Denton: Vucevic Warranting Double Teams; Happy Returns
By John Denton
Nov. 16, 2013
ORLANDO – His quickly blossoming game no longer a secret around the NBA, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic is starting to see more and more double teams when he catches the ball in the post.
Vucevic worked hard over the summer to greatly expand his back-to-the-basket game, and it’s paid big dividends so far as the 7-footer is averaging a career-best 15.8 points per game while shooting 53.7 percent from the floor. According to NBA.com’s shot charts, Vucevic has made 36 of 61 shots (59 percent) on post moves at the rim, eight of 10 (80 percent) from the right block and four of eight (50 percent) on other shots in the lane.
Because of his growth offensively, Vucevic has begun to start getting double-teamed when he dribbles on the low block. The third-year center has handled the trapping defenses quite well, becoming a much better passer out of double teams. Not only is he averaging a career-best 2.8 assists a game, but he already has seven games with at least three assists and two with four assists.
``I have to adjust to it, but (the double teams) mean that I’m getting some respect when I get the ball down low,’’ Vucevic said. ``I just have to adjust to it and make the right plays out of it. When they double-team me that means that there is four-on-three and if I can get the ball out there will be an advantage on the other side of the floor. I just have to be smart with it, take my time and don’t rush it.’’
HAPPY RETURNS: The Magic were without reserve center Kyle O’Quinn (sprained ankle) on Saturday night, but they welcomed back power forward/center Solomon Jones. Now, the hope is that the Magic can use the next couple of off days to get sweet-shooting forward Tobias Harris back on the floor.
Jones missed the past seven games after tearing the lateral meniscus in his knee in the second game of the season when a Minnesota player fell back into his leg. Jones, an eight-year NBA veteran, can give support along the front line for a Magic team that is still without Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Harris.
``His knee has responded well and he’s been given the go,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``What made him a bonus for our team was that he is a veteran who has been in situations before. During training camp and in the preseason, a lot of the times he was in the right place at the right time and that was good for our guys to see.’’
Harris, who averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds over the final 27 games of last season, hasn’t played yet this season after severely spraining his ankle during the preseason. He’s been out for nearly four weeks, but he was back at practice doing sprint work with Jones on Friday. With the Magic playing just two games (both against Miami) in the next seven days, the team’s hope is that they can use the practice time to work some of the injured players back into practice. There is still no firm timetable on the returns for Harris and Davis.
``The objective is to get some five-on-five, get better at execution, add some more things to our arsenal and go to the toolbox,’’ Vaughn said. ``But we’ve played nine games (before Saturday) and some teams have only played six. So that’ll give our guys a chance to get some rest as well and hopefully get healthy.’’
As for Harris, Vaughn said: ``No setbacks or anything. We haven’t really practice-practiced and we’ll continue to give him more and hopefully take advantage of these practice days that are coming up.’’
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