Denton: Afflalo Expected to Play Wednesday


By John Denton
October 23, 2012

ORLANDO – Forced to limit his movement on the basketball court much of the past two weeks because of a sore left hamstring, Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo passed the time by camping out behind the 3-point line and hoisting one jump shot after another.

During one particular shooting drill after a practice, Afflalo made a staggering 14 3-pointers in a row and 21 of 23 during a hot stretch. Of course, the drill occurred with no defenders in sight and no game-type pressure, but Afflalo figured he was at least doing something productive while he couldn’t help out his new team.

``I wish I could shoot like that by myself in every game,’’ Afflalo said of his recent shooting drill. ``It’s always different once you get the pressure and intensity of the game, but the idea for me was to shoot as much as I could. The idea for me was to shoot, shoot and shoot. Even if that means I go four for 10 in the game that’s better than two for 10.’’

Afflalo’s impressive shooting stroke and multi-dimensional talents will finally be on display Wednesday night when he makes his much-anticipated debut with the Magic. After being held out of the first five preseason games because of lingering soreness in the hamstring, Afflalo will make his Magic debut against the Memphis Grizzlies at 8 p.m.

Afflalo said he usually isn’t a patient person when it comes to sitting out of games, so not playing the past two weeks has been especially difficult on him considering his desire to impress his new team, new coach Jacque Vaughn and his new Magic teammates.

``I want to do my part to make sure that I’m in the proper rhythm so they don’t have to orchestrate things around me,’’ Afflalo said. ``I have to make sure I’m doing the things I need to do to benefit the team. Once I get on page with my personal game, it will be easy for me to branch out with the system as a whole.’’

The Magic waived forward Christian Eyenga and guard Armon Johnson on Tuesday to trim the roster to 18 players. Orlando has to be down to 15 players on the roster by Nov. 1 before the Nov. 2 season-opener against the Denver Nuggets. Three players – Al Harrington (knee), Ish Smith (shoulder) and Maurice Harkless (sports hernia) – aren’t expected to be ready for the season because of injuries, but all will be on the roster.

The Magic, winners of two straight preseason games, are eager to get Afflalo fully healthy and back on the floor so that they can get their rotations down pat before the start of the regular season. Afflalo is expected to be the starter at shooting guard, but he can also play small forward and should be able to play alongside of standout guard J.J. Redick. Vaughn hopes to use Wednesday’s game and Friday’s preseason finale against Houston to experiment with different lineups.

``I’m going to stretch out guys with more minutes and see what that entails,’’ Vaughn said. ``That’s the objective – to play Arron and see some combinations with him on the floor.’’

The Magic acquired Afflalo in August from Denver as part of the 12-player, four team deal involving Dwight Howard. Orlando targeted Afflalo because of his steadily improving game – he’s upped his scoring average in all five of his NBA seasons – and his workmanlike mindset.

To get ready for training camp, Afflalo put himself through sprint work and distance running over the summer. However, he aggravated his left hamstring two weeks before the start of training camp and then ``tweaked’’ the leg again two days into practice. The injury was a familiar one for Afflalo, who has suffered from fatigue and soreness in the hamstring the past two years in Denver.

Afflalo said because he is a NBA veteran and he spent a couple of weeks working informally with his Magic teammates before camp that he should be able to incorporate himself back into the flow rather easily.

``I still know the game and it won’t take me long. I don’t really have a choice (but to get ready over the next 10 days), so I’ll do the best that I can over these next two games and get ready for opening night,’’ Afflalo said. ``We did some up and down work (on Tuesday) and it felt good. It’s just a matter of conditioning and timing for me. When you’ve been out a few weeks it takes a little time, but I’ve been playing basketball a long time.’’

Afflalo said he will take extra precautions with the leg over the next two weeks, working in extra stretching before games and staying active when he’s out of the game. He ruled out riding a stationary bike along the sidelines, but said he’ll get continue to stretch his legs while out of games.

``It’s definitely finicky, but I have to continue to get treatment and ice it and continue to prepare myself for the game and make sure I’m warmed up,’’ he said. ``And when I do cool down and I’m on the bench I have to make sure that I warm again and ready to go – at least at this point until I know I’m ready to go.’’ As for Afflalo’s game, he sees himself fitting nicely with Vaughn’s free-flowing offense. He’s at his best in the open court and he should get plenty of those wide-open 3-point shots in the Magic’s drive-and-kick offense.

``Our system is just allowing us to play basketball. There’s a lot of screening for each other and reading the situations on the court,’’ Afflalo said. ``Basketball is a creative game, so when you give creativity within structure, it usually leads to good things.’’

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John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jdenton@orlandomagic.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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