Hedo Turkoglu emptied his locker, shook hands with teammates and walked out of the Orlando Magic's practice facility yesterday. The Magic are optimistic it wasn't the last time.

Chief operating officer Alex Martins said the team is prepared to go over the luxury tax for the first time in its history, perhaps giving the Magic the space they need to re-sign the soon-to-be free agent Turkoglu and remain a contender to return to the NBA Finals.

"The luxury tax won't be a hindrance," Martins said.

Turkoglu, Orlando's starting forward and a key component to its Eastern Conference title, reiterated yesterday that he's planning to opt out of the last year of his contract to become a free agent July 1. Turkoglu would make about $7.3 million next season in the final year of a $36 million, 6-year deal.

"Opting out doesn't mean I'm going to leave," he said. "I'm looking for the best opportunity for myself and my family.''

Turkoglu has spent the last five seasons in Orlando after four with the Sacramento Kings. Turkoglu said he would consider taking less money to stay with the team he loves.

"Depends on how much less it is," he said. "Look, I have good stuff going on here. I'm not stupid."


* Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is defending the decision to stage a victory parade for the NBA champion Lakers and says it's important to celebrate even at a time of high unemployment and home foreclosures.

Villaraigosa said that private donors have kicked in $850,000 of nearly $1 million in city costs for today's parade and rally. The Lakers and AEG, which owns Staples Center, are paying for another $1 million in production costs.

* Television ratings for the NBA Finals are down from last year.

The five games on ABC between the Lakers and Magic averaged an 8.4 rating. That's down close to 10 percent from last season's 9.3 for the six-game Lakers-Celtics series. *