Denton's Media Day Notebook

By John Denton
October 1, 2012

ORLANDO -- With so many changes to the Orlando Magic’s roster and new faces throughout the organization, there is intrigue to some of the most simplistic questions such as who will be the team’s leading scorer or the locker room leader.

New Magic GM Rob Hennigan said on Monday that he doesn’t necessarily see those question marks being a negative for the time being. Opportunities to play, score and lead are available for the new-look Magic and Hennigan feels the intrigue will produce some much-needed competition at positions and team chemistry all season.

``Everybody can expect a lot of adventure and fun in the days ahead,’’ Hennigan said on Media Day on the eve of Magic training camp starting on Tuesday at the Amway Center. ``We’re in a period now where there’s some unknown, but there’s a lot of opportunity for our guys to get minutes and create a niche for themselves. The team is taking its shape and we’ll see how it evolves as we go along.’’

Only seven players from last season – Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Quentin Richardson, Ish Smith and Justin Harper – are back on the roster. Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington were acquired from Denver, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless were attained from Philadelphia and Gustavo Ayo and Josh McRoberts came over from New Orleans and the Los Angles Lakers. Add in rookie draft picks Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn and free-agent signees Armon Johnson and DeQuan Jones and the Magic have almost half of the roster still getting accustomed to the franchise.

Hennigan, who at 30 is the youngest GM in the NBA, is confident that new head coach Jacque Vaughn will be able to build some chemistry and continuity among the newcomers. Hennigan feels that the hungriness of the squad and the team-first mantra will evolve into styles that will be pleasing to fans.

``It’s a team that our fans are going to want to root for because we’re going to play the right way and we’re going to play unselfish,’’ Hennigan said. ``We’ll compete with everything that we have and it will be a team effort. I think that’s something at its core that will be refreshing to our fans. And it’s something that will allow us to build some sustainability over time.’’

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Dwight Howard is long gone from the Magic, but he left a massive legacy in his wake on his way out of town. During his time with the Magic, Howard made six all-star teams, was an all-NBA performer six times and set NBA history by winning three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year trophies.

Replacing those kinds of accomplishments will be next to impossible and new Magic center Nikola Vucevic said he doesn’t want to try and play with the pressure of following in Howard’s footsteps in Orlando.

``I don’t really look at it as pressure because obviously you can’t really replace Dwight,’’ said Vucevic, who averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game as a NBA rookie last season in Philadelphia. ``Dwight is the best center in the league and so athletic and strong. I’m sort of the opposite of him, but I have my own strengths. I don’t look at it as pressure because I’ll just be doing my best to help the team win.’’

INJURY UPDATES: The Magic have 19 players on the roster for training camp, but will be without veteran forward Al Harrington, swingman Maurice Harkless and point guard Ish Smith for the coming weeks because of injuries.

Harrington, a 14-year NBA veteran, had arthroscopic knee surgery and three subsequent procedures because of an infection over the summer. He is back working with the Magic training staff and said Monday that he is on track for a December return.

Harkless, a first-round draft pick, suffered a sports hernia while working out for the NBA Draft and needed a surgical procedure that will keep him out until mid-November. Harkless has started doing some light basketball drills, but his primary work these days in the weight room to strength his core. He said he eagerly misses basketball and that is pushing him through his rehabilitation drills.

``It’s definitely killing me because I love being in the gym and playing,’’ said Harkless, who prefers being called Maurice instead of Mo. ``Not being able to play is a tough thing to deal with right now. I’ve just got to stay positive and come in every day and work as hard as I can. Wanting to get back on the court is keeping me going.’’

Smith dislocated his shoulder over the summer while trying to run through a screen and needed surgery to repair his torn labrum muscle. He was back on the court for the first time Monday running through drills and he expects to be released by doctors by mid-November.

``Obviously the competitor in me wants to be out there playing, but the big thing for me now is to get out healthy and get stronger,’’ Smith said. ``I have to be a student from the sideline and know what Coach Vaughn wants from his point guards when I’m back. If I do that, I’ll be ready.’’

HUNGRY HOUSEGUEST: When Josh McRoberts was traded to the Magic in August it allowed him to reconnect with close friend and former Duke University teammate J.J. Redick. The two were such good friends at Duke that Redick opened the doors of his home to McRoberts while he makes the adjustment to Orlando.

McRoberts has been living with Redick for the past three weeks and he said one of the perks is eating some of the fine cuisine that the Magic shooting guard has cooked up. Redick and wife, Chelsea, are self-proclaimed ``foodies’’ and aspiring chefs and enjoying experimenting with new dishes in the kitchen. McRoberts has been the benefactor of that cooking.

``It’s been great. I went home last weekend and I was lost because no one was making me coffee or cooking breakfast for me like those guys have done. I ordered a pizza and ate that all weekend instead of all the fish (entrees) that J.J. makes,’’ McRoberts said. ``I want to say that J.J. has to be the greatest cook in the NBA. I said I’d throw that in there as part of my rent.

``It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with J.J. and I’m excited about getting an opportunity to play with him again,’’ continued McRoberts, who was a freshman at Duke when Redick was a senior. ``Chelsea has been great too and has really welcomed me. At least she has been great in front of me, but I don’t know what she says when I’m not there. I’ve had a good time staying there.’’

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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