Denton's Notebook: Friday, Jan. 18

By John Denton
January 18, 2013

ORLANDO – Proving that the Orlando Magic brand is still well-respected and highly recognizable, the franchise and the Amway Center have partnered with the Chase as a ``Champions in the Community’’ sponsor.

The deal makes Chase the official bank, credit card, financial services partner and ATM provider at the Amway Center. The partnership also makes Chase the official financial services partner of the Magic.

The union between the Magic, Amway Center and Chase will also positively impact the greater Orlando community through military programs, multicultural platforms and improving neighborhood sports facilities throughout the city.

``We are big fans of our local communities and the things that keep our cities vibrant – the energy of the Magic and the modern, youthful spirit of Amway Center are part of what makes Orlando so unique and attractive to locals and visitors alike,’’ Mel Martinez, chairman for JPMorgan Chase in Florida, said in a release. ``We are eager for customers to experience what the Chase and Magic brands can deliver together.’’

On Saturday, Chase and Magic leaders along with standout shooting guard Arron Afflalo will hit the hardwood at Pine Hills Elementary School to celebrate the refurbishment of their outdoor basketball court – the first joint project to energize local youth and promote sports in the community.

``As two community-minded organizations, the Orlando Magic looks forward to a long partnership with Chase that will be focused on the Central Florida community,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said. ``Through this new agreement, the Magic and Chase will seek opportunities on local outreach. With Chase as a leader in innovation and financial services, the Magic looks to grow its customer base through our exceptional partner.’’

COLLEGE REUNION: Friday night allowed Magic forward Maurice Harkless an opportunity he never thought would come his way again – he’s in a game with his former college coach, Mike Dunlap, again.

Dunlap coached Harkless during his one season at St. John’s, putting him through 6 a.m. practices and making him and other players run laps when the yawned or failed to make eye contact during instructions. Not long after Harkless left for the NBA, Dunlap – who filled in as head coach on an interim basis for Steve Lavin last season – was hired by the Charlotte Bobcats.

``He’s a basketball junkie and no matter what time I’d go to the gym he would always be there watching film or working on the game plan,’’ Harkless said. ``He’s probably one of the best basketball minds that I’ve met. He’s real smart and a great coach.’’

Harkless said Dunlap’s military-style coaching helped to teach him disciple and accountability – traits that got him ready to be a professional player in the NBA. Harkless admitted that the grind of the NBA’s 82-game schedule is wearing on him physically, but he feels like his skills are growing even if it’s not too apparent because he rarely has plays called for him.

``I used to always think I was always right and he taught me a lot really. He’s a great coach,’’ Harkless said. ``(The NBA) is tough. Every day in and day out, you are working hard and you are flying all over the place. It’s tough, but over time my body will get adjusted to it. … I think (my skills) have grown a lot, but you don’t really see it out there on the court. I really haven’t been doing much out there, but I’m constantly in the gym and working to improve every day.’’

DOG DAYS OF THE SEASON: Still recovering from a nine-day road trip that saw them play games on both the West and East coasts, the Magic are in a stretch where they are playing every other day for 11 days straight.

Not long after that stretch comes another lengthy road trip to New York (for games against Brooklyn and New York), Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. It is the part of the season that Magic guard J.J. Redick considers the ``dog days’’ of the NBA schedule.

``This is always the most difficult period of time – right after New Year’s up until the All-Star break. It seems like it never ends,’’ Redick said. ``But mentally if you compartmentalize things and focus on the present and not looking forward, then it makes it a little easier. And when you’re winning it speeds things up a little, too. Hopefully we can start winning some games consistently here. Things went really slow when we were on that 10-game losing streak.’’

ETC: Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said one of the things that he admires the most about the talent of center Nikola Vucevic is that he can adjust to any style of opponent. Said Vaughn: ``The game is changing. This is a speed, athletic and spacing game now and when you have a big who can still be on the game in a speed, space and athletic game and still contribute, that says a lot about (Vucevic).’’ … The return of Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis should allow the chemistry between he and Vucevic to grow even more than it did before Davis went out with a shoulder injury. The two often look for one another on the inside and formed quite a bond together in the lane during games. Said Davis: ``I try to make it easy for him because (defenders) have to help off a guy and they have to leave (Vucevic). We do a good job figuring each other out. I have guys coming over the top trying to block my shot and it leaves him open. I want to make him a threat because sometimes (Vucevic) might not touch the ball for a while. We have guys like Jameer (Nelson), Arron (Afflalo), me and J.J. (Redick), four scorers, and sometimes when he doesn’t get that many touches it (stinks) a little bit. I just want to find a way help him and make him feel good about the work that he’s doing.’’ … The Magic’s three-game home stand comes to an end Sunday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks at 6 p.m.’’

ORLANDOMAGIC.COM FEATURES: Redick Talks Career Future | Vucevic Deserves Trip to AS Weekend | Big Accomplishment for Nelson

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