Denton: Doc Expects Jacque to be "Terrific" Coach for Many Years

By John Denton
April 13, 2013

ORLANDO – When the Orlando Magic went searching for a coach back in 1999, they hired a former NBA point guard with phenomenal people skills who had never coached before.

That man, of course, turned out to be Doc Rivers, who won a Coach of the Year award his first season in Orlando and ultimately evolved into becoming one of the best coaches in the NBA with the Celtics.

Similarly, the Magic hired another former point guard with great people skills and no prior head coaching experience this past summer in Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn played for Rivers in Orlando in 2002-03 and still says that he picked up several motivational tactics from Rivers and the coach’s ability to relate to players.

Rivers said on Saturday that he has thought for years that Vaughn would make a solid NBA coach and he’s seen nothing this season to dispute that notion. In fact, Rivers was highly complimentary of Vaughn’s abilities as a tactician along the sidelines even though he is a rookie head coach.

``I think he’s going to be terrific and I’m jealous of his demeanor. I tell him all of the time that I wish I could sit and be calm like him, but it’s just not in my DNA,’’ Rivers said of Vaughn. ``But what I have been impressed with more is his out-of-time out-sets. I think he’s been terrific because they run good stuff. I think that’s really impressive.’’

REBOUNDING FORCE: When the Magic acquired Tobias Harris back on Feb. 21, they were fully aware of his ability to score and they quickly put him in a position to be the team’s go-to player in crunch time situations.

Harris has more than lived up to expectations as a scorer, averaging 16.9 points a game going in Saturday night against the Boston Celtics. He’s twice scored a career-best 30 points and he has seven 20-point games with the Magic.

But where Harris has greatly exceeded expectations has been his ability to rebound the ball and block shots. There were questions as to whether or not the 6-foot-8, 226-pound Harris was big and physical enough to play power forward with the Magic, but for the most part he’s held his own down low.

Fresh off a career-best 19-rebound effort on Wednesday against Milwaukee, Harris has boosted his rebounding average to 8.8 a game. That’s more than four times what he averaged as a rookie and twice as many as he averaged earlier this season with the Bucks prior to being traded to the Magic. Also, he’s averaging 1.4 blocked shots a game, easily another career high.

Vaughn said that Harris has heard the whispers that maybe he isn’t physical enough to hold up defensively and on the boards and he’s trying to dispel it. Vaughn said that Harris has made up for what he might lack in muscle with hustle.

``I think he’s taken that criticism a little bit to heart. Each player knows a little bit what others say about them and what the league says about them,’’ Vaughn said.

``But he’s played so hard, and a lot of those rebounds have come because he outran a guy and wanted it more than the guy next to him. So that part of it has been great for him.’’

AFFLALO HEALING: Magic veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo was at the team’s practice facility on Friday to get continued treatment on his torn right hamstring. Afflalo landed awkwardly while trying to avoid a diving Nick Collison and torn the muscle in the back of his leg, knocking him out of action for the final 12 games of the season.

Afflalo said he had never before ended a season injured and out of action, so this recovery is a bit odd to him. He’s still probably a month away from beginning running and weight training exercises and he likely won’t be back on the basketball court for drills until June – again odd feelings for a player used to competing in the playoffs. ``My whole mind-set has been geared toward next year,’’ he said. ``I’ve never had to think that way during a season.’’

At the time of his injury, Afflalo was leading the team in minutes per game (16.0) and scoring (16.5 ppg.). He took the Magic’s rebuilding season and extended losing streaks quite hard, pushing the squad’s young players to continue to compete. He said that while being away from the team and competition has been difficult, it would be even harder to stomach if the Magic were in the playoff chase.

``I could imagine if it was in mid-season or a certain circumstance in which we were going to make the playoffs I probably would be taking it a lot harder,’’ he said. ``But considering the fact that we don’t have a chance to make the playoffs and there was only two to three weeks left, it was just a little extended time for me to think about playing for next season.’’

ETC: The rivalry between the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers is one that has spanned several decades, but Rivers said he was sickened on Saturday to learn of Kobe Bryant’s likely season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury. Rivers has long admired Bryant because of his toughness and work ethic. Said Rivers: ``My players are my favorite, but if I had another one it would be Kobe. I just love his heart, his toughness. Heck, I love the fact that he got up and made two free throws with a torn Achilles. I'd have been lying on the floor crying like a baby.’’ As to whether he thought Bryant could return to elite status once again following the injury, Rivers said: ``I wouldn't bet against him coming back and being great, I can tell you that. Kobe, if he wants to come back and be great, he'll be great.’’ … Magic reserve guard E’Twaun Moore, who played for Boston last season before signing with the Magic last summer, slapped hands with Rivers Saturday night before he checked into the game. … Rivers got a chuckle out of Harris’ game-ending dunk on Wednesday night against Milwaukee. Rather than simply run out the clock, Harris drove the length of the court and dunked just before the buzzer – a move that infuriated some of the Bucks. Harris apologized after the game, saying he was simply just trying to avoid getting fouled, while also making sure he sealed the victory. Rivers had no problem with the play. ``One this is for sure, if there’s five seconds left, we’re going to guard him. We’re going to get back on that last play,’’ Rivers said. ``I thought that was great. I really did and have no problem with that. I thought it was hilarious. I tell our guys that it’s not his fault; it’s their fault that (Milwaukee) didn’t get back.’’ … Orlando plays its final game at the Amway Center on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls. The Magic wrap up the regular season in Miami against the Heat on Wednesday night.

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