Denton's Notebook: Friday, March 22

By John Denton
March 22, 2013

ORLANDO – After appearing in each of the first 68 games of the season, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was the last Orlando Magic player to miss a game on Wednesday night. As it turns out, Vucevic missed the game for good reason.

Doctors determined that Vucevic suffered a concussion on Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers and he is now subject to the NBA’s protocol for head injuries.

Under league rules established in 2011, if a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he will have to complete a series of steps to confirm that he’s healthy enough for competition. Once he is free of symptoms, the player must make it through increasing stages of exertion - from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills - while ensuring the symptoms don’t return after each one. Then, the neurologist hired to lead the NBA’s concussion program needs to be consulted before the player is cleared. The process will likely take at least several days, if not weeks.

Each NBA player is required to undergo baseline testing prior to the start of training camp, and those tests aid in the diagnosis of potential concussions.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn termed Vucevic’s condition as ``a mild concussion.’’ Vaughn said he thought the injury occurred when Vucevic got hit in the mouth during a scrum for a rebound while going against Pacers’ center Roy Hibbert.

``I think it’s a good thing for the league to take care of its players and to put them on the floor in the right frame,’’ Vaughn said. ``That means they go through the protocol and making sure that they are OK.’’

The mild concussion puts Vucevic’s availability for Monday’s home game against the Miami Heat in doubt. Vucevic had two 20-rebound games against the Heat this season – a franchise-record 29 on Dec. 31 and 21 in Miami on March 6.

COMPLIMENTS FOR HARKLESS: Much has been made of late of Maurice Harkless’ budding defensive abilities for the Orlando Magic. But when none other than the NBA’s leading scorer for the past four years gives Harkless a compliment, it’s just further confirmation of Harkless’ skills.

When the Magic faced the Thunder last week in Oklahoma City, superstar forward Kevin Durant struggled through an eight of 15 shooting night while also turning the ball over six times. Orlando used the 19-year-old Harkless and second-year forward Tobias Harris on Durant during the game to frustrate the superstar forward.

Prior to Friday night’s rematch, Durant – who has led the league each of the past four seasons while averaging 30.1 ppg., 27.7 ppg., 28 ppg. and 28.4 ppg. – was very complimentary to Harkless and admitted that he was shocked that the Magic rookie is still a teenager.

``I’ll tell you the last thing I’d worry about is how old he is. That guy plays like he has been in the league for years with the way that he defends. He’s long and athletic and plays hard,’’ Durant said. ``To be honest, I didn’t know he was that young, but he played me tough. Their whole team made it tough on me last time making me see bodies.’’

Over the past two plus weeks, Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn has used Harkless to guard some of the league’s best players. Of late, he’s guarded LeBron James, Durant (twice), Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash and Paul George (twice). Harkless has used his long arms and exceptional quickness and played well in several of those marquee matchups.

DREAM COME TRUE: The injury to Vucevic cleared the way for Magic rookie Kyle O’Quinn to get the first start of his NBA career.

O’Quinn said what made Wednesday night’s career highs of 12 points, 14 rebounds and four assists even more special was the fact that it occurred in New York City and in front of his family. O’Quinn grew up in Queens and used to attend Knicks games as a child. The first NBA game that he ever attended was when the Knicks played the Magic in 2003, and O’Quinn wore a coat over his Tracy McGrady-Magic jersey so that he didn’t get too much grief from Knicks fans.

O’Quinn had a half-dozen family and friends at Tuesday’s game and he was warmly greeted by the group after the game.

``It was amazing, doing it in my hometown and doing it in front of my mom and dad and seeing the smiles on their faces. It wasn’t just me being a part of the team, but me going out there and playing,’’ O’Quinn said. ``I did something with the opportunity that I was given. It looked like my mom had tears in her eyes when I came up (to her after the game). It’s an amazing feeling to make your mom happy and make your parents happy. So it’s a good week for me and I just want the momentum to continue the rest of the week.’’

ETC: With Vucevic out and O’Quinn in the starting lineup it meant that the Magic would be using their 22nd starting lineup of the season. When told of that statistic, Vaughn playfully joked, ``We have 22 (lineups)? How many stages of the Tour de France are there? We’re going to try to get there.’’ … In Orlando a month now following the deadline-day trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, Tobias Harris said he’s put down some solid roots in Orlando by renting a condominium in the area. Harris said Thursday’s off day was used to move some of his things into his new place. He said he’s finally started to learn his way around the area and he said that some of his favorite restaurants are located along the International Drive area. … The magic will host the Miami Heat at the Amway Center on Monday at 7 p.m.

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