ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dwight Howard believes he's what Tracy
McGrady needs to be successful in Orlando.
McGrady has told the Magic he wants a trade to a contender,
preferably one with a quality big man. But Howard, the prep
sensation selected first in the NBA draft, wants the disgruntled
superstar to know that help is on the way.
"Tracy, I hope that you stay and play with me a couple of
years," Howard said Thursday night from New York. "I think we'll
be a really good combo."
In a draft without a clear No. 1, the Magic went with the
promising 18-year-old Howard over the more seasoned Emeka Okafor,
who led Connecticut to a national title. Howard became the third
high schooler taken first in the NBA draft since 2001.
It may take time for Howard to grow from high school phenom to
NBA superstar -- as McGrady did -- but the Magic were willing to wait
rather than make the safe pick.
"When you have the first pick, your responsibility is to pick
the best player," Magic general manager John Weisbrod said. "Our
guys had a lot of conviction that he was the best player."
Orlando then traded a future first-round pick to Denver for the
draft rights to St. Joseph's point guard Jameer Nelson. The Nuggets
selected Nelson, The Associated Press' college player of the year,
with the 20th pick.
The draft is the first major step in rebuilding the woeful
Magic, losers of an NBA-worst 61 games last season, their first
sub-.500 record in 12 years.
The next step is deciding what to do with McGrady. The two-time
scoring champion nearly was dealt to the Houston Rockets earlier
this week, according to reports, but the Magic backed off Tuesday
to concentrate on the draft.
This was the first time the Magic drafted first since 1993, when
they selected Chris Webber then traded him to Golden State for
Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks. Hardaway and Shaquille
O'Neal, drafted first in 1992, combined to lead Orlando to the NBA
Finals in 1995.
Howard averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, eight blocks and 3.5
assists last year in leading Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy to
a state championship.
His combination of athleticism and size is unquestionable -- he
jumped 12 feet, 6 inches during his workout in Orlando -- and
doctors say he could grow another 2 inches. But his maturity at
such a precocious age is what impressed Magic general manager John
The Magic may have finally decided on Howard because of
questions about Okafor's back. Okafor missed two games of the Big
East tournament after suffering a stress fracture of the fifth
Orlando is still paying the price for Grant Hill's bad ankle,
and would be leery of committing to another injury risk.
"It did factor in to some degree," Weisbrod said. "But,
really, it was the strength of Dwight as a candidate more than any
issues with Emeka."
One weakness in Howard's makeup, scouts say, is his lack of
"What everybody says," Howard said, "they don't know what's
going on in my heart."