Denton: Afflalo Studied Jordan & Kobe to Become Better Player

By John Denton
Dec. 6, 2013

NEW YORK – If that jab-step, ball-fake, step-back jump shot used by Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo this season to author a career year looks familiar, it should to those who have followed the NBA for years.

As part of his pursuit to become a much-proved one-on-one scorer this offseason, Afflalo went to school by studying hours and hours of tape on Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Upon being traded to the Magic, Afflalo was promoted into a go-to role last season and he responded by averaging a career-best 16.5 points per game. But Afflalo was unhappy that his shooting percentage dipped to 43 percent as defenses trained more attention onto him.

Afflalo wanted to learn ways to create more space against one-on-one defenders, so he started studying two of the best pure scorers in NBA history in Jordan and Bryant.

``I watched a lot of film on (Bryant), and I always have since I was growing up in L.A.,’’ Afflalo said. ``And everybody wants to be Michael Jordan when they are little, so I’ve watched a lot of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. They’re the two best in my era. So this summer I watched a lot of their isolation moves and footwork to see how to frame myself up better for shots.’’

The offseason work has paid enormous benefits for Afflalo and the Magic this season. He’s averaging career bests in scoring (22.6 ppg.), rebounds (4.6 rpg.), assists (4.2 apg.) and 3-point shooting (46.3 percent). He’s scored 30 points in a game four times this season, including a career-best 43 points on Tuesday in a double-overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Afflalo said the studying of Bryant and Jordan has taught him that sometimes it’s better to take comfortable mid-range jumps rather than driving into the teeth of the defense where shots can be much more difficult to launch.

``The mid-range area is a tough spot to defend because it’s a relatively easy shot for me if I don’t have to dribble,’’ he said. ``If I don’t have to dribble there’s always that threat that I will catch and shoot right in their face. It’s good shot, and if they get up on me too close, I can still get to the basket in one or two dribbles. I feel like I’m just more effective in the midrange where I can take the shot or drive.’’

MO MEMORIES: Maurice Harkless went to college at St. John’s, meaning he played several home games at Madison Square Garden as a freshman. But he said coming back to the so-called ``World’s Most Famous Arena’’ last season as a NBA rookie was an all-together different sort of memory.

There was also a special twist to Harkless’ first game as a pro at MSG last season that will allow him to forever remember the moment.

``It was much different as a NBA player, but it was great,’’ he said. ``The first time I was introduced, we had a lot of guys who didn’t play because of injuries and I was introduced as the starting center. That was really funny to me. But it was still a great feeling.’’

Harkless is one of four players on the Magic’s roster with ties to the New York City area. He and reserve center Kyle O’Quinn grew up in Jamaica, Queens, while Doron Lamb is from Manhattan. Tobias Harris grew up on Long Island, but his father often brought him into the New York City to play basketball against some of the better players in the area.

Harkless said having players from similar backgrounds has created a close bond between all of the native New Yorkers.

``I pretty much knew all of them, but I never had conversations with them. I knew Tobias and Doron a little more, and I knew who Kyle was because he played against my high school team when I was on the JV,’’ Harkless said. ``Now, that we’re all here, it’s really cool because we have a different kind of bond between us. We all get along pretty well.’’

HARRIS REHABBING: Harris rejoined the Magic on their six-game, 12-day road trip in New York to begin his rehabilitation process again. Harris, who is still out with a high ankle sprained, worked up quite the sweat prior to Friday’s game, getting in a vigorous workout while riding the stationery bike.

Harris missed five weeks of action after suffering a high ankle sprain on Oct. 20 in a preseason game. He returned on Nov. 24 and played 16 minutes against the Phoenix Suns before returning to the bench with recurring pain in the ankle. And when the pain was still in play two nights later in Atlanta, the Magic shut Harris down again. There is no firm timetable on his return, but he is at least back on the floor and back with his teammates.

``I’m able to keep doing workouts and doing the basic stuff. It’s just something that I kind have to wait out. It’s going to be on me to determine whether or not I’m ready to get on the floor,’’ said Harris, who averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds after arriving in Orlando last season from Milwaukee in a trade. ``The big thing is strengthening the leg and the ankle to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner than later. Time heels this sort of thing and I just know that it’s going to take some time.’’


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