Denton: Passing Key to Magic's Success

By John Denton
January 4, 2011

ORLANDO – In the midst of all of the hoopla surrounding Hedo Turkolgu’s third career triple-double Monday night against the Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic teammate J.J. Redick wants it known that the feat wouldn’t have been possible without his key pass.

``What really gets overlooked is that I had an open 3-pointer from the corner and instead of shooting it I penetrated to the middle and kicked the ball to Turk so he could hit the three. Without that Turk doesn’t get his triple-double,’’ Redick said with a chuckle. ``Then, his (10th) assist was 3-pointer, so I felt really good about having a hand in the triple-double.’’

If you can’t tell, the Magic are taking great delight these days in how they are passing the basketball and sharing the wealth. Their six-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's game against Milwaukee at Amway Center has come in large part because the Magic have had 31, 16, 26, 27, 22 and 26 assists of late.

They are moving the ball better than ever and that has led to a dramatic increase in scoring from an offense that has been unstoppable at times with its 3-point shooting and hammering the ball inside to Dwight Howard.

``We have to pass the ball for us to be successful. When we’re just standing around on the perimeter, holding the ball over our heads and being stagnant, we’re not a good team. But we’re moving it better now,’’ Howard said. ``When everybody is getting a chance to touch the ball, we get into a better rhythm and we’re much better playing that way.

Before their blockbuster trades with Washington and Phoenix to acquire Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Turkoglu, the Magic were one of the worst passing teams in the league, averaging just 18.3 assists a game. Orlando set a franchise record low early in the season against Miami with just seven assists.

But since the trade, the Magic have averaged a whopping 23.1 assists per game. The 31 assists against San Antonio – on a night when the Magic scored 123 points – were a season high. Orlando currently sits at 26th in the league in assists (19.44 a game), but it would shoot up to sixth in the NBA if it could sustain the 23.1-a-game average.

Since their arrivals in Orlando, Turkoglu has averaged 5.6 assists a game, while Arenas has averaged 5.0 assists over the past eight games.

``I think the guys that we acquired are making better plays here because they are on a better team now and they understand that they don’t have to do it all,’’ said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who is averaging a career-best 6.7 assists a game. ``You look at all of the new guys, all of their shot attempts are down except for Turk, who didn’t shoot too much the past two years (in Toronto and Phoenix). But guys are moving the ball and it’s paying off for us.’’

John Denton

It certainly paid off on Monday night when Orlando whipped Golden State 110-90 and eight Magic players scored in double figures. A big product of the Magic’s improved ball movement has been that all eight players in head coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation have averaged double digits over the eight games since the trade. That, the coach said, makes the Magic a harder team to guard.

``It doesn’t really matter how you score, but I just think that balance works for us,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I think that all of our guys are capable of scoring. Other than Dwight inside, there isn’t one guy who stands out from the rest and there’s no need to go to one guy all the time. For us, it’s better when the ball moves, we share it and everybody gets opportunities and defenses can’t key on one guy.’’

Richardson’s shot attempts are down in Orlando, but it’s not a problem for him because of the number of weapons that the Magic have. He said when the Magic are whipping the ball from side-to-side and inside to Howard as they have of late, opposing teams are almost at their mercy.

``We have so many scorers on the floor. I mean at the end of the game we had J.J., Gilbert, Dwight and myself on the floor together. On any given night any of us could go off for 25 points. You have an unselfish guys like we have and we’re moving the ball, you going to see us play really well and put up a lot of points.’’

The Magic are a better passing team, of course, because of the dazzling play-making abilities of Turkoglu, who looks once again like the player who helped Orlando reach the NBA Finals in 2009. Turkoglu is Orlando’s best pick-and-roll passer because of his ability to collapse the defense with his hard drives to the hoop and kick out to open shooters.

After leaving Orlando, Turkoglu played mostly off the ball in Toronto and Phoenix and struggled mightily. But Van Gundy has the utmost confidence that the 6-foot-10 point/forward will make the right pass. And that breeds confidence to Turkoglu, who is delighted being back in Orlando’s multi-pronged offense where he is often at the controls as the Magic’s best passer.

``This is just a really good fit here for me,’’ said Turkoglu after his 10-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist effort gave him more triple-doubles (three) than anybody in Magic history. ``As long as I’m in a position where I can do my stuff and do what I’m good at, the rest will come easy for me. In my opinion, I’m just giving the team what I think it needs with my passing.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at