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The [Orlando] Magic say [Fran] Vazquez — who stood them up after they drafted him in the first round in 2005 — is coming around to joining them for the 2011-12 season.
He has another year left on his contract with FC Barcelona.
“It’s more open now than it has been in the past with Fran,” Magic assistant general manager Dave Twardzik told the Sentinel.
After the Magic surprisingly picked Vazquez No. 11 — ahead of Indiana’s Danny Granger — he burned and embarrassed the club with his no-show.
He put his name in the draft, but quickly became intimidated by the moment — even after arriving in Orlando, post-draft, for media interviews.
Barely able to speak the language and fearful of the culture shock as a small-town kid, Vazquez decided to stay in his native land. His father had died and his girlfriend — now his wife — wanted no part of the NBA.
Twardzik said barriers have now been knocked down, to some degree, because Vazquez has matured and learned a bit more English.
“All that has changed in many ways,” Twardzik said.
A 6-foot-11, 230-pound power forward/center, Vazquez, 27, had a nice upside when the Magic selected him. He struggled mightily at times after signing a four-year deal with Akasuayu Girona.
His stock is apparently up again with Barcelona, according to overseas reports, especially as a defender and shot-blocker.
This is encouraging news.
Of course, there are Magic fans that could care less about Fran Vazquez but why have that attitude when he is someone that could help the team? Sure, the Orlando Magic have a bit of a logjam at the forward and center positions but at the very least, Vazquez is another asset for general manager Otis Smith. And if there’s something that Smith likes, it’s assets.
For those that are unaware of Vazquez’ skill-set, he’s like Marcin Gortat in a lot of ways. Gortat is a bigger body, of course, but both are big men that thrive on pick and rolls offensively as well as do an excellent job of defending (particularly in the shot blocking department) and rebounding the basketball. If there’s some downsides, it’s that Vazquez — at the age of 27 — is older than Gortat and offers a redundant skill-set. That being said, especially in this era of the NBA, a team can never be lacking for skilled big men and that’s a luxury the Magic already have. It could be an even greater luxury if Daniel Orton develops in the next few years.
Theoretically speaking, if Vazquez does come overseas next season and proves to be a capable player, Smith could make the economical decision of trading Gortat for a position of greater need or as part of a package to acquire a star. The catch is that Orlando would likely have to negotiate a new deal with Vazquez because he probably wouldn’t accept being paid on the league’s rookie scale. The good news, however, is that Vazquez’s contract would presumably be cheaper than Gortat’s. Maybe all this talk is for naught and Vazquez doesn’t play with the Magic in 2012, but it should be seen as a good sign that this discussion is taking place.
For years, the possibility of Vazquez playing in the NBA wasn’t even talked about.
Now it is.
And that’s a step forward.