On June 29th, 2004, the Houston Rockets traded center-forward Kelvin Cato, guard Steve Francis and guard Cuttino Mobley to the Orlando Magic for guard Reece Gaines, forward Juwan Howard, guard Tyronn Lue and guard-forward Tracy McGrady.
Francis averaged 16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 6.2 APG last season to join Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill as the only players in league history to average at least 15 PPG, 5 RPG and 5 APG in each of their first five years. Mobley averaged 15.8 PPG for the Rockets in the 03-04 season, and Cato averaged 6.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG in five years with the Rockets.
McGrady averaged 28.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 5.2 APG in four years with Orlando. McGrady led the NBA scoring two consecutive years while in Orlando.
Howard averaged 17.8 PPG and 7.4 RPG with Washington, Dallas, Denver and Orlando. Last season, he was second on the Magic in scoring (17.0 PPG) and first in rebounding (7.0). Lue averaged career highs of 10.5 PPG and 4.2 APG with Orlando last season, his first as a full-time starter. Gaines averaged only 1.8 PPG in 9.6 MPG.
McGrady’s effort was questioned in his last year with Orlando. The Magic were 21-61 in the 2003-04 season. McGrady still led the league in scoring, but his shot selection became less aggressive. During the 03-04 season, McGrady averaged a career high 7.7 3-point attempts per game.
T-Mac asked to be traded in the off-season, and the Magic front office obliged, and searched for a suitable offer.
The Rockets had been looking to unload Francis after constant battles between him and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. Van Gundy wanted to run a half-court style offense centered around Yao Ming. Francis averaged a then career low of 16.6 PPG on 40% from the field, struggling in an offense that did not suit his fast-break, ball dominating style.
The trade never worked out to either team’s liking in the bigger picture. McGrady had some great individual seasons and moments in Houston, but was constantly hampered by injuries, and his inability to get the Rockets out of the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs. He never reached 80 games played with Houston and only reached over 70 games twice in six years.
Francis and Cato lasted a season and a half before being traded, and Mobley’s tenure with Orlando was even shorter. Mobley played in only 23 contests (averaging 16.2 ppg) before a mid-season deal.
"I just knew it was going to take time. I’m happy and it’s time to move on. I can’t predict the future, but it definitely would be nice. The ultimate goal is to win a championship for the Houston Rockets."
"Bring me a championship, big man. Bring me a championship. I’ve led the league in scoring two consecutive years. As long as we win, that’s all that matters to me. I’m going to try to go in there and do what I do. If that consists of me sacrificing, giving Yao the ball and playing through other guys, that’s what I’ll do. I think both teams are going to benefit from this trade. I got want I wanted. Orlando got three solid players. Houston was definitely the No. 1 team on my list."
On Orlando Magic general manager John Weisbrod:
"I felt (Weisbrod) definitely wanted me out of here. I kind of had my mind made up (to leave) when the season ended and I sort of felt like they wanted me to leave anyway. But if you’re the GM and your star player is thinking about leaving, you do everything from calling to visiting his house or even asking him to wait because you think Grant Hill is finally healthy. But none of that ever happened. I felt like they could care less if I stayed. I didn’t want to leave, man, because this is home to me. I really thought this would be the final destination of my career. My family didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t want to leave, but what really hurt me was the shots Magic management had been taking at me lately. That really crushed me, man."
On move to Houston:
"Sitting back and seeing Kobe and how much freedom he has because of Shaq, that’s really what I need to win a championship. They have a great coach in Jeff Van Gundy and they are going to do the things there to put the right pieces around me and Yao so we can win a championship."
During Rockets introduction press conference:
"This is, by far, probably the best time that I’ve experienced in my career. This is unheard of. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this. I’m not a guy that gets emotional but … man, I almost got emotional up there."
How he played in last season with Orlando Magic in interview with SI during first season with Rockets:
"I’m not going to sit here and say I played my hardest every night. Some nights I did slack off — and I knew that was a terrible thing to do — and I still was slacking off. That feels so bad. And I’m the leader, these guys are following my lead, so the whole team suffers even worse. That was wrong. Now, I would do it differently. I learned. I have to bust my butt no matter what. Last year was the worst experience of my life. And I learned. And believe me, I’m grateful for this opportunity here."
"It’s all about how you handle the situation. Last year I lead the league in scoring. If I had been on a bad team and had a bad year statistically, then you would have seen my image collapse. I had to lead the league (in scoring)."
Steve Francis on rumors of deal with Magic:
"I thought we were really building something, something very good in Houston. Obviously that’s not the direction they want to go. I still think we could be a very good team. I’m not crying. Like I told you before, I know this is a business. Things like that happen. I’m not mad. I’m not upset. This is what they’re trying to do. But like I said, I still think we could be something."
On what he, Cato and Mobley can bring to the Rockets:
"We’re here to fill voids the Magic know they have lacked in the last couple of seasons. You’re going to get a gutsy effort every single night from all three of us. There’s no trying to be too cute or trying to be too cool basketball from us. You have to display a sense of urgency. I thought their players didn’t do that. Once they got on a losing streak, it looked like they hung their heads."
On 2003-04 Rockets team during press conference:
"We were basically a half-court team. You know we wanted to try to run, but it was tough. We didn’t really work on running in practice enough for us to be real comfortable in the games with running."
"Some days you are going to be some place. Some days you can be moved tomorrow. You take it for what it’s worth."
Magic general manager John Weisbrod:
"We just came to the conclusion that if he wanted to leave, we thought that could very well be best for our basketball team. There were seven or eight teams that were perfectly comfortable trading for Tracy whether he wanted to go there or not, whether he would opt in or not. So, we certainly weren’t in any kind of corner."
Steve Francis’ agent Jeff Fried:
"It is our understanding that the Magic want Steve to be their starting point guard come opening night next season. [The Magic] could well have gotten almost any player in the league for Tracy McGrady. Steve felt pretty pleased with their reasons for talking to him and what his role might be in the rebuilding process."
Reece Gaines’ agent Andy Miller:
"Reece will be looking at this as a fresh start. It’s a win-win situation in that regard for everybody."
Rockets Owner Leslie Alexander On the trade and acquiring McGrady:
"I don’t think there’s a better player in the NBA than Tracy and the good times are going to roll now in Houston. We had to give up some great players, Cuttino (Mobley), Kelvin (Cato) and Steve (Francis). I wish them well in Orlando. Everybody wants me to read stats on Tracy but that’s not what Tracy cares about, Tracy cares about winning championships in Houston and with Tracy and the rest of the players we are a long way there. This is a great day for the Rockets and a great day for the city of Houston."
On the excitement built around the change:
"This is exciting not only for the franchise but for the city of Houston. Anytime that you can pick up four players of this magnitude you have to be excited."
Coach Jeff Van Gundy on the trade and acquiring the new players:
"Whenever you make a trade of this magnitude you have to give to get greatness and I want to take a moment to thank Steve (Francis), Cuttino (Mobley) and Kelvin (Cato) for the great year that we had. It’s very hard to trade players because when they put on your uniform and play with heart and passion and lead you to the playoffs it’s difficult, but we feel we owe it to Rockets fans to put the best product we can on the floor. Certainly with this trade we feel we have made a step forward. We’re going to do something special this year and for all the years to come."
On McGrady’s skills:
"He can be the premier defensive player in the NBA. He’s got that type of quickness. He’s a tremendous passer. When you’re looking to establish the culture of a team you’re looking for your best players to buy into your vision and my vision has always been the best players lead you in the areas of work and unselfishness. There is a lot of pressure on myself and on him (McGrady) …and you can’t run away from expectations. Your choice is to meet them or exceed them and we are going to try to exceed the expectations that we have."