Denton's Notebook: Friday, Nov. 13

By John Denton
November 16, 2012

ORLANDO -- AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The same way that re-tooled NBA teams have to go through training camp together and endure winning and losing streaks together, they also have to learn how to close out games together.

The Magic have had their struggles at times already this season trying to close out games, struggling recently in fourth quarters of losses to the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.

Part of the reason for the fourth-quarter faltering is the Magic’s unfamiliarity on the roster following an offseason of change and a blockbuster trade. Injuries have also been a factor what with Jameer Nelson (strained hamstring/groin) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken left hand) missing six straight games after being injured in the season-opening win against Denver.

But Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is confident that his team will eventually learn one another better and thrive in clutch situations. Vaughn was pleased with the way his team competed on Tuesday against New York, leading most of the game and holding a one-point edge with 10 minutes to play. But a 12-2 spurt by New York produced another Magic loss. Vaughn said a review of Tuesday’s fourth quarter led him to believe that the Magic simply need more time together in tight fourth-quarter situations.

``It’s going to come, but we just have to continue to play with one another. We had 14 turnovers in the second half (on Tuesday) night and when we went back and looked at the tape eight of them were guys trying to make the right plays,’’ Vaughn said. ``… It’s just a matter of us playing together. I told the guys, `Of the five guys playing the other night, only J.J. and Glen have played with one another for an extended amount of time.’ Nik (Vucevic) is new, Arron (Afflalo) is new and E’Twaun (Moore) is new, so it’s just a matter of getting to know each other and playing together. Then, the execution will tighten up and come.’’

The Magic have been especially eager to get Nelson back on the court because of the effect that his leadership and veteran savvy will have on the team’s organization and execution. Nelson thinks he can give the Magic a lift that will help them get over the jump in the fourth quarter of tight games.

``I think I can bring a little more experience to the court in the fourth quarter when we need a bucket and I can get us into something that will be a good play,’’ Nelson said. ``If I need to slow the pace down I can slow it down. It’s just about having a feel for the game.’’

MEMORIES FOR AFFLALO: Afflalo said each trip to Detroit takes him down memory lane since it is the place where he started his NBA career 2007-08.

Afflalo was the 27th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Pistons at the behest of former Pistons’ Director of Player Personnel Scott Perry. Perry, now the Magic’s Vice President/Assistant GM, pushed for Afflalo in the August trade that involved four teams and 12 players.

Afflalo got his start in the NBA with the Pistons, learning the professional ropes from the likes of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. Afflalo played for the Pistons for two seasons before being traded to the Denver Nuggets.

``Just the bus ride over reminds me of the two years that I was here,’’ Afflalo said. ``It’s a familiar territory for me. I always look forward to playing here, just as I will this year in Denver.’’

Afflalo has raised his scoring average each of his five seasons in the NBA, going from 3.7 points in 75 games as a rookie to 15.2 points in 62 games last year with the Nuggets. His 16.1-point average this season with represent another increase, and he said it’s because he’s trained so much of his focus on making sure he shows improvement each NBA season.

``My overall game has developed. I was young when I was here (in Detroit) and I’m still young now,’’ he said. ``I have six years of experience now and I’ve tried to take everything that I’ve learned from the previous years and apply it to this year and grow my game in every facet.’’

ROOKIE RISE: Vaughn said he’s constantly testing the ilk of rookies Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless, DeQuan Jones and Kyle O’Quinn, and he’s not afraid to use some unorthodox situations in games to insert the first-year players to check their readiness.

On Tuesday, for example, Vaughn used Harkless to guard Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer and the Magic rookie thrived with seven rebounds and four blocked shots. And not only did Vaughn insert Nicholson into Tuesday’s game against Rasheed Wallace – long considered an excellent post defender – but he called the first play for the rookie. Nicholson didn’t shy away, scoring over the NBA veteran with a nifty reverse layup.

``Both of them have great composure about themselves and they’ve proven that,’’ Vaughn said. ``With Andrew, you can throw him the ball on the block and he will produce for you. And Mo’s ability to be around the basketball, whether it’s rebounding or running the lanes, he’ll keep contributing.’’
Vaughn said the strong performances go a long way in helping him know that he can trust the rookies for more minutes and more responsibility. But Vaughn stressed that he knows there will still be plenty of highs and lows for the rookies and the future will be about them finding a way to be consistent.

``(With so much young talent) it makes me excited that I’m the coach of this team. This is about teaching and learning and we’re trying to make them better,’’ Vaughn said. ``We’ll see how many times they do it in a row – that’s how you get trust. They’ll continue to press on. The goal is to repetitively do what you are supposed to do. That’s a challenge as a rookie, but hopefully we’re getting there.’’

ETC: Magic CEO Alex Martins and GM Rob Hennigan and players Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Maurice Harkless will feed approximately 1,100 Central Floridians at the Coalition for the Homeless on Thanksgiving morning. Also, the Magic will donate $10 from every ticket purchased to the Nov. 23 home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Coalition for the Homeless. Fans will also have the opportunity to donate $10 by texting SERVE to 80100. … Redick will also distribute Thanksgiving meals to selected families on Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Rosemont Community Center in Orlando. … Harkless said he is somewhat amazed that he’s as far along with his NBA progress as he is considering that he missed all of summer league, training camp and the exhibition season following surgery to repair a sports hernia. That has forced Harkless, 19, to play catch-up to not only learn his new teammates and the Magic’s playbook, but also the ropes of playing in the NBA. Said Harkless: ``The whole preseason I was trying to play catch-up and trying to get back on the court. The rookies have been here since July and everybody else has been going since August. I just started a couple of weeks ago.’’ … Friday’s game was the start of a three-game roadtrip against three teams with losing records – 1-8 Detroit, 2-6 Toronto (Sunday afternoon) and 3-4 Atlanta (Monday).

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



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