By John Denton
October 24, 2012

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Out of action for two weeks with a strained left hamstring and unable to get on the floor to bond with his new Orlando Magic teammates, Arron Afflalo was seemingly the only one not concerned, repeatedly preaching calmness.

``I’ll be fine. I know the game and it won’t take me long at all,’’ Afflalo said prior to making his Magic debut Wednesday night in Memphis.

Afflalo, acquired in August in a trade with Denver, proved prophetic as he converted a nifty reverse layup for his first basket in Magic blue, shot the ball well from the perimeter and blended well with his new teammates.

Making his first appearance of the preseason because of the balky hamstring, Afflalo buried two 3-pointers, handed out two assists and scored 10 points in the Magic’s 115-100 loss to Memphis at the FedEx Forum.

``I did OK, but conditioning has to be my focus for the next week to 10 days. I just have to stay patient with the game and be efficient with my shots,’’ said Afflalo, who made four of seven shots and two of three 3-pointers. ``In more minutes I’ll be able to get up more shots and stay efficient.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn stuck to his pregame plan with Afflalo, playing the shooting guard for four- and five-minute stretches to protect his leg. Afflalo started and played the first five minutes and went six more minutes during two stretches of the second period. He played the first four minutes of the second half, exiting the game seconds after burying consecutive 3-pointers. And in the final seconds of the third period he swiped the ball away from Memphis’ Quincy Pondexter to finish up an efficient 18-minute night.

``We kept him to the minutes that we wanted at 19 minutes with four-minute stints for him and I think he did a pretty good job,’’ Vaughn said. ``He got into the flow a little bit and we saw his competitive nature come out. It was good to have him back on the floor.’’

Just as Afflalo predicted, his leg was not an issue and he fit in just fine with his new team in his Magic debut.

``There was just pain in my lungs,’’ Afflalo joked. ``The idea is for me to get to that level of conditioning where I can guard some of the better players who get a lot of the attention and still have the energy level to assume some responsibility on the offensive end. I’ll keep working on it and get there.’’

J.J. Redick, who moved back into his usual sixth man role with the return of Afflalo, continued his torrid preseason play with 23 points and four 3-pointers. He led a charge in which the Magic (2-5) made 12 of 21 3-pointers. Hedo Turkoglu (14 points) hit four 3-pointers, while Jameer Nelson (10 points and seven assists) hit two more threes.

Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Magic. The 7-foot, 240-pound Vucevic is the Magic’s likely starter at center on Opening Night following the announcement that Gustavo Ayon will miss the next two weeks with a sprained ligament in his left thumb.

The Magic led by as many as four points in the first quarter, trailed by double digits throughout the second period, got the game tied at 88-all late in the third and struggled in a sloppy fourth quarter played mostly by reserves from both teams.

The Magic close the exhibition season on Friday at the Amway Center against the Houston Rockets. Orlando opens the regular season on Nov. 2 at home against the Denver Nuggets.

``We have to clean up some things and get better in some areas, but as long as we keep working we’ll be all right,’’ Nelson said. ``As long as we finish out the preseason the right way we’ll be OK.’’

Memphis used the power of Marc Gasol (18 points and 13 rebounds), Zach Randolph (18 points and six rebounds) and Rudy Gay (20 points and four 3-pointers) to dominate the paint. The Grizzlies had 54 points in the lane when the front line checked out of the game in the fourth quarter.

Afflalo strained his left hamstring in September while doing sprints and distance running to get ready for training camp. He then ``tweaked’’ the leg again in the Magic’s third practice, forcing the team to shut him down for two weeks.

Afflalo has been bothered by chronic pain and fatigue in the hamstring the past two years, so the Magic were cautious with the injury and kept him out of the first six preseason games. Nelson said he had no doubts that Afflalo would fit seamlessly back into the fold with the Magic on Wednesday night.

``The thing about Arron is he’s a veteran guy and he knows what we’re trying to do here,’’ Nelson said. ``The whole time that we were practicing he stayed in the loop. And it translated tonight. He was able to keep up with the pace and if he had a question we answered it.’’

The return of Afflalo sent Redick back to his role as the Magic’s sixth man, but it did nothing to slow down his solid play this preseason. Redick made four of eight shots, hit three 3-pointers and had two assists to go with his 11 points in the first half.

Orlando trailed 55-49 at the break in large part because of a 24-13 disadvantage on the glass and nine second-chance points by the Grizzlies.

``(Redick’s) ability to create offense and being able to rely on him to be in the right place on the defensive end is good for a coach,’’ Vaughn said.

The Magic fell behind by as many as 12 points in the second quarter because of some shoddy rebounding and spotty defense, but they clawed back by shooting the ball well from afar. Orlando got three 3-pointers from Turkoglu and Redick in the first half and two more from Nelson.

Redick had one of the niftiest sequences in the first half when he stopped on the fastbreak, faked shooting a 3-pointer and tried passing inside to Nik Vucevic. When the pass was batted away, Redick recovered it, faked a shot along the baseline to send a defender flying back and stepped back for a deadeye 3-pointer.

Afflalo’s first basket in a Magic uniform was a thing of beauty as he broke backdoor on Memphis’ Wayne Ellington, took a pass from Vucevic and converted a reverse layup.

Afflalo drilled a long jumper a couple of possessions later and then headed to the bench while sticking to the pregame plan. He rested on the bench while out of the game, but made sure to stretch his legs before heading back into the game late in the first quarter.

``I’m not quite all the way back, but it’s a good start I guess,’’ Afflalo said.


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.

ORLANDOMAGIC.COM FEATURES: Davis Resembling True Leader | Turk Eager to Prove Critics Wrong

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

 

 

 




Follow John Denton on Twitter here