Denton: Maxiell's Bruising Style of Play Will Help Magic
By John Denton
Oct. 18, 2013
ORLANDO – Vastly undersized height-wise by NBA post player standards, Orlando Magic power forward Jason Maxiell said it’s never too early to send a message with a bruising, physical style of play.
For Maxiell, that means delivering the first blow, delivering it early in games and not even bothering to wait until the regular season to start handing out the punishment.
``Being that I’m just 6-7, and how big and strong some of these guys are, you have to hit them first and let them know that it’s going to be a long, physical night – even if it is still preseason right now,’’ Maxiell said with a laugh.
Maxiell earned his first start in a Magic uniform Friday night when standout forward Tobias Harris was held out of action because of a tender ankle. But it couldn’t have been a better night to insert Maxiell into the lineup considering that Memphis was countering with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol – two of the more physical big men in the NBA.
In just 17 minutes of action – mirroring Randolph’s time on the floor – Maxiell had five points, four rebounds and a steal. And he didn’t commit a foul, allowing him to rib Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who fouled out of Friday’s 97-91 loss in just three quarters.
In 1,054 career regular season games and another 74 playoff games, Maxiell has fouled out of just two games. He’s seemingly mastered the art of playing physical without picking up fouls – something he learned from other veteran players while in Detroit.
``There are tricks to the game and I learned from the best in ‘Sheed (Wallace) and Ben Wallace,’’ Maxiell said of his NBA upbringing with the Pistons. ``There are tricks of fouling without the refs seeing the fouls. But it just depends on different nights and who you are playing against.’’
Maxiell opened Friday’s game with a baseline jump shot and get snatched an offensive rebound on the second possession of the game. He was extremely active from the start, grabbing four rebounds and scoring three points in the first quarter alone.
And early in the third quarter, Maxiell fought with Randolph in the post and snatched a rebound despite being whacked from behind by the Memphis forward. Seconds later, he converted a nifty hook shot over Ed Davis following a shake-and-bake fake.
Maxiell, who signed with the Magic as a free agent this past summer after spending eight years in Detroit, has carved out a career for himself in the NBA with his willingness to defend on the block, rebound in traffic and deliver hard fouls when necessary.
The Magic’s defense dropped off dramatically last season when bruising power forward Glen Davis went down with shoulder and foot injuries, and he isn’t supposed to be ready for the start of this season as he works through rehabilitation. Maxiell gives the Magic a veteran presence on the low block, and one that head coach Jacque Vaughn is happy to have around.
``He’s done a good job for us overall even though this is a new scheme for him defensively,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’s done really well adjusting to what we do here. He’s a solid guy and I know what I am going to get from him from game to game and that’s a good thing.’’
Maxiell is so good at being physical without fouling and doing his work early on defense that Vaughn often uses him as an example to others in practice. Said Vaughn: ``We haven’t shared all of his secrets yet because he wants to continue to play in this league for a long time. But when we can show our younger guys that this is some of the technique you can use and be successful at it, then we don’t mind stopping (practice) and showing the younger guys.’’
Maxiell is hardly old at 30 years old, but he admits that he sometimes feels ancient on a Magic roster with a 20-year-old (Maurice Harkless), two 21-year-olds (Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo) and a 22-year-old (Nikola Vucevic). Maxiell has welcomed the role of being a mentor, and he said it’s a process teaching a young player what it takes to be a physical force in the NBA.
``Young guys sometimes aren’t prepared for the physicality of games because they haven’t been around the contact as much,’’ Maxiell said. ``Sometimes it takes those first couple of hits to figure out that it’s going to be a physical game. Hopefully throughout the course of games, our (young) guys will figure out that they have to be physical themselves.’’
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