The Or­lando Magic

Gor­don, Pay­ton would need deals by Mon­day

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Josh Rob­bins Staff Writer

have un­til Mon­day to sign Aaron Gor­don and El­frid Pay­ton to con­tract ex­ten­sions, but it ap­pears un­likely that deals will be reached.

The Or­lando Magic’s new front of­fice must make two ma­jor de­ci­sions over the next few days.

Should the team sign Aaron Gor­don or El­frid Pay­ton to con­tract ex­ten­sions?

Un­der league rules for for­mer first-round picks en­ter­ing their fourth sea­sons, the Magic have un­til Mon­day to sign Gor­don or Pay­ton to ex­ten­sions. With­out agree­ments, Gor­don and Pay­ton would head to re­stricted free agency in July, and the Magic would have the right to match any of­fer sheet for Gor­don or Pay­ton from an­other team.

Although Gor­don’s and Pay­ton’s sit­u­a­tions could change, it seems un­likely that the Magic will reach ex­ten­sion agree­ments with ei­ther Gor­don or Pay­ton be­fore Mon­day’s dead­line.

Jeff Welt­man and John

Ham­mond, hired in May to lead the Magic’s bas­ketabll op­er­a­tions depart­ment, have no prior his­to­ries with Gor­don or Pay­ton and lim­ited first­hand knowl­edge of Gor­don or Pay­ton so far. And Welt­man, the new pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions, has in­di­cated he and Ham­mond in­tend to use the sea­son ahead to eval­u­ate the en­tire ros­ter.

“One thing I can tell you is they’re both very tal­ented and they’re both very high-char­ac­ter guys who want to win, and that’s a lot,” Welt­man said dur­ing an in­ter­view on Sept. 24.

“So from there, now you start to talk about the po­ten­tial of a player ver­sus the real value of a player to­day. I’m not go­ing to speak specif­i­cally to El­frid and Aaron, but th­ese are where rookie ex­ten­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions go. They go: ‘Here’s what the player’s worth to­day. Here’s what we all think that he can be­come one day. And some­where in the mid­dle there, is there a deal to be done?’ And it’s not easy. It’s not easy to get those deals done. And I’m not sure. I think it is fur­ther com­pli­cated by the fact that we are new to this sit­u­a­tion and we have some fa­mil­iar­ity to get to.”

Calvin An­drews, Gor­don’s agent, said Thurs­day that he doesn’t an­tic­i­pate Gor­don and the Magic agree­ing on an ex­ten­sion be­fore the dead­line.

Gor­don, a 22-year-old for­ward, and Pay­ton, a 23-year-old point guard, are dif­fi­cult play­ers to eval­u­ate be­cause of fac­tors beyond their con­trol. The Magic hired brand­new coaches be­fore their sec­ond and third NBA sea­sons, and the lack of coach­ing con­ti­nu­ity has stunted their de­vel­op­ment. And for most of last sea­son, the Magic em­ployed a style of play that didn’t mesh with Gor­don’s or Pay­ton’s strengths.

Gor­don and Pay­ton stuffed stat sheets af­ter the Magic traded power for­ward Serge Ibaka and switched to an up-tempo at­tack. Gor­don av­er­aged 16.4 points and 6.2 re­bounds and made 50.3 per­cent of his shots af­ter the trade. Pay­ton recorded five triple-dou­bles and av­er­aged 13.5 points, 7.0 re­bounds and 8.4 as­sists per game over the same pe­riod.

If Gor­don and Pay­ton im­prove on those num­bers in the sea­son ahead, and if they lead a ma­jor turn­around in the Magic’s record, they might be in for big pay­days in re­stricted free agency.

But at the same time, the Magic would have an ad­van­tage: Few teams are pro­jected to have sig­nif­i­cant salary-cap space in July.

Gor­don and Pay­ton have had strong pre­sea­sons. They ben­e­fit from Or­lando’s up-tempo style of play, from the coach­ing con­ti­nu­ity and from be­ing in­jury-free.

Pay­ton re­cently said he was putting thoughts about his con­tract out of his mind.

On Thurs­day, Gor­don said he’s not con­cerned about his own con­tract sit­u­a­tion.

“That’s not why I play the game,” Gor­don said. “I trust Jeff Welt­man and John Ham­mond to make the right de­ci­sion, and I’m go­ing to con­tinue to play my game and con­tinue to help my team get wins and im­prove as a bas­ket­ball player. They see how hard I work. They see how far my game has come. I’m only 22. My game is go­ing to con­tinue to im­prove. There’s still no ceil­ing for me. I’m look­ing to be the best in the NBA at some point in my ca­reer.”

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Both Aaron Gor­don and El­frid Pay­ton stuffed stat sheets last sea­son af­ter Or­lando switched to an up-tempo at­tack.

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