Denton: Co-Captains Davis & Nelson Offering Leadership

By John Denton
November 10, 2012

NEW YORK – In times of crisis – and certainly the Orlando Magic’s three-game losing streak capped by an unsightly home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night would qualify – teams usually look to the captains for leadership and direction.

In the case of the Magic, those captains are fiery forward Glen Davis and injured point guard Jameer Nelson. Davis has slumped since a torrid two-game start to the season, while Nelson hasn’t played since the opening win against Denver because of a strained hamstring.

The Magic (2-3) are hoping to see a return to form of both Davis and Nelson when they face the Nets (2-2) in Brooklyn’s $1 billion Barclays Center on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Davis, a career backup before this season, has longed for more responsibility and accountability from the Magic. All throughout training camp, Davis talked about ``walking the walk,’’ a phrase that described his mentality that talking a good game was no longer good enough. So far, he has backed up his bold talk with strong actions.

Davis was overjoyed earlier this season when new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn named him a co-captain and he vowed to do everything in his power to assist others and be a beacon for the team. And now that Orlando has hit a rough patch early in the season, Davis is taking his role as captain even more seriously.

``I’ve got to be a stand-up guy for this team in every way, when we lose and when we win,’’ Davis said. ``The thing about me is I can’t let our losses affect me. I’m emotional guy and I’ve been learning ways to control that. But at the end of the day, it’s a privilege to be a captain and I’m striving to be the best captain that I can be for this team.’’

Vaughn tried to help his team move on from Friday’s disappointing 107-68 loss to the Nets on Friday by not showing any video clips of the game before Saturday’s practice. And despite the loss and the magic’s struggles, Vaughn said he tried to keep his demeanor the same so that the team could learn the value of staying consistent on a day to day basis.

``I think it was important with my actions and how I approached (Saturday’s practice). The demeanor that the coaching staff sets in important and we were all here and enthused about getting better, and we did,’’ Vaughn said. ``You continue to be consistent and that’s the best thing that you can do. I learned that early in my career – not too high and not too low.’’

Just five games into the season, the Magic have already had some wild swings in emotions. Doubted all offseason by the prognosticators, the Magic stunned some by beating Denver and Phoenix in the first two games of the season. Then, a fourth-quarter faltering in Chicago, a flat performance in a loss in Minnesota and Friday’s disappointing defeat led to the current three-game skid that the Magic take with them to Brooklyn.

Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who has scored in double digits in each of the past three games, said the team has to find a way to become more consistent. Often, young teams are susceptible to running the range of emotions during a long NBA season, and Afflalo said the veterans have to do a better job of showing the way to the younger players on the roster.

``You find it quite common that teams ride a high when they are winning and making shots and playing well. But then when you are losing there’s frustration there,’’ said Afflalo, who leads the Magic in scoring at 16.2 points per game. ``We’ve got to find a good balance. That’s a part of becoming a better team. We have to find that balance of not getting too high or too low and bouncing back.’’

Afflalo then paused and reflected on the wild swings the Magic have already had to endure. ``We’ve learned a lot in five games already. It seems like two seasons already with the little two-game winning streak and the three-game losing streak. Hopefully we take it in stride and use it as a positive.’’

Getting Nelson back in action would be a huge positive for the Magic, but his status is still somewhat iffy because of lingering pain in his hamstring. Nelson was told by doctors to be cautious with his return because the injury could linger for weeks if it doesn’t heal properly.

The leader of the team for years, Nelson is eager to return to action for the Magic to offer leadership and guidance. But he’s also trying to be honest with the team’s training staff and not risk re-injuring his leg.

``I’m making a lot of progress, but I just know with hamstrings and groins that it’s a little trickier than a sprained ankle,’’ said Nelson, who could be held out until Tuesday’s home game against New York if he feels pain on Sunday. ``So I just have to continue to progress and listen first and foremost to my body. And I have to communicate with the coaching staff and training staff about how I feel.’’

Davis’ pain of late has come with his shot while trying to finish shots inside against bigger players. After opening the season with dazzling 29- and 22-point performances, his scoring average has been in a freefall over the last three games. Davis is shooting just 13 of 44 (29.5 percent) over the last three games while averaging just 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

He said he’s actually glad that the Magic are facing Brooklyn again less than 48 hours after handing Orlando a tough loss. Davis said he will do his best to remind his teammates of the disappointment the squad felt late Friday night and to do something about it come Sunday afternoon.

Davis is still new to the role of being a leader, but he’s doing his best to be truthful with himself and his teammates and speak up when something needs to be said. He vowed that things will be different when the Magic face the Nets on Sunday afternoon.

``Now, (the Nets) think they can beat us bad and we haven’t even shown them yet that we can play,’’ Davis said. ``We haven’t shown them anything yet. But we’ll remember this and we’ll go out there on Sunday and play as hard as we can.’’

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

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