Denton: Unselfish Play Leading to Success Early On

By John Denton
November 5, 2012

ORLANDO – No moment early this season has symbolized the Orlando Magic’s willingness to share the basketball and ``play for one another,’’ as head coach Jacque Vaughn likes to say, more than Sunday’s jaw-dropping, game-turning third quarter.

It was a stretch of basketball that saved the Magic, paved the way to a thrilling 115-94 victory and spoke volumes about the way the unselfish squad wants to play the rest of the season.

During a 32-8 run that took the Magic from down by 14 points to up by 10 points at the end of the third quarter, Orlando’s offense was a model of efficiency, while it’s defense closed off the lane. The Magic had six different players score during the spurt, one in which they made a staggering 12 of 16 shots and handed out six assists. Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, Orlando slowed Phoenix’s run-and-fun offense to a crawl by smothering the lane and forcing three of 14 shooting and four turnovers.

Considering the thoroughness of the game-changing rally and the fact that the Magic were already shorthanded because of the losses of starters Jameer Nelson (hamstring strain) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand), it was the definition of a team coming together and playing as one. That might be something of a cliché, but the unselfish, team concept taking form with the Magic (2-0).

``What I like most is that every guy, whether he gets four minutes or 30 minutes, we give everything we have and that’s what we need to do,’’ said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who had eight points and two dunks during the third-quarter frenzy. ``We really play as one and that’s why it’s so much fun to play for this team.’’

And then there was this from reserve forward Josh McRoberts, whose jumper gave the Magic an 83-76 lead late in the third period: ``Most teams in the NBA have one or two guys and you can kind of defend them, but we have so many guys who can score. And when you have guys playing together and playing unselfishly, that’s the most fun you can have playing basketball.’’

After opening the season with two thrilling home wins, the Magic will take their sharing and hustling brand of basketball on the road for the first time this regular season. Orlando plays in Chicago on Tuesday and in Minnesota on Wednesday. They will be facing two teams without their superstar players – Chicago’s Derrick Rose is out following knee surgery, while Minnesota’s Kevin Love is recovering from a broken hand.

Orlando could very well be without Nelson, the captain and longest-tenured Magic player, again on Tuesday night. Nelson strained his hamstring on Friday and didn’t play in Sunday’s victory. Nelson visited a doctor on Monday for another evaluation on his leg, and likely won’t play on the road trip.

As has been emblematic of the team so far, another player has been there to pick up the slack left by Nelson’s injury. E’Twuan Moore has filled in admirably for Nelson, making 57.1 percent of his shots while averaging 14 points a game.

``It doesn’t matter to me starting or coming off the bench and I just have to be ready when my number is called. The game doesn’t change,’’ Moore said. ``We try to do things together. We’re a team and that’s how we’re going to win. We’re playing together and any night could be someone else’s chance to step up and contribute.’’

The sharing style was crafted by Vaughn not long after he was hired as the team’s head coach in July. After Orlando traded away Dwight Howard and was left with a team full of solid, if not spectacular players, Vaughn knew that he had to sell this team on being unselfish as a way of being successful.

``The whole premise and concept was to maximize the players that we have,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s always beneficial for you as a coach to evolve and I don’t mind doing that. I’ve played in different systems before and this was the one I thought would be the one we could succeed in. … Everyone is a part of it. One of the great parts of basketball is that it’s a team sport. We’re trying to create some tangible (benefits) of sharing the basketball. For us, that’s the way we’re going to find success.’’

Thus far, five Magic players are averaging double figures, led of course by Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (25.5 ppg.) and J.J. Redick (22.5 ppg.). Another three players are averaging at least 6.0 points per game, showing off the team’s offensive depth. Davis is far and away the team leader in shot attempts (47), but Arron Afflalo (29), Redick (25), Vucevic (22) and More (21) are tightly bunched in shot attempts.

The team mantra is that no one knows where the ball is going from possession to possession and no one knows who the leading scorer will be from game to game.

``There are no all-stars here and we need each other,’’ Davis said. ``If we want to go somewhere far that (teamwork) is the mindset that we need to take. If we’re going to go somewhere, we need to go together.’’

When Vaughn went back and reviewed the game film from Sunday’s win, he focused primarily on the stirring rally in the third quarter that led to a second victory. What we saw was players working together for the good of the team, and it made him smile. Vaughn knows that his team has to play together and unselfishly if it going to win on a nightly basis.

``There were a lot of really good things going on,’’ Vaughn said. ``Guys pushed the pace, they were attacking the rim and the ball wasn’t sticking in anyone’s hands. And defensively, we really covered for each other, doing little things like smalls going back in to help bigs and box outs (on rebounds). It was the little things that we’ve talked about since Day One, and they add up in games like that in a big way.’’

ORLANDOMAGIC.COM FEATURES: Magic Want to Prove Critics Wrong | Vucevic Has All-Star Potential | Ish's Jump Shot Improving

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



Follow John Denton on Twitter here