Magic Trade for Gilbert Arenas, Deal Vince Carter to Suns for Jason Richardson
They sent Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus and a future first-round pick to Phoenix.
"We needed a way to get better,'' said Magic general manager Otis Smith.
The Magic played the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night with only eight players available.
Smith thought he already had the pieces to contend seriously for an NBA title when the season began, but he lost that confidence quickly, prompting him to intensify talks with both teams.
Although Smith insisted that no deal was imminent Saturday morning, the trades were completed that afternoon, well before the Magic played the Philadelphia 76ers and the the Wizards played the Heat in Washington.
Smith met with all four players who were leaving early in the afternoon to tell them the trades were official.
"It's going to be a challenge, obviously, in the middle of the season, but I like what we've done in those deals,'' said Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy. "To get where we want to go (win a championship), we wanted to do everything possible.''
The Magic (16-9) started the season with a 15-4 record, but they have slumped recently, losing five of their last six. They lost three of four on their recent Western swing. Even when they were winning, they weren't playing up to expectations, leaving them little choice if they wanted to stay with Boston and Miami in the East.
"I circled that West Coast trip long ago, to evaluate this team and where we are, and we have not played well,'' Smith said. "We had to decide whether to fix our woes, or continue down the same path. We're looking to get better.''
The Magic have struggled primarily because their defense has worsened, and both Carter and Lewis had been disappointing, catching most of the blame for the slump.
Carter and Lewis, the team's two highest-paid players, were averaging 15.1 and 12.2 points, respectively. For Carter, it's the lowest average of his career. For Lewis, it's the lowest in the last 11 seasons. They will make a combined $37 million this season.
"Whatever happens, happens,'' Carter said after practice Saturday morning before he knew he was gone. "After 13 years in the league, I've heard all this talk before. It doesn't bother me. I don't let it bother me. I have a job to do, and that's play basketball. I don't know what's going to happen.''
Another the reason the Magic have struggled is that both of the off-season additions, point guard Chris Duhon and small forward Quentin Richardson, have not been very good.
Arenas, averaging 17.3 points and unhappy in Washington, is making $17.7 million this season. He has three years and $60 million remaining on his contract. He and Smith are longtime friends, dating back to when both were in Golden State. He said he was not worried about some of his bizarre behavior in the past.
"I think I know him a little bit better than most,'' Smith said. "I know what he's about. I've always said that good people can make dumb decisions.''
A big reason the Magic wanted to make the trades was to make sure that center Dwight Howard stays happy. Howard can opt out of his contract after next season, and the Magic are adamant about being contenders immediately.
Howard, though, said he knew nothing about any possible trades.
"I'd like to see us trade some of our 'L's for some 'W's,' Howard said Saturday. "In the locker room, we haven't talked about it at all.''
Van Gundy, who was livid after their most recent loss in Denver, declined to comment on any trade speculation before it happened, although he did not think it had become a distraction to his players.
"If we had young guys, it would be a different story,'' Van Gundy said. "Most of our guys have been mentioned like this before. I don't think it has affected us. I don't think we have to do anything. Right now, we're not playing well enough, but that could change.''