Denton: Vaughn Thinks Challenges This Season Will Benefit Young Players Over Time

By John Denton
March 29, 2013

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is convinced that, in time, his squad’s young players will be better for having gone through some of the struggles of this season.

That’s one reason why Vaughn isn’t fearful of getting players out of their comfort zones on the basketball court. He hasn’t hesitated using players are various unnatural positions and he’s pushed them beyond their normal minutes limits to see how they will respond to different challenges.

Again, Vaughn knows that this time will prove beneficial to the Magic down the line.

``I think the entire year has been a continuous lesson to all of the guys of how this league works,’’ Vaughn said. ``At no point is anyone feeling sorry for us, and that’s the first thing that you have to accept. Everyone wants to beat you every night and everyone is looking for a win. Now, what do you do about it? We’ve had injuries and things teams don’t expect, but that’s part of life and you deal with it and go on with it. But I really think this stretch will make us a better ball club.’’

Orlando (18-54) will be trying to get better tonight when it takes on a Washington Wizards team that has played especially better of late since the return of point guard John Wall. The Wizards (26-45) have won six of their last 10 games and they are 21-17 since Wall’s midseason return from a knee injury.

Wall is had a career-best 47-point performance on Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. He followed that up with 18 points and 12 assists in a Wednesday loss in Oklahoma City, but he plummeted back to reality with a three of 18 shooting night.

The Magic will once again be without starting center Nikola Vucevic, who has missed the past four games after suffering a concussion last Tuesday in Indiana. Vucevic is subject to the NBA’s protocol for head injuries, meaning he must pass a series of tests before being allowed to return to game action. Vucevic was back on the court doing some light shooting work after Friday’s morning shootaround, but he is still several days away from returning.

Losing Vucevic, Arron Afflalo (hamstring tear) and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (broken foot), the Magic have been forced to delved even deeper into their youth movement. Three rookies – Kyle O’Quinn, Maurice Harkless and DeQuan Jones – started Wednesday night in Charlotte. Second-year forward Tobias Harris also started and set a new career high in scoring with 29 points. O’Quinn also had career-bests in points (23 points) and assists (six), while also totaling 11 rebounds.

Because of the injuries, Harris – a converted power forward who started his career as a small forward – started a recent game at center against the New York Knicks. Harkless, Orlando’s best defender, has been asked to guard small forwards, shooting guards and even a point guard such as Steve Nash. Jones has been in and out of the lineup, guarding a wide array of different kinds of wing players. And second-year guard E’Twaun Moore has filled a variety of roles, even playing some power forward in Orlando’s small-ball lineups.

Again, Vaughn is testing players to see how they will respond to some uncomfortable situations and see how they will respond. It’s all being done because Vaughn feels it will make the young players better next season and later in their careers.

``I’m not a psychoanalyst, but I do like to put guys in a position where it’s you against yourself and you have to battle the within and see how you respond,’’ Vaughn said. ``You have to fight fatigue, you have to fight maybe not playing for five games and you have to fight maybe guarding a guy you have never guarded before who might be faster than you. So I do like to put guys in positions where they have to adjust. That’s what this league is about – adjusting.’’

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