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McGrady can opt out after next season

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Orlando Magic want to keep Tracy
McGrady, but are willing to trade him if he wants to go. The league
scoring champion wants to stay, but is demanding some improvements
to the NBA's worst team.

It's clear that the future of the Magic is cloudy and that the
team faces one of the most crucial offseasons in the franchise's
15-year history.

"I don't want to leave. I'll be the first to tell you, I don't
want to leave," McGrady said Wednesday, before Orlando's season
finale. "But I'm a competitor and I want to win."

McGrady, whose seven-year, $93 million contract runs through the
2006-07 season, can opt out of the deal after next season.

Magic general manager John Weisbrod said he'd like McGrady to
stay, but if he knows McGrady won't be back after next season,
trading him would be the best move for the team.

"I don't want that misinterpreted that I'm looking for a way to
trade him or we're predisposed to trading him," said Weisbrod, who
took over as Orlando's GM last month. "We're obviously not. We'd
like to build the thing around him."

Earlier Wednesday, Weisbrod said the organization would like to
know McGrady's intent sooner rather than later so the team knows
what direction to go with its rebuilding plan.

Past that point, Weisbrod said, the situation would become a
distraction. Even worse, if McGrady leaves after the season, the
Magic receive nothing in return.

But, exposing a conflict that may never reach resolution,
McGrady said he was willing to wait deep into the season -- perhaps
as late as the February trading deadline -- to make up his mind.

"If I do decide to leave, I definitely don't want to play out
the whole season so they don't get anything," said McGrady, adding
he was grateful to the team and city in which he flourished.

McGrady's deal gives him an opt-out clause after the fifth year
of his deal, an attractive alternative if there's no turnaround in
the franchise's fortunes.

The Magic were 20-61 entering their last game, against
Philadelphia.

"All things being equal, I think he'd like to stay in
Orlando," Weisbrod said. "But there are a lot of factors that
don't make all things equal -- we're a bad team right now without
any (salary) cap room."

McGrady's contract may make a trade difficult. He's due to make
almost $14.5 million next season, and teams would be leery of
acquiring McGrady unless they knew he would re-sign.

"He's still in a position, if he wanted to get traded, to
dictate where he got traded to," Weisbrod said.

McGrady averaged 28 points this season, leading the league for
the second straight year, before going on the injured list last
month. Last season, his 32.1 points made him the youngest player to
average at least 30 per game since the NBA/ABA merger of 1976.

But the season soured long before knee tendinitis shut him down
with nine games to go. His shooting percentage of .417 is a career
worst, as are his 2.67 turnovers per game.

Also, he emotionally faltered under the burden of being named
team captain, especially when a franchise-record 19-game losing
streak early in the year doomed the Magic's playoff hopes.

"Ideally, I do want to remain a Magic," said McGrady, second
in franchise history in points. "But (Weisbrod) also understands I
don't want to be put in the situation I was this year."