Denton's Notebook: Friday, Dec. 7

By John Denton
December 7, 2012

SACRAMENTO – Friday night’s game featured two of the leading candidates for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in Orlando’s J.J. Redick and Sacramento’s Marcus Thornton.

While Redick has moved himself into the conversation of being among the best bench players in the league, there is one thing that the Magic shooting guard does better than any of the top sixth men in the NBA. Not only is Redick averaging a career best 13.9 points per game, but he’s also the only player among the top 11 reserves in scoring who is also averaging at least five assists (5.1) a game.

Redick came into Friday’s game seventh in the NBA in scoring among reserves, while Sacramento’s Marcus Thornton is fifth at 14.4 points per game. Clippers’ guard Jamal Crawford (17.8 ppg.), Thunder guard Kevin Martin (15.6 ppg.), Charlotte point guard Ramon Sessions (15.2 ppg.), Charlotte guard Ben Gordon (15.1 ppg.), Thornton and Hawks guard Lou Williams (14.1 ppg.) rank ahead of Redick.

Orlando’s use of Redick off the bench is strategic in that it wants a dynamic scorer off the bench to balance out the firepower of the first and second-string units.

``It’s all about efficiency for your team and finding that (scoring) balance,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of the importance of having a solid sixth man. ``Over time, having a guy coming off the bench and balancing your second unit, it’s beneficial.’’

AFFLALO SETTLING IN: Down on himself as recently as a week ago when he struggled to find his niche in the Magic’s offense, Arron Afflalo made a vow to himself when the team headed West that he would be more aggressive and assert himself more.

Heading into Friday’s game in Sacramento, the results were quite impressive from a more aggressive Afflalo.

He made 11 of 18 shots and four of five 3-pointers against the Lakers while scoring a season-best 30 points. A night later against the Warriors, Afflalo overpowered promising young shooting guard Klay Thompson and scored 24 points. In Utah on Wednesday, Afflalo was Orlando’s only steady offensive force as he made seven of 12 shots and scored 16 points.

Afflalo said he’s worked hard to become a more complete player. Sometimes that calls for him to simply knock down open jumpers, but on other times he has to force the action by posting up more and driving hard to the rim.

``It’s just been about me finding my aggressiveness and picking my spots on the court,’’ Afflalo said. ``I’m starting to see my rhythm based on the coaching philosophy and the personnel that we have on this team. I’m making the adjustments so that I can execute my strengths as an individual. I’m starting to figure it out and hopefully I won’t have too many ups and downs and I can stay consistent with my approach with the game.’’

ETC: In their fourth city and away from home for a seventh straight day, some of the Magic players admitted to being a bit road weary on Friday. Said Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis: ``I feel it, but our trainers and coaches have been keeping us ready really well and making sure that we get rest. They are making sure that our bodies feel right. We’re athletes and we’re supposed to be in shape, so (traveling) shouldn’t be as hard. But at the same time, you get bumps and bruises and you just have to take care of your body.’’ … Afflalo wants to be considered one of the best all-around shooting guards in the league and he’s taken measures to become a more well-rounded player. His outside shot has improved each year in the league and his post-up game has gotten better as he’s gotten stronger and more experienced. ``The good thing about being a complete player is that you get to take advantage of a lot of different situations,’’ Afflalo said. ``There are guys that I can post, guys I can run off screens and guys I can go at off the dribble. Or I can just spot up and shoot threes. But I have found a little post rhythm lately.’’ … The Magic’s longest road trip of the season comes to an end Sunday night in Phoenix against the Suns. Orlando beat the Lakers on Sunday and defeated Golden State on Monday. Orlando lost in Utah on Wednesday before facing the Kings on Friday night. Once the Magic are back home, they will host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday and the Warriors on Friday.

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