Denton: Afflalo Appreciates Support From Around League

By John Denton
Jan. 8, 2014

PORTLAND – Seemingly everywhere Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo goes on the NBA circuit he is asked about the steady improvement throughout his NBA career and this breakout season now with career highs in almost every category.

While Afflalo appreciates the attention that his 20.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 41.9 percent 3-point shooting are getting him, he said wants more out of that production. Those kinds of numbers could get Afflalo an appointment to the NBA All-Star game for the first time in his career, but he said for now his only focus is on making sure that his individual production leads to success for the Magic.

``The thing I’m trying to do is not think about (the added attention he’s getting). The thing I’m trying to do is be my best and make it translate to wins. That’s what’s the most gratifying to me,’’ Afflalo said. ``The numbers part is going to be what it is because I have a great role on this team and I’ve gotten a lot better as a player. I do appreciate that. But I want it to translate into wins.’’

Afflalo readily admits that he doesn’t handle losing well and the disappointment is usually written all over his face when the Magic falter. He’s tried to improve on projecting a more positive body language this season, but he admitted that extended losing streaks tend to test his patience and consume his every thought.

``There are ups and downs and you can’t be overly dramatic and overly upset every time that you lose,’’ Afflalo said. ``But there are games here and there where it gets to you. You just have to find a way to get out of whatever you are in. You have to have some sort of perspective that gives you a positive energy to get out there and compete and turn it around.’’

ADJUSTMENTS WITHOUT VUCEVIC: The Magic will likely be without starting center Nikola Vucevic for an extended period of time after the 7-footer sustained a concussion on Monday in Los Angeles.

To compensate for the loss of Vucevic, the Magic started a three-guard lineup Wednesday in Portland. Rookie Victor Oladipo was reinserted back into the lineup alongside fellow guards Jameer Nelson and Afflalo.

It was the 17th start of the season for Oladipo, but the first in almost three weeks. He started 16 straight games from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18. As a starter this season, he’s averaging 14.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game compared to 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game as a reserve.

Tobias Harris moved from small forward to power forward and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis switched to center.

Vucevic fell head-first onto the court when he jumped to block a shot and his legs were knocked out from under him by Blake Griffin. It was Vucevic’s second concussion since last March. Because of a sensitivity to light and recurring headaches, Vucevic stayed at the team hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s not yet decided whether Vucevic will remain with the team throughout the five-game, 10-day road trip.

Vucevic is now subject to the NBA’s concussion protocol, meaning he will have to be symptom-free and pass a series of tests before even being allowed to return to full-contact drills. His results will also be evaluated by an independent physician.

GREAT MEMORIES: As soon as the Magic landed in Portland on Tuesday, rookie guard Victor Oladipo said he had a broad smile come across his face. And just walking into Portland’s Moda Center on Tuesday for practice and Wednesday for a game brought chills to his body.

Oladipo got his first taste of the Pacific Northwest in 2012 when his Indiana University Hoosiers won two games in Portland to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade. After beating New Mexico State, Indiana beat VCU 63-61 in dramatic fashion. In that game, Oladipo – who had nine points, six assists and five rebounds – converted a three-point play with 46.5 seconds to play to tie the score. The Hoosiers then won the game in the closing seconds.

``It had been a while since we had been in the NCAA Tournament period and we came up here and won two big games,’’ Oladipo remembered. ``We beat VCU to go to the Sweet 16, so there are some memories around here. … We played in this arena and we stayed at the same hotel, too. It’s pretty cool to go to places that you recognize and think back to those good memories. Some bad memories, but good memories as well.’’

Prior to Wednesday’s game, Oladipo took part in a meet-and-greet with approximately 75 Indiana University fans. He’s taken part in similar events in several NBA cities, none of them more popular than the 200 IU fans that turned out in Oladipo’s first professional game in Indianapolis.