Denton: Afflalo's Rise to Success

By John Denton
August 17, 2012

ORLANDO – New Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo is a survivor – both in life and in the NBA.

Afflalo, acquired last week by the Magic in the four-team, 12-player blockbuster trade, grew up with his mother, Gwendolyn Washington, in Inglewood, Calif., not far from The Forum where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play while hanging several championship banners. But during his high school years, Afflalo moved in with his father, Benjamin "Danny" Afflalo, who he still has a tight bond with today. His parents never married and separated when he was 3 years old, but he remains close to both of them today.

Danny and Arron lived in Compton, not far from some of Los Angeles’ toughest streets and most violent crimes. But the Afflalos were able to avoid Compton’s mean streets by using his father’s unusual plot of land as an oasis from all of the gang violence and drug activity around him.

Danny and Arron lived in a little-known section of Compton where the lots are large and the area is still zoned for horses and farm animals. The area around the Afflalo’s house resembled a farm you might see miles out in the Eastern California valleys, complete with horses, chickens and other farm animals. Only, this was the heart of Compton and the mean streets were just a block away. Living on ``the farm’’ taught Afflalo about responsibility and disciple and it kept him away from Compton’s most dangerous areas.

``It is literally three blocks of farm in the middle of Compton,’’ Afflalo said on Thursday after being taking his physical with the Magic and meeting the Orlando media. ``Compton is what it is from an image standpoint, but (the farm) is a nice area. You will see horses and chickens there and you go over one block and it becomes your typical streets. We stayed there from my freshman year of high school until I graduated and I loved it.’’

From "the farm," Afflalo went onto UCLA where he became an All-American and led the Bruins to two appearances in the Final Four. He pulled his name out of the NBA Draft after his sophomore season and ultimately entered a year later only to shockingly fall to No. 27 in the 2007 Draft.

Thought to be a defensive stopper with only limited offensive skills, Afflalo has blossomed into a shot-maker and a capable scorer in the NBA. He’s boosted his scoring average each of the past five years in the NBA and averaged a career-best 15.2 points last season for the Denver Nuggets. Another sign of his steady progress is that he averaged more than 10 points a game more last season than he did three years prior.

The odds are usually against players picked late in the first round of the NBA Draft, especially for young players on veteran-laden teams like Afflalo was in Detroit with Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rcihard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. But he earned those players’ respect, stuck in the NBA by improving each season and ultimately landed a massive five-year contract from the Nuggets.

To put Afflalo’s ability to survive in the NBA in perspective just consider the players drafted ahead of him in 2007 who are either out of the league or have been major flops: Greg Oden (No. 1 pick), Yi Jianlian (No. 6), Brandan Wright (No. 8), Acie Law (No. 11), Julian Wright (No. 13), Al Thornton (No. 14), Sean Williams (No. 17), Marco Belinelli (No. 18), Javaris Crittenton (No. 19), Jason Smith (No. 20) and Morris Almond (No. 25).

Afflalo’s steady progress and steady mindset through the years caught the eyes of Magic GM Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry. It was Perry, who worked previously with the Pistons and played a big role in drafting Afflalo in the 2007. Now, the Magic’s front office team has targeted Afflalo to be a leader in the locker room and a producer on the floor as the franchise attempts to rebuild after cutting ties with Dwight Howard.

``We’re satisfied with the decision that we made (in trading for Afflalo). It was a basketball decision and it gave us a mixture of flexibility, good young players who can develop with us and draft picks that we can utilize to help improve the roster over time,’’ Hennigan said last week. ``I can assure you we’re happy with the net result of this trade.’’

Afflalo is plenty happy too as he looks to Orlando as a place to continue growing his career. He’s likes the idea of being a go-to scorer and a mentor to Magic rookies Mo Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn.

In Orlando, Afflalo will wear No. 4, a nod to his childhood hero Byron Scott, a former All-Star guard with the Lakers and now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The jersey number is a link the past that Afflalo doesn’t want to forget. He knows that he might not have ever made it to the NBA without the support of his parents and that oasis that he simply calls "the farm."

``I’ve got great parents. My dad is the best dad in the world,’’ Afflalo said recently. ``I’ve learned a lot from him. He was on his own early in life. I think those experiences have transferred to the person that I am, whether it’s basketball or life in general. He had a rough childhood, but he’s very smart. My mom’s very smart, too and I don’t want to discredit her. But I can tell the way that I am, the way that I think, my personality, definitely resembles (Danny). … Knowing how I am, I can tell how he was. I’m just the mirror image of him. I just happen to love basketball a lot.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



Follow John Denton on Twitter here