magic fans want to find a star to call their own who can not only perform on the court and in the community but bring championships.
Paolo Banchero is the exact player the Magic have been waiting for a decade for. He looks like someone the team can build around.
With the noise — and it is still just noise even if it feels inevitable — that his hometown Seattle will get an NBA team rightfully returned to them, there are a lot of Magic fans concerned that Banchero will force his way there at some point.
That indeed might happen. But it would not be a good business decision at least not yet.
For a player’s rookie contract and the first extension, the drafting team has all the advantages. It is not just about having restricted free agency rights (something that the Magic did not have in 1996 with O’Neal), it is having the max extension rights that Banchero is surely going to net. That part is hard to predict with Banchero’s rise uncertain and the rise of the salary cap after the new TV deal also fairly uncertain.
The simple way to think of it is this: The Magic have eight years to show Banchero they can build a championship team around him. After those eight years, it will be up to him to decide whether to re-invest with the Magic or move on elsewhere.
And eight seasons (we are one season into those eight) is plenty of time to let a player of Banchero’s caliber decide whether this franchise is where his future is just as much as it is plenty of time for the Magic to make their decision.
A lot can happen in eight years, not just on the court but off the court too. Orlando will become at least a second home if Banchero makes it through all eight years — the four-year rookie contract and a four-year extension.
Having said that, if Banchero has his heart set on playing in Seattle, that is what he is going to do. There is no changing that.
We are watching Damian Lillard try to dictate where he plays while he is still under contract and with seemingly no leverage. That deal is hitting some gears, but everyone seems to know that it will happen eventually.
And ultimately star players like the kind we think Banchero can decide where they want to play and sometimes when they want to play with them. And the Magic may not have much of a choice in it.
So, it is not something to worry about. It is an abstraction at this point. The Magic should be focused on building the best team they can and give him every reason to stay committed to this franchise.