Denton: What We Learned Following Sunday's Game


By John Denton
October 8, 2012

ORLANDO -- Whereas some analysts have focused primarily on what the Orlando Magic lost after trading away star center Dwight Howard, an overlooked part of the team is the existing chemistry between the returning players.

That chemistry and knowing how to play together will allow the Magic to surprise a lot of people this season, power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said.

The Magic might have lost their preseason opener 85-80 to the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday in Mexico City, but it was certainly no fault of Orlando’s primary rotation players. The starting unit got the Magic off to a 10-0 start and led the Hornets by 16 at halftime. And just before four of the five starters – Mexican native Gustavo Ayon was the exception – were removed from the exhibition game for good, the Magic had dominated the game and pushed the lead to 21 points.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn liked the way his team shared the basketball, ran hard on the break for easy baskets and attacked to the rim to get free throw attempts. Vaughn allows for freedom in his offensive sets and says that the defense will dictate where the shots come from instead of a specific diagram. That plays into the Magic’s strengths of chemistry and cohesion.

``You think about the guys who were out there together (early in the game) – J.J. (Redick), Jameer (Nelson), (Hedo) Turkgolu and myself – we’ve all played together and that chemistry is still there with us,’’ Davis stressed. ``It’s a different system (under Vaughn), but we know how to play together. And a guy like Gustavo fits in well with us. The way we played (Sunday) showed that we have that chemistry and we’re only going to get better. I like what I saw from us in our first game.’’

All five Magic starters scored at least six points. Vaughn praised Davis for being a factor on both ends of the floor, Nelson for setting up others for open looks and Redick and Turkoglu’s willingness to run the fastbreak.

CALM DEMEANOR: Regardless of whether the Magic were playing well as they did much of the first three quarters on Sunday or struggling as the reserves did in the fourth quarter, the demeanor of Vaughn rarely changed along the sidelines.

Vaughn, the youngest coach in the NBA at 37 years old, looked more like a coaching veteran than a rookie head coach on Sunday. For weeks, Vaughn has preached that he will remain true to his calm and thoughtful demeanor and not try to act like someone he is not. He said that it is also important for him to try to keep an even keel between games and even during games because the Magic do have a collection of young players on the roster.

``That’s why my approach has to stay the way that it has been,’’ Vaughn said, referring to the up-and-down nature of Sunday’s game. ``I have to stay consistent with these guys. This first game was a good lesson for us as far as consistent effort. We hard great effort in the first half and only gave up 31 points in the first half. But we gave up 54 points in the second half and we have to be consistent with our effort.’’

Vaughn said there was no sleeplessness, no nerves or sweaty palms whatsoever before his first game as a head coach on Sunday. He said he is totally at peace with the position because it is something he has been preparing to do his entire basketball life. Vaughn played in the NBA for 12 seasons and spent two years as an assistant in San Antonio, taking notes along the way and readying himself for the day he would someday lead a team.

``I feel totally prepared for this,’’ Vaughn said. ``I have a great staff around me. I feel like with the first game it was a great first day at the office. It’s still preseason, but it was a nice rough draft, I guess you could say.’’

ROOKIE SURPRISE: While much of the attention in summer league and training camp was focused on drafted rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn, it was undrafted rookie DeQuan Jones who opened eyes in Sunday’s first game for the Magic.

The 6-foot-8, 221-pound small forward had eight points and two steals in Sunday’s game while playing 23 minutes. He earned Vaughn’s trust with his willingness to defend and he also electrified the crowd in Mexico City with two thunderous dunks. The University of Miami product knows that he is in a fight for a roster spot as an undrafted player with no contractual guarantees. A high flyer, Jones has worked hard to show the coaching staff and management that he can be an asset to the Magic by doing the dirty work and offering up hard-nosed defense.

``I’m just trying to be a utility guy and on our defensive rotations really be aware and be a stopper for our team,’’ Jones said. ``I’m out there trying to utilize my athleticism to help this team anyway that I can.’’

Jones said it dawned on him during Sunday’s game as he was making his NBA debut that he was living out his dream. He is hoping that he will get enough opportunities throughout the preseason to show the coaches that he deserves a spot on the roster. ``It was a great experience for me and I was just appreciative more than anything,’’ Jones said of his debut. 11I just appreciated being out there and tried to give my all to give the team whatever I could. I’ve just got to keep it up.’’

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

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