Magic, agent surprised by Vazquez's decision

ORLANDO, Fla. -- First-round draft pick Fran Vazquez has decided to remain in Europe instead of joining the Orlando Magic this season.

The 6-foot-10 power forward from Spain was the 11th pick in the June draft and the first European player selected. He was expected to play right away for the Magic, but surprised the team and his agent with his decision Thursday.

"I've said no because I was afraid to adapt to the American way of life and of not giving the level they have asked," Vazquez told the Spanish newspaper Malaga Hoy. "I'm not a coward, but I prefer
to stay in Spain, progress, and who knows? Maybe jump to the NBA in a few years."

The team is expected to send Dave Twardzik and Otis Smith, co-assistant general managers, to Spain on Monday to talk to Vazquez, the Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday.

The Magic knew Vazquez had a $650,000 buyout clause in his European contract when they drafted him, but they insisted it wouldn't be a problem.

"Yes, we're a little surprised," Twardzik said Friday. "The message we've been getting all along -- before the draft, after the draft -- was that he was excited about playing here. He said it was his dream to play in the NBA."

The team expected to sign Vazquez shortly after the league and
the players' union formalized a new collective bargaining agreement next week. Under the already agreed-upon salary scale, Vazquez was slated to sign a guaranteed contract worth more than $5 million over three years.

The Magic have not spoken to Vazquez but only to his European
agent, Jose Cobelo. The team had been in almost daily dialogue with
either Cobelo or his American-based partner, Marc Cornstein.

Cornstein issued a statement Thursday.

"I was shocked and dismayed to read over the Internet that Fran
is reconsidering his earlier decision to join the Orlando Magic,"
Cornstein said.

Even though Vazquez said he won't join the Magic this season,
the team will retain his NBA rights indefinitely and could sign him
in the future.