In the locker room after the game, Vin Baker griped aloud about playing time, Gary Payton told his teammate to pipe down, and then-coach Paul Westphal offered to resign. Needless to say, Seattle is hoping for a cheerier game tonight.
Orlando is celebrating the return of forward Grant Hill, who came off the injured list for Monday’s game in Los Angeles vs. the Clippers. Hill has played just two games this season while recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
In Hill’s absence, newcomer Tracy McGrady has been filling the void. McGrady, an offseason free agent before moving to Orlando in a sign-and-trade swap, leads the team with 25.7 points and 8.1 rebounds a game. The 21-year-old superstar-to-be also contributes 4.1 assists, 1.76 steals and 1.65 blocked shots per outing, while averaging 41.4 minutes (the NBA’s second-highest total).
“Tracy is phenomenal,” said Seattle’s Brent Barry. “And it’s just the tip of the iceberg for this guy. This is the first season that he’s really been ‘the man’ on a team, and he’s doing more than his share. Potentially, this guy is going to have a phenomenal career.”
“He’s an All-Star in the making, if he’s not already one,” said Seattle coach Nate McMillan. “He has size, he has the heart, the ability to dominate a game. He’s just solid.”
Can Hill and McGrady, two players who like the ball in their hands, coexist happily?
“I think they’ll be OK,” McMillan said. “I think (Orlando coach Doc Rivers) has those guys under control. He understands they need to get their looks. Some of those other guys may feel the pinch, but I think those two will sacrifice for each other.”
“He looked very calm to me,” McMillan said. “Everything wasn’t 100 miles an hour. He took his shot when he had it. He didn’t really force it.”
“Coach has been talking to me about relaxing and just shooting the ball,” Mason said. “I just went ahead and did that. I’ve been a little tentative on the offensive end. I’ve been trying to play defense and play hard, but they need me to put up some baskets whenever I get the opportunity.”
“As a fan you just say ‘Wow.’ As a player or a coach, too,” McMillan said. “And you know what, owners are making some (big) money. To be able to pay one player that kind of money, the owners are making a lot more money than we think they are.”
Still, McMillan said, those numbers are staggering and a bit intimidating. “My conscious would eat me up if I had a bad season and I was making $25 million (for that year),” he said.
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