Denton's Notebook: Friday, April 5

By John Denton
April 5, 2013

CHICAGO – While it hasn’t always shown up in the win-loss column, the Orlando Magic are making strides and setting a foundation for the future, head coach Jacque Vaughn reinforced on Friday.

Vaughn is, by no means satisfied with the 19-57 record that the Magic brought into Friday night’s game in Chicago. But he is happy how the young team – one of the most inexperienced in the league with five rookies and three second-year players – has persevered through several waves of adversity.

Orlando lost Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (broken foot) and Arron Afflalo (torn hamstring) to season-ending injuries and veteran point guard Jameer Nelson (sprained ankle) and Al Harrington (sore knee) could be out the rest of the season as the Magic give extended playing time to its younger players. Orlando also traded away key contributor J.J. Redick in February, a move that shifted the focus even more toward the young players.

But Vaughn said the steady growth of center Nikola Vucevic and forwards Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless have allowed the Magic to salvage the season. Vaughn said those players have been put in situations they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten otherwise and the Magic will benefit from that in the future.

``I’m not frustrated at all. For me, this has been a great year for our organization as far as finding out what young guys are going to be moving forward with us and reinforcing their growth. Did I know at the beginning of the year that we were going to have a bunch of injuries and a lot of things that we were going to have to deal with? No, but have we done a great job of being resilient as a group and staying together? Yes. We’ve shown a lot of character from those guys in the locker room.

MEMORIES OF M.J.: While coming to Chicago and playing at the United Center has a been-there, done-that feel to it for many of the veteran players, for the Magic’s host of young players is signifies being able to play on the same court as the legendary Michael Jordan.

Magic rookie DeQuan Jones grew up in Atlanta, but his favorite NBA team was the Bulls because of his affinity for Jordan. He made special notice of Jordan’s No. 23 hanging in the rafters on Friday morning during the team’s shootaround practice and he hoped to see the Jordan statue out in from of the United Center.

``I was thinking about (playing in Jordan’s arena) when I was stretching and I could hear the (Bulls) theme music in my head,’’ Jones said. ``Me and my father watched a lot of battles between Mike and the Knicks in this building. I rooted for Mike all the way. At the time, he was the Bulls.’’

Harkless and fellow Magic rookie Kyle O’Quinn has dramatically different memories of the United Center and Jordan because he was a Knicks fan living in Queens.

``I remember (Jordan) crushing a lot of my dreams as a kid,’’ Harkless said with a laugh. ``He’s the greatest player of all time and to be able to play in the same building is a great opportunity for me.’’

Added O’Quinn: ``Jordan was the world’s greatest player ever and this was his home gym and his sanctuary, so to be here is an honor. Being here now, you just flash back to all of the memories that you had as a kid.’’

ETC: Years of championship success has helped Chicago build the NBA’s most loyal fan base. Once again, Chicago leads the NBA in attendance by averaging 21,846 fans per home game. The Magic’s fan base has held firm through this rebuilding season, ranking 15th in the league in home attendance. The Magic’s average home attendance of 17,620 is greater than teams in bigger cities such as Brooklyn, Houston, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. … The Magic have now lost 193 games to players injuries throughout the season. The Bulls, who have not had Derrick Rose all season and were without Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton on Friday night, have lost 168 games to injury. … Harkless said that while the Magic have struggled throughout much of this season that he will always remember the year for the perseverance that the squad has shown. Said Harkless: ``We just stick together. We know we’re taking our lumps and it’s just something that we have to play through. But we’re learning from it. We’re learning from it every day and embracing the experience. We’re all pretty much growing with each other and it’s good having young teammates going through it with you together.’’ … Orlando’s longest trip of the season – a five-game, 10-day trip – comes to a close Sunday night when the Magic face the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Three home games remain: Milwaukee (Wednesday), Boston (Saturday) and Chicago (April 15). The Magic close the regular season on April 17 in Miami against the Heat.

MORE STORIES: Jones Progressing at Fast Rate | Hennigan Made Right Decision on Bynum | Nelson Appreciated by Fans

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