The Orlando Magic have made a bold return to championship contention Saturday by packaging Vince Carter in a six-player exchange for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, a league source confirmed to SI.com.
Orlando was also pursuing a second deal that would send Rashard Lewis to Washington for guard Gilbert Arenas, according to another league source, who termed the trade imminent.
The Magic were hoping to emerge from the weekend with a far more potent lineup of All-Star center Dwight Howard and Arenas to go with Jason Richardson, current point guard Jameer Nelson and Turkoglu, the 6-10 point forward who created mismatches during Orlando's surprising run to the 2009 NBA Finals. Both Turkoglu and the Magic have suffered since his 2009 departure to the Raptors, who then shipped Turkoglu to Phoenix last summer in a move that failed to pay off for the Suns.
The Magic have fallen out of title contention this season because they've lacked big-time playmakers around Howard, who can become a free agent in 2012. These moves prove the high-spending Magic, who were unable to hold onto Shaquille O'Neal as a free agent in 1996, are doing everything within their means to hold onto the league's top-rated center.
If this flurry of trades is consummated, the Magic will have increased their firepower and rejuvenated title hopes in their first year at the expensive 18,500-seat Amway Center in downtown Orlando. The ultimate aim is for Orlando to deploy Howard along with the explosive perimeter scoring of Arenas, Richardson, Nelson and Turkoglu to compete in the playoffs with the star-laden rosters of Boston and Miami in the East, and ultimately with the two-time champion Lakers.
Both Carter and Richardson are in the final year of their contracts.
Lewis's contract will expire in 2012-13 at a salary of $22.7 million, though his salary in that season could drop to $10 million if he doesn't reach incentives through 2011-12. The 6-10 All-Star forward has had a disappointing season while averaging 12.2 points per game.
Arenas is owed $80.1 million over four years, including this season. He missed 199 games over the previous three seasons because of knee injuries and a 50-game suspension last season for bringing guns into the Wizards locker room. He has maintained a close relationship with Magic GM Otis Smith, who worked in the front office of the Warriors when Arenas began his career with Golden State. Arenas averaged 17.3 points in 34.6 minutes this season while surrending the point-guard role in Washington to No. 1 pick John Wall.
The trade enables Phoenix to escape its remaining four-year, $45 million commitment to Turkoglu. The Suns also packaged Earl Clark to Orlando in exchange for the 33-year-old Carter, 6-11 center Marcin Gortat (who provides much-needed size), guard Mickael Pietrus, a first-round pick and $3 million. The trade liberates Phoenix from having to make a difficult decision on whether to re-sign Richardson on the eve of a new collective bargaining agreement.