Curious Case of Chris Duhon

By John Denton
March 27, 2011


NEW YORK – The Orlando Magic are a wacky collection of characters and off-center personalities as evidenced by their recent vow to not shave their facial hair until after their playoff run is complete (hopefully in the NBA Finals, of course).

But head coach Stan Van Gundy pointed out something recently about a couple of the Magic players that is a true rarity in NBA locker rooms. According to Van Gundy, Ryan Anderson is much better than even the power forward thinks he is and the coach is constantly harping on him use his talent to attack.

Then, there’s the case of reserve point guard Chris Duhon, who has taken care of the ball and defended the way the Magic have hoped, but for whatever reason he’s shown a reluctance to shoot the ball. It’s gotten so bad at times that it’s been like the Magic are playing four on five offensively because of Duhon’s unwillingness to pull the trigger on shots.

Begging a player to shoot more and not less? Again, a true rarity in the sometimes egomaniacal NBA world.

``Our coaching staff feels that Chris is a really good shooter, but for whatever reason Chris doesn’t always believe that,’’ Van Gundy said. ``He’s a 36 percent career 3-point shooter and he’s got to shoot the ball when he’s open. The issue with Chris is simply playing with more confidence.’’

Duhon’s first season in Orlando has been up and down, but he showed no confidence issues Friday night when he never hesitated on a 3-pointer from the corner that put Orlando up by eight points and basically sealed the victory against the New Jersey Nets.

Now, with starting point guard Jameer Nelson somewhat hobbled by a sprained left knee and backup Gilbert Arenas battling and knee and confidence demons of his own, Duhon could be pressed into more playing time stating Monday night when the Magic (47-26) face the Knicks (35-38) in New York at 7:30 p.m. The game will be the Magic’s second at Madison Square Garden in six days because of a Nov. 2 cancelled game because of asbestos-like materials falling from MSG’s famed pinwheel roof.

Duhon, who has been mostly out of the rotation since the Magic traded for Arenas on Dec. 18, has gotten the message from Van Gundy that he has to be on the attack offensively if he’s going to get minutes. He’s made 39.6 percent of his shots, but has incredibly taken just 106 shot attempts all season. He knows that has to change to keep defenses from sagging inside on star center Dwight Howard or trapping Hedo Turkoglu on screen-and-roll plays.

``After my talks with Stan I know that I have to stay aggressive on both ends of the floor or I’m just not going to play,’’ said Duhon, one of the Magic’s true locker room leaders who has won favor by staying ready and engaged in games even when not playing.

Nelson was injured late in the second quarter Friday night when a Nets player fell into his left knee, causing it to hyperextend. Nelson, who didn’t play in the second half, had a MRI test on the knee and no structural damage was revealed. His ability to play big minutes Monday night is very much in question. Nelson was one of the heroes of Orlando’s win in New York last week, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 19 points.

Arenas suffered through a dreadful night on both ends of the court Friday, missing 11 of 12 shots and getting routinely torched by Jordan Farmar (15 points and 16 assists). Arenas missed all five of his 3-point shots and couldn’t finish four times when he got to the rim for layups attempts.

That prompted Van Gundy to finish the game with Duhon, who proved himself ready to play and converted a running shot in the lane and the late 3-pointer that sealed the victory. With playoff matchups against Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Boston’s Rajon Rondo potentially looming for the Magic, Duhon knows that he could be used in the playoffs because of his sticky defensive skills. But again, that will likely come down to whether or not he’ll be willing to put up shots on the offensive end so that the Magic aren’t playing at a disadvantage.

``For me, it’s about staying prepared and ready. I’m very confident in my shot and the two 3-pointers that I took (in Friday’s win) both felt really good leaving my hands,’’ Duhon said. ``I’m know they are going to come off me to double others and I have to be ready to knock those shots down. With the way we’ve been rotating I know that Stan is going to call on me from time to time to slow down other point guards. I’ll be ready when my number is called and I’ll be ready to perform how I know how to perform.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.