Denton: O'Quinn Earning His Minutes

By John Denton
Dec. 23, 2013

ORLANDO – Not only have Kyle O’Quinn’s minutes recently been on the rise, but he’s also been on the floor late in games with the outcome still hanging in the balance.
Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn is force-feeding the second-year center minutes and opportunities in hopes that he will grow his game.

Vaughn said that O’Quinn has earned his trust because of his high basketball IQ, his toughness in the post and his ability to pass the ball from the high post. But he wants O’Quinn, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school and played collegiately – to play with more instinct and aggression when out on the floor.

``He has grown, but I’ve really been challenging Kyle to take the next step in his career,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’s a second-round pick and he started playing basketball late, so he has some ground to make up. He has to continue to watch basketball, be around basketball and have a thirst for knowledge for the game. That’s the next step for him.’’

Quinn entered Monday’s game against New York averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in 10.5 minutes a game. He played 16 minutes against Utah on Wednesday and contributed four points and three rebounds. And in 15 minutes on Saturday against Sacramento, O’Quinn chipped in nine rebounds.

Passing from the high post is actually one of O’Quinn’s strong suits. He had a nifty pass to a back-cutting Maurice Harkless late in a win last week in Chicago and he added two assists on Saturday night.

``That’s all instinctive,’’ Vaughn said. ``If I was drawing up an (after time out play) at the end of the game and I put him in, he’d make the pass. A lot of times when I need a big to make a pass, he’s fearless. He can really pass the basketball. It’s just something that instinctive to him.’’

Where Vaughn wants to see O’Quinn become more instinctive is when he gets the ball in traffic and needs to either score or pass to an open teammate. One example used by Vaughn was from Saturday’s game when O’Quinn scrapped for an offensive rebound and then pump-faked for several times before trying a layup that was swatted away by DeMarcus Cousins.

Said Vaughn: ``He did a great job of getting an offensive rebound and then he’s stuck under the rim. Then it comes down to game experience of what do I do – do I get to the middle of the rim where they don’t know if he’s going to finish with his left hand or right hand? Or do I bring it out? It’s just about having that feel and it comes with continuing to play.’’

NO BULL: Tobias Harris grew up in New York and attended several Knicks games as a child, so naturally he was a fan of the … wait for it … Bulls and Lakers.

Harris, whose father was a NBA player agent for years, usually had access to tickets and his family would make the drive from Long Island to Madison Square Garden for games. But because of his admiration for Michael Jordan and later Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Harris cheered more for the Bulls and Lakers than the Knicks.

``We went a pretty good amount of Knicks games because my father would take us,’’ Harris said. ``I remember watching Michael Jordan playing there. We really enjoyed going to the games. I was more of a Bulls fan with Jordan and then the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq. I’ve always watching the Knicks being in New York and growing up in Long Island, but I’ve kind of dipped around the NBA with teams.’’

CHRISTMAS BREAK: For a second straight year, the Magic will have the Christmas holidays off this year. After playing the Knicks on Monday, the Magic are expected to be off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day before returning to practice on Thursday. The Magic host the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

There were two long stretches during the 2000s when the Magic were regulars on Christmas Day because of the power of their team and the superstar players on the roster. From 2000-2004, the Magic played on Christmas Day three times. And from 2008-2011, the Magic played on Christmas Day four straight years – three of them being held in Orlando.

Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson is the lone remaining link to those teams from 2008-11, and he said that it’s a double-edged sword when your team is playing on Christmas Day. For one, Nelson would prefer to have the holiday off so that he can spend it with his family. But he also knows that by playing on Christmas Day it usually means that your team is one of the favorites to make a deep playoff run.

``It’s a Catch-22 because the teams that are playing obviously are the top tier teams,’’ Nelson said. ``You want to be one of those teams playing (on Christmas Day), but you also want to be able to enjoy your family. Hopefully we can get back to that one day where we have a situation where we can be upset because we’re playing on Christmas Day.’’