Denton: Afflalo Eager to Face Former Team
By John Denton
November 1, 2012
ORLANDO – When the subject came up earlier this week about Arron Afflalo facing his former team in the Denver Nuggets, the Orlando Magic shooting guard’s words suggested one thing, but the rolled eyes and smirk on his face said another thing altogether.
Asked if he was eager to prove to the Nuggets that they erred in trading him to Orlando back in August as part of the four-team, 12-player mega-transaction, Afflalo sarcastically had this to say: ``They were right. Yeah, they were right and it was a good move. We’ll play them Friday, and beyond Friday we’ve got a lot to do in this (Magic) organization and that’s what really excites me. It’s not necessarily about proving them wrong because the picture over here in Orlando is much bigger than them.’’
Friday night’s season-opener in Orlando will be a special one for several people considering all of the changes the Magic underwent in the offseason. New GM Rob Hennigan and new head coach Jacque Vaughn, the youngest duo in the league at 30 and 37 years old respectively, will be in their first NBA games in their new positions. Rookies Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless, DeQuan Jones and Kyle O’Quinn will be making their debuts, although Harkless and Jones are questionable because they are still recovering from injuries.
But the game could actually mean the most to Afflalo, when spent the previous three seasons in Denver before being traded to Orlando in the offseason. Afflalo found out about the trade while surfing the internet while holding a kids basketball clinic in Spain.
The Nuggets, in essence, dealt Afflalo for former Philadelphia guard Andre Iguodala, whom they considered an upgrade at the shooting guard position. That thought did not sit well with Afflalo, a player who has raised his scoring average each of his five years in the NBA while remaining one of the league’s elite defensive wing players.
In the first game of the season, at least, Denver’s move to acquire Iguodala to replace Afflalo seemed to backfire as it was throttled 84-75 in Philadelphia. Iguodala was just five of 13 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and the team was a minus-19 in his 34 minutes on the floor.
While some thought that Afflalo might have been upset getting traded from a team on the rise in Denver to a reloading one in Orlando, Afflalo was actually overjoyed to be joining the Magic. He saw the Magic as an opportunity to continue to grow his game, while also taking on more of a leadership role on a young, impressionable team.
``I’m excited about being here because we’ve got some unselfish players over here. And from an offensive standpoint the opportunity is even better for myself in terms of expectations and a leadership standpoint as well,’’ said Afflalo, who had no plans of seeing any of his former Nuggets teammates prior to Friday’s pregame warmups. ``I can grow with Glen (Davis) and Jameer (Nelson), who are already here. For me, the spotlight is even more here than in Denver.’’
Afflalo missed six preseason games because of a troublesome hamstring injury that dates all the way back to his Denver days. He injured his left leg while running sprints two weeks before training camp and then ``tweaked’’ the hamstring again in the Magic’s third practice. In years past, pain and fatigue bothered him in the leg, so the Magic took extra precautions in the preseason by resting him for more than two weeks.
He returned for the final two preseason games and a week of scrimmages, allowing him to build some chemistry with Nelson, Davis and starting small forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Afflalo has also spent much of the past week playing alongside of Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick so that the two can play together on the wings simultaneously. Afflalo spent time at small forward during his time in Denver, and he said doing that again wouldn’t be a problem so that the Magic can get Redick onto the floor more. Redick and Afflalo worked well together in the Magic’s open scrimmage on Monday, feeding one another passes for open jump shots.
``It’s going to be great because he’s such a threat to shoot the ball. He has so many guys flying at him trying to block his shot and trying to run him off the line,’’ Afflalo said of Redick. ``Hopefully I can (set up passes) for him and we can do it for each other.
``(Denver) Coach (George) Karl loved to go small at times, playing Nene at the (center) and (Danilo) Gallanari at the (power forward). So there were opportunities playing (small forward) and I can guard most threes,’’ Afflalo continued. ``That’s the reality of it. There are some guys who are taller than me, but from a competitive standpoint I can guard most of the three-men. So if there’s an opportunity to get J.J. or Jameer out there on the court, defensively I’ll do what I need to do.’’
Afflalo said he did what he needed to do to grow his game in Denver, but stressed that he’s in a better spot to do that now with the Magic. He hinted at some selfishness on the Nuggets and said he couldn’t be happier than playing for a team like the Magic that preaches sharing the ball and playing for one another.
``I was able to take advantage of the opportunity of starting and expanding my role within the limits they had given me. And over three years it progressed,’’ he said. ``It was a good time for me, but again this one (in Orlando) is even better. I’m excited about it.’’
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John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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