Denton: Vaughn Happy for Collins

By John Denton
Feb. 23, 2014

TORONTO – Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn expressed happiness for former teammate Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay player in the NBA on Sunday after he inked a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

Vaughn and Collins, both natives of Los Angeles, were teammates together with the New Jersey Nets for two seasons from 2004-06. Vaughn raved about Collins’ professionalism and preparedness as a Net and said the center was universally liked by his teammates.

``I think it falls right in line with what our Commissioner said. This is a league that’s inclusive and respectful. I think (Adam Silver) said it best. Jason was one of the best teammates that I ever had,’’ Vaughn said. ``When you talk about being a good teammate, it’s being prepared, doing your job every night and being able to be counted on. That’s a good teammate.’’

The Nets were in the running for Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, whose contract was bought out by the Magic on Friday. Davis officially cleared waivers at 5 p.m. on Friday and was expected to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Nets instead opted for Collins, who spent his first six NBA seasons with the Nets when the franchise played in New Jersey. He has played for four other NBA franchises (Grizzlies, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards).

BEST OF THE BEST FOR OLADIPO: Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo has experienced some of the highest of highs in his rookie season, converting a 360-degree dunk during a game in November, compiling the first triple-double of his career in December and pumping in a career-best 35 points in January.

But Oladipo said that his performance in Friday’s double-overtime defeat of the New York Knicks was the best of his NBA life. Not only did Oladipo score 30 points and hand out a career-best 14 assists, he also got better as the game went along and scored eight points in the second OT to lift the Magic to the victory.

``That one’s pretty high on the list. I played a pretty good overall game,’’ Oladipo said. ``I could have shot a little better from the field and still there’s a lot of room for improvement. That game is over, it’s in the past and I just want us to do well on this road trip.’’

Oladipo was having a rather pedestrian game early in the night with just five points and four assists in the first half. But he carved up the Knicks for 25 points after the half, many of them coming on spectacular drives to the rim while absorbing contact. The Magic were a plus-20 in scoring while he was on the floor.

Vaughn wisely played Oladipo for just three minutes of the second quarter, hoping to save the rookie’s legs for the stretch run of the second half. As it turns out, Oladipo had plenty of fuel left and seemed to thrive as others wore down physically. ``I feel like I can (change the tempo) late in games, but I just have to play hard on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive end,’’ Oladipo said. ``I just want to help my teammates, get them going and keep them going.’’

Oladipo is the only Magic player to appear in all 58 games this season. He also competed in two events at the NBA All-Star Game – the Rising Stars Game and the Skills Challenge – and had little-to-no downtime to rest during the four-day break. But he discounted the notion that could at some point hit the so-called ``rookie wall.’’

``I’m good, man. I’m fine. I just love playing basketball,’’ said Oladipo, who played 49 minutes on Friday. ``I really don’t feel fatigued at all. I’m looking forward to playing (Sunday in Toronto) and I want to go out there and get a road win. We need some road wins. We just have to bring the same intensity from home to the road.’’

EVALUATION PROCESS: With Davis’ contract bought out and Arron Afflalo out with a sprained right ankle, there is suddenly some extra minutes available in the Magic’s rotation for some of their younger players.

Davis’ departure clears out a starting spot for Tobias Harris at power forward, and reserves Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson are expected to see more time in the regular rotation.

Afflalo saw his spectacular 32-point Friday end in frustration when he accidentally stepped on Raymond Felton’s foot and rolled his ankle. Vaughn said Afflalo’s progress will be monitored before a decision is made about his status for games in Washington (Tuesday) and Philadelphia (Wednesday).

Maurice Harkless got the start in Afflalo’s place on Sunday, his first start since Jan. 15. Harkless could start for the foreseeable future if Afflalo is out and others such as E’Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb could see a rise in their minutes if Afflalo is out a week or more.

Vaughn said there will be opportunities for the team’s younger players to make their marks, but he doesn’t want to put additional pressure on them.

``What I will say to them is that when we look back 25 games from now I’ll want to be able to say that we got better. That’s the goal,’’ Vaughn said. ``Whether it’s a day-to-day basis, game-to-game, or for me sometimes it’s hour-to-hour. I won’t put extra pressure on them. Contractually, there’s already pressure on them. I won’t do that, but I will push them to be better.’’