ORLANDO, Fla. -- Standing on a hastily erected dais at center court in Amway Arena, Lakers general manager
Right around the time Kupchak was standing tall after Sunday's Game 5 clincher in the NBA Finals, Magic GM
In the next few weeks, however, the emotions of Kupchak and Smith will eventually come in sync. Kupchak's euphoria will subside; for Smith, the sting of Orlando's loss will ease. And then both men will find themselves with the same task: How do they do it again?
Both teams have significant decisions to make this offseason that will affect their ability to get back to this stage. Let's examine both teams.
Bringing back their other free agents won't be so easy. Ariza had a career year, highlighted by an 11.3-point, 4.2-rebound, 1.6-steal postseason. There will be a healthy market for the 23-year-old Ariza's services -- he could seek to at least double his $2.8 million salary from this season, though only a few rival teams will have significant cap room -- and L.A. may have to overspend to keep him.
Odom's situation could be trickier. At 29, Odom still considers himself a starter, and despite his success in a reserve role, he may balk at coming back to play behind
The wild card in this situation is the unpredictability of free agency. With the crashing economy and teams stockpiling cash for the summer of 2010, the market for free agents could be limited. That could lead some high-profile players --
Will the Magic pay it? They almost have to. Turkoglu was the team's leading scorer in the fourth quarter the last two seasons. He is one of the few perimeter players in Orlando who can create his own shot. Allowing Turkoglu to walk with no compensation would be a crippling loss.
Meanwhile, Gortat's numbers (3.8 points, 4.6 rebounds this season) aren't impressive, but some NBA scouts believe his size and defensive skills will make him a starter in a few years. There are sizable holes in his offensive game, but he was solid in his role as the Magic's first big man off the bench in the postseason. He even had a nice chemistry when playing alongside starting center
Gortat is unlikely to command more than the mid-level exception, but given his age (25) and upside, there may be teams willing to overpay for him. The Magic have
The biggest trade chip the Magic have this offseason is point guard
Even if they bring back their own free agents, the Magic will need to upgrade if they hope to return to the Finals next season. Cleveland is expected to add another piece (possibly Howard nemesis