Denton: Vets Believe They Can Be Resilient & Overcome Recent Losses

By John Denton
January 25, 2013

ORLANDO – Hearing the disappointment in J.J. Redick’s voice from across the Orlando Magic’s locker room, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis yelled out encouragement to his despondent teammate late Thursday night.

It wasn’t long after DeMar DeRozan drilled an off-balanced, heave of a shot that sunk the Magic and Redick was talking about how Orlando’s chances at making the playoffs later this season were slipping away.

``Hey, J.J., it’s all right. They are going to be loving us again soon,’’ Davis yelled over to Redick.

``I know, we’re going to go on that 10-game winning streak going into the All-Star break,’’ Redick said, hoping he could somehow will the Magic back on track.

A little more than a month ago, the Magic were a win away from a .500 record and qualifying as one of the NBA’s feel-good stories of the season. The Magic had stabilized themselves following the August trading of Dwight Howard with several promising pieces on the roster. And they seemed poised to make a run at the playoffs if they could keep up their share-the-ball, unselfish style of play.

Then, Davis hurt his shoulder, E’Twaun Moore sprained his elbow and reserve center Gustavo Ayon’s lower right leg swelled to almost twice its normal size. The injuries not only sapped the Magic of their depth, but they also made the team’s already thin margin for error more apparent than ever.

What followed – an excruciating 10-game losing streak and a stretch now that has swelled to 15 losses in the last 17 games – has caused frustrations to simmer. But a true sign of the Magic’s character is how they have stayed together throughout the rough patch and stayed in games down to the final horn. Thursday’s 97-95 loss to Toronto was Orlando’s 10th game this season decided by five points or less – seven of which have been defeats.

All of the losing has been especially tough on veteran players such as Redick and Davis, both of whom have competed in The NBA Finals before. Seeing this Magic team’s promise slip through its fingers hasn’t set well with the veteran players. ``It’s tough for anybody who values winning. The people who have been here and have won the last few years, it’s been tough on everybody,’’ Redick said. ``The reality is that when we lose the responsibility is one the vets. You can’t put any blame on (rookie forward) Mo Harkless for losing 15 out of 17 or whatever it is now. You know, the ownership is on us to be better.’’

Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn has raved about his team’s resiliency all season, and he truly believes the team still has a string of solid basketball left in it. In December, the Magic were on a three-game losing streak, but they stunned the Los Angeles Lakers and Howard and went 3-2 on a grueling West Coast roadtrip. And in January, the Magic stopped another losing streak with a clutch defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers, who had the best record in the NBA at the time.

``That’s been the best part of it – the resiliency,’’ said Vaughn, whose Magic (14-28) host Detroit on Sunday before starting a five-game roadtrip. ``You really don’t know your team until you start coaching the team. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the character of the guys in our locker room and what they care about and their approach. I’ve been pleased and (40) games in and we’ve had progress. That (making progress) is what we’ve talked about from Day 1.’’

The Magic’s slide of late has put their chances of making a postseason push in jeopardy. Milwaukee (22-18) and Boston (20-22) currently sit in seventh and eighth in the East, but the Magic are now 12th and six games back of the slumping Celtics. Orlando has another game remaining with Detroit on Sunday, but it has already lost four times this season to Toronto.

Arron Afflalo knows it’s likely now or never for the Magic to save their season if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.

``You always like to keep hope. But the significant changes that needed to take place for us to become a playoff-type team aren’t happening fast enough,’’ Afflalo said. ``The teams that we have an opportunity to maybe catch in the lower seeds will keep pushing. Being around for a few years, you know those teams are thinking the exact same thing.

``Your fate can’t rest on another team slowing up; you have to be playing a certain style of basketball that is going to allow you to move up and win games,’’ he added. ``We’re still learning a lot of things, but the clock is ticking.’’

Redick, who was a part of Magic teams that reached the NBA Finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010, is of the belief that Orlando has another good push left in it before sliding completely out of the playoff race.

``I know we had a couple of good runs earlier in the year. I don’t want to say that (the playoffs are) out of reach yet. I’m not ready to stay that. I’m an optimist,’’ Redick said. ``We have to win a lot of games and we’ll have to have some other teams falter. ``The frustrating part is that’s been right there,’’ Redick went on, referring to the string of close losses. ``We’ve lost some games where we haven’t had it and that happens to everybody in this league. But the way that we’re losing games right now, it’s tough.’’

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