Denton: Maxiell Makes First Return to The Palace

By John Denton
Jan. 28, 2014

AUBURN HILLS, Mich – When power forward Jason Maxiell got off the bus Tuesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills his instinct was to make a left turn, go down about 30 yards and turn into the home locker room. Now with the Orlando Magic after spending the first seven years of his career with the Detroit Pistons, Maxiell instead had to make a right off the bus and head toward the visitor’s locker room.

``When I walked in I was like, `Oh, this is how it looks,’’’ said Maxiell, saying he had never once set foot in the visitor’s locker room at The Palace. ``It was different making that right instead of a left (off the bus), but this is my job we’re coming in here tonight focused on getting a win.’’

Maxiell hasn’t played much of late, but he could very well be used tonight when the Magic (12-33) face the Pistons (17-27) in the suburbs of frigid Detroit. The Pistons lead the NBA in rebounding and points in the paint with a rugged frontline of Andrew Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith and the Magic will likely need every big body available to keep the Pistons off the glass.

``I know what Andre Drummond is going to do and I know Josh Smith’s game as well, so I’ll come in and play a game like practice where you get beat up,’’ Maxiell said. ``They know that I’m going to be physical and hit them and make it a long night for them.’’

One big body that won’t be available for the Magic will be center Nikola Vucevic, who will miss his 12th consecutive game after suffering a concussion on Jan. 6. Vucevic is back working out with the team, but he has yet to be fully cleared under the NBA’s concussion protocol and once again won’t be available for the Magic.

Orlando was outrebounded 48-32 by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday in a 100-92 loss. The Magic will have to rebound the ball better to keep the slumping Pistons off the glass. Detroit lost its fourth straight game on Sunday in Dallas, but in that game it outscored the Mavs 19-1 in second-chance points.

``That’s a huge part of the game, our ability to box out as a group and keep them off the boards,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said Tuesday morning following the team’s shoot around practice. ``That’s essential to us playing well tonight.’’

The Magic beat the Pistons 109-92 on Dec. 27 in Orlando by daring Smith (two of 13, five points) and Monroe (three of nine, six points) to shoot from the outside while withstanding a Drummond assault (10 points, 11 rebounds, eight offensive boards) inside. Orlando still won the rebounding battle that night, 49-48.

Orlando’s Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who is playing out of position at center because of injuries, said it will be important for the frontline to get help rebounding from the backcourt players tonight. For nearly three weeks now, Davis had gone into games with a massive height advantage, but he’s tried to use whatever tricks he could to even things up on the inside.

``It’s a tough matchup and these (Detroit) guys are definitely strong in the paint,’’ Davis said. ``The last time we played them we did a great job of maintaining that (post presence) and holding them under their averages. As a team, we have to do what we need to to win this ball game.’’

Maxiell broke into the NBA 2005 when the Pistons were still a force in the Eastern Conference. He was taught the NBA game by veterans such as Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Dale Davis. In Orlando, his role is more of a mentor to young Magic big men Kyle O’Quinn, Tobias Harris and Vucevic.

Maxiell, who has averaged 3.5 points and 2.8 rebounds in 30 games this season, said there will be some mixed feelings tonight stepping onto the floor where he played for seven seasons.

``I had good times here. This is The Palace and they have great history here,’’ Maxiell said. ``My first three years here we had great records and got to the conference finals twice. There are great memories here. It was strange when first walked in here for shoot around. It’s odd, but it’s like my second home and just coming back here is a great feeling.’’