During the ‘98-99 lockout-shortened season, the Magic finished 33-17. Led by Penny Hardaway, they tied for first in the division with the Miami Heat, but fell in the first round to the Allen Iverson 76ers.
But in the ensuing summer, an unhappy Hardaway was traded to the Phoenix Suns, continuing a huge rebuilding project for Orlando in the post-Shaq era. Horace Grant and Nick Anderson were dealt just before Penny was sent packing.
More transactions came fast and furious. Orlando shed contracts to clear salary-cap space, creating enough room after the 1999-2000 season to sign stars Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady.
Like getting pelted by hot coins. Turkish basketball fans are a passionate bunch and it’s pretty common for aggravated fans — particularly during rival games — to take a lighter and heat a coin before throwing it at players on the court. In case you were wondering, it does burn a little, according to Chris.
But he’d take hot coins over rocks. While playing on the road in Greece, a fan threw a sharp rock at him which cut his back. Fans got so unruly that when the teams were cleared from the court, his teammates ran out with the opposing home team because “they weren’t throwing rocks at them.”
It’s also no surprise that he is active in the National Basketball Players Association as a vice president, the right-hand man to union prez Derek Fisher.
“It’s who I am,” said Dooling, who is playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. “You can have a voice or you can be voiceless. I understand the importance of the union in our league.
“I understand the nature and the essence of our game. I understand the guys that make up our game. I want to protect that.”
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Those questions of course won’t be officially answered until who knows when, perhaps in 2012 since there might not be a season. But for now, we’ll have to rely on what Pietrus, a Phoenix Suns guard with one year left on his contract, told the French newspaper L’Equipe (as first noted by Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin and the Orange County Register’s Janis Carr): “Phoenix did not play me, but that’s their problem. I continued to work. The only thing that interests me now is winning a title,” he said. “A lot of teams are interested in me, like the Lakers or the Celtics. This came from the best player in the world: Kobe Bryant. He told me two months ago that he would like to see me with the Lakers.”
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com) and is the co-host of the ESPN1080.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).