Denton: Hennigan Happy With Final Roster, Praises Jones
By John Denton
October 27, 2012
ORLANDO – Even though DeQuan Jones was an undrafted free agent with no contractual guarantees coming into training camp, Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan impressed upon the small forward weeks ago that he would be given every shot to make the roster if he did what he was asked and played well.
The Magic backed up those words on Saturday when they released veterans Quentin Richardson and Justin Harper and rookie Chris Johnson to make room on the roster for Jones. The Magic liked what Jones had done in training camp so much that they were willing to cut Richardson even though he is still owed $5.4 million over the next two years. Simply put, Jones outperformed Richardson and Hennigan wanted to reward the 22-year-old small forward’s hard work and promise.
``From Day One when we spoke to DeQuan at summer league and then at the beginning of training camp, we told him the word is `opportunity,’’’ Hennigan said. ``There’s an opportunity here for anybody to be had who wants to take advantage of it and he came in and worked really hard. He’s been consistent, he listened and he stayed late and he put himself in a position to take advantage of that opportunity and we’re proud of him.’’
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn called the team together at the start of practice on Saturday morning and told them this was the team that would start the season together. Vaughn also echoed the words of Hennigan about offering Jones an opportunity and he praised the organization for being willing to take a financial hit in order to keep a young player like Jones on the roster.
``It speaks to the challenge that he accepted and he came into the camp and gave it his all. He’s been rewarded for it,’’ Vaughn said. ``It also speaks to the organization that we’re real honest when we speak to guys and invite them into camp and tell them they will have an opportunity to be a part of our team. I’m extremely happy for (Jones).’’
Saturday was also significant for the Magic because it was the first practice for Maurice Harkless, who spent the past two months rehabilitating from surgery to repair a sports hernia. Hennigan said that Harkless is ``practicing full contact with no restrictions going forward,’’ but there is no timetable yet on when he will see his first game action. Harkless, the 15th overall pick of the June NBA Draft, was acquired by the Magic in August from the Philadelphia 76ers.
``It’s a lot harder being on the court now and doing everything. I thought I had everything sitting on the side and watching, but I made a lot of mistakes today,’’ said Harkless, a small forward who spent one season at St. John’s before opting for the NBA Draft. ``J.J. (Redick) said to me today in the weight room after practice (about it being his start in the NBA) and I was like, `Wow, you are right.’ I scored my first points today in practice, so it’s pretty exciting.’’
It was a pretty exciting day for Jones as well after he learned officially that he was on the Magic’s roster. He met with Hennigan and assistant GM Scott Perry before Saturday’s practice and they congratulated him on making the squad. Jones, who scored 16 points in Friday’s preseason finale against Houston, wasn’t able to practice on Saturday because of a slightly strained abductor muscle, but it did little to dampen his spirits.
``I’m ecstatic and I just appreciate Rob and Mr. (Scott) Perry for giving me the opportunity and believing in me,’’ said Jones, a product of the University of Miami. ``I was excited and couldn’t stop smiling. (Hennigan and Perry) were talking and I just had this grin on my face. It still hasn’t fully hit me yet. The crazy thing is this is my father’s birthday and he just turned 40, so I feel like this is a good birthday present for him.’’
Hennigan, who took over the Magic’s GM job in June, had some tough decisions to make in order to keep Jones on the roster. He made the decision to waive Richardson even though he was still owed the $5.4 million, and he cut Harper even though the previous Magic management traded second-round picks in 2013 and ’14 to get Harper in 2011. But Hennigan stressed that all of the moves were made with the best interest of the franchise in mind. Clearly, the predominant goal in mind was putting the best team possible out on the floor.
``When we started the transition period over the summer we said that we wanted to evaluate everything and make sure that we judge our players on the work that they put in and the merit that comes with that,’’ Hennigan said. ``We felt all throughout the preseason that we evaluated everything and we made the decision that financially we’re going to have to make a decision that affects us. But we feel the decision was for the organization and for the culture that we’re starting to set.’’
As for the decision to waive Harper, Hennigan said: ``It’s never easy to have to make cuts and Justin was a difficult decision for us. We felt like at this point with the way our roster is constructed, we have some depth up front and we tried to cover ourselves on the perimeter and in the backcourt. We wish Justin good luck because he’s a good guy and a first-class individual. If he continues to put in the right amount of work he’ll have the chance to stick in the league.’’
While Hennigan was happy for young players like Jones and fellow rookies Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn and Harkless to make the roster, he said the day was a tough one because he had to cut players the Magic deemed valuable.
But Hennigan said he’s pleased with the roster that the Magic will take into the season-opener on Friday against the Denver Nuggets at the Amway Center. With a core of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Redick, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington, the Magic have several veterans who can keep the team stable and show the way to the bevy of young players on the roster.
``I think we have a good mix,’’ Hennigan said. ``The veteran presence balances some of the inexperience that we have. For the season starting, we like the different components that we have and some of the versatility that we have.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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