As the Magic are learning this offseason, you have to find value wherever you can. Orlando is cash strapped with the second highest payroll in the league and very few young players or players on short contracts to trade to improve the roster. Otis Smith has his work cut out for him.
One of the hopes for providing some cheap, quality play was (yes) Fran Vazquez.
Reports all season were pointing toward Vazquez finally making the leap to the NBA with his contract expiring for Regal Barcelona. Reports were that he had warmed up to the idea of coming to Orlando after living in a large city like Barcelona. After all, when he came to Orlando the first time in 2005, he was overwhelmed by how big Orlando is. And we were talking about Orlando.
So we have waited patiently, frustrated by his promise and how he played the NBA Draft to leverage better deals in Spain. All while Orlando waited for him to come on over.
And now that he seemed ready, Vazquez is once again saying no thank you. The reason this time? The uncertain labor future of the NBA. That cheap help is coming, just not this year. And so the Magic will be in the market for a backup center to help Howard out, something Vazquez surely could have done.
"Of course Fran would give serious consideration to the Magic," Vazquez's agent, Jose Cobelo, told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. "That has been his intention all of these years. He signed with Barçelona for a year to keep that door open. Once we get a tangible offer we will evaluate it. Unfortunately, we can't do that now with the potential of a lockout lurking."
You can either read that as an excuse from the Vazquez camp for continuing to play the Magic along or a genuine commitment to consider the Magic when the labor strife is figured out. This is not the right time for Vazquez to come over because of the labor situation. His new contract with Barcelona does have a buyout that will allow him to leave after next year.
If/When Vazquez comes to the Magic he will be able to contribute immediately. He averaged 8.1 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game in 17.2 minutes per game in the Euroleague this year. Vazquez is a very good player and someone who should be able to fill the backup center role and possibly play alongside Dwight Howard (or whoever is at center). He will have to learn some obviously, but is very capable.
Of course waiting is the hardest part.
He is 28 now and is following the career path of Arvydas Sabonis at this point. He may not make the kind of impact Sabonis did, making the waiting that much harder.
Magic fans are going to expect a lot from him because of how long they had to wait and the fact he spurned the city and franchise six years ago.
Hopefully Vazquez comes to Orlando and proves the wait was worth it. But for now, patience is the word with Vazquez.
Photo via DayLife.com.