5 worst Orlando Magic starters of the Tracy McGrady era
Horace Grant (2002-03)
77 starts, 7.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG
Patrick Ewing (2002)
4 starts, 6.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG
Shawn Kemp (2003)
55 starts, 6.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG
The Orlando Magic went through a weird phase in the Tracy McGrady era. They had few financial resources to add to their team and they were trying desperately still to replace Shaquille O’Neal at center in an era that still valued centers.
Those centers will be a constant theme throughout this post because it was the white rabbit the team was chasing — all while O’Neal was winning championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
So what did the Magic do?
They did not go invest their mid-level exception or their free agency money on a solid veteran center to anchor their defense. They did not draft a capable center they could develop and grow.
No, they went for 1990s nostalgia in an attempt to sell some more tickets and hope they could keep the thing glued together.
It was . . . not good.
It started first with re-signing Horace Grant in the 2002 season.
Grant was two years removed from being traded out of Orlando ahead of the cap cutting of the Heart & Hustle season. He won a title with the Lakers but returned to the Magic as a sort of favor to John Gabriel after getting the richest contract of his career.
Joining him in that 2002 season was Patrick Ewing.
The New York Knicks legend was not the player he was in the mid-1990s. The knee issue that kept him out of the 1999 Playoffs continued to plague him and he moved without the fluidity and explosiveness that made him a Hall of Fame player.
Still, the Magic put Ewing and Grant on all of their promotional materials that year. They wanted everyone to know they had these great players at the tail end of their careers. Not to mention Julius Erving in an executive role.
It did not work at all.
In what was Ewing’s final year, he averaged 6.0 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game and 13.9 minutes per game. He could not even play long enough anymore to make any real impact.
Grant was still at least somewhat productive. He averaged 8.0 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game. But the 2003 season went off the rails quickly when he openly fought with coach Doc Rivers. The Magic cut him in December.
The following year, the Magic tried to reach into the nostalgia well one more time, signing Shawn Kemp.
Kemp was no longer the high-flyer he was with the Seattle Supersonics. He had put on weight, ballooning past 300 pounds, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers. By the time he was with the Magic, he barely elevated on his jumpers. He was just a big body.
Kemp averaged 6.8 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. Like the year before, Kemp was on all the promotional materials before the season.
It was a big flop for the Magic as a whole as they tried to piece together their roster and stay relevant. This was not it and a clear sign the franchise was happy just making the playoffs and did not have an actual long-term plan to build a contending team.