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Rumor: Orlando Magic Still Interested in Courtney Lee

Bill Ingram of HoopsWorld led off his NBA At 2 post with a lengthy item about the Orlando Magic's desire to re-acquire shooting guard Courtney Lee, whom they selected with the 22nd pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, only to deal him, as well as the expiring contracts of Rafer Alston and Tony Battie, to the New Jersey Nets for Ryan Anderson and Vince Carter. But, says Ingram, the Magic still wanted Lee:

It wasn't long after the start of the 2009-10 season that the Magic began lobbying to get Lee back from the Nets, and those efforts increased as the Nets went further and further into the season without getting a win. The efforts continued as the Nets flirted with the worst record in the history of the NBA, which they ultimately (narrowly) avoided. The one sticking point for New Jersey throughout was that they were unwilling to send Lee to an Eastern Conference foe. It seems a bit ridiculous, given their level of futility, but that was the story in New Jersey.

For what it's worth, I've heard from multiple email tipsters that Lee desperately wants to return to Orlando, though I've been unable to confirm that story.

The meat of the rumor follows the jump.

In any case, the Nets sent Lee to the Houston Rockets last week, which is where the story gets interesting. Ingram, who's based in Houston and goes by TheRocketGuy on Twitter, says the Rockets would be open to dealing Lee back to the Magic. He outlines two Rockets/Magic trade options that could happen near February's trading deadline:

First, if injuries have decimated the team again they could go for a salary dump, taking Vince Carter's ending deal from Orlando and sending Lee, Jared Jeffries and Jordan Hill (for example) to the Magic. If, as is more likely, the much deeper Rockets are in the thick of the Western Conference race, they could look at acquiring Rashard Lewis from the Magic instead. Lewis is the kind of offensive threat the Rockets are looking for at the three, but also has the versatility that head coach Rick Adelman cherishes. Lewis can play the three or the four and create mismatches all over the court, just as he has done for the Magic, and he would have more of a role in the offense in Houston than he did in Orlando after the Carter acquisition.

And here's where I had to lead this post's headline with "Rumor:" and file it under the Rumors section. I believe that the Magic are at least intrigued with the idea of bringing Lee, whom coach Stan Van Gundy trusted as the team's top perimeter defender in 2009, back. I don't believe even for a second that they'd consider losing Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis to get him, though. Sending Carter to the Rockets in a salary dump makes sense to a degree, but the shooting guard the Magic would want in return is the hyper-efficient Kevin Martin, not Lee, and it's doubtful that Houston would part with Martin at such a low cost.

And as for the Magic trading Lewis? He's too valuable to this team, though if Ingram's right, you can count the Rockets among the teams willing to take on the $63 million left on his deal. Remember, they pursued him heavily in 2007 before he ultimately signed with the Magic.

We'll monitor this story to see if it develops, of course. Orlando and Houston have a history of doing business together, most notably at the 2009 deadline, when Rockets GM Daryl Morey facilitated a three-team trade that sent Rafer Alston to Orlando for the stretch run. Magic GM Otis Smith indeed credited Morey for orchestrating the deal at the last minute, saying he "did a good job bringing this all together and holding this all together."