Denton's Notebook: Friday, Nov. 30

By John Denton
November 30, 2012

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic entered Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets with a concerted focus on trying to attack the rim more in hopes that it will produce more trips to the free throw line.

Through the first 14 games, the Magic have averaged 16.7 free throw attempts a night. According to NBA statistics, that would be the lowest number in league history if it holds up over an entire season.

The Magic have already had two games this season where they have not had a starter attempt a free throw. Orlando’s opposition has attempted 60 more free throws in the first 14 games, so the Magic are hoping to do something about it by attacking the rim more and simply playing with more aggression overall.

``There’s too much settling. That doesn’t mean force the action, but there are opportunities with which to be aggressive,’’ Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo said. ``Free throws are a big part of the game and it’s a way to manufacture points. It’s not about just getting me more points, but creating a rhythm. We can’t just stand out there and depend on 3-pointers and long two-point jumpers.’’

Afflalo entered Friday’s game having not attempted a free throw in the previous two games. He couldn’t remember a time that had happened previously in his six years in the NBA other than when he was a rookie with Detroit. Afflalo said the lack of free throws has haunted him for two days and he’s tried to come up with ways to get to the line more.

``As I’ve progressed throughout my career I’ve prided myself on being creative off the dribble. I just have to be more creative and aggressive while attacking the basket, and not only for myself but also for the team,’’ said Afflalo, who came into Friday 30 of 37 from the free throw line for the season. ``Everything about the game is contagious from turnovers to defensive intensity to crashing toward the basket.

``The way basketball works sometimes is that when you are not aggressive you will pick up ticky-tack fouls,’’ Afflalo continued. ``But when you are playing harder you can get away with more. There are just so many things we’re still trying to learn about the game that will allow us to be better.’’

OPINIONS ON POPOVICH: The NBA’s hot-button issue on Friday was San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to send four starters – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green – home rather than play on Thursday against the Miami Heat. The Spurs, who won in Orlando on Wednesday thanks to big performances from Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, were at the end of a six-game, 10-day roadtrip and Popovich wanted to rest his aging stars.

The decision to hold the players out of the nationally televised game was greeted with much frustration from NBA Commissioner David Stern, who promised sanctions for the Spurs for the decision and followed through with a $250,000 fine.

``The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case,’’ Stern said in a release. ``The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.’’

Both coaches from Friday’s game, Orlando’s Jacque Vaughn and Brooklyn’s Avery Johnson, played for and coached alongside of Popovich in San Antonio. Neither coach wanted much to do with the controversy surrounding their former coach and close friend.

Said Vaughn: ``The great thing is I get to coach the Magic and he gets to coach the Spurs,’’ Vaughn said. ``He gets to coach his team and I get to coach my team.’’ Added Johnson: ``I think Pop knows his team and what’s best for his team. There’s an active and an inactive list for a reason and my main thing is I can’t tell (Popovich) how to run his team. I think he does a great job historically. Whatever he’s done over his coaching career, it’s worked. He knows his team better than anybody and I’m sure he tries to make decisions to give his team the best chance to win in the short-term and long term.’’

ETC: The Magic were without starting point guard Jameer Nelson on Friday because of a sore left Achilles’ tendon. E’Twaun Moore started instead at point guard. Nelson apparently suffered the injury in Wednesday’s loss to San Antonio and re-aggravated it in practice on Thursday. It’s the seventh game that Nelson, 30, has missed this season because of groin and Achilles’ injuries. … Gordon Chiesa, the Magic’s Special Consultant to the Head Coach, has been in Orlando for much of the team’s five-game, 10-day homestand to provide analysis and suggestions for Vaughn. Chiesa was an assistant for the Utah Jazz for 16 years and he has known since the former point guard’s rookie NBA season. Said Vaughn: ``He’s been great. He’s known me a long time and he knows how I operate as an individual. It’s a great relationship. He’s coached on a lot of levels and a part of a lot of success. He listens and gives me feedback and criticism. He wants me to do well and this organization to do well.’’ … Orlando hits the road for five games over the next nine days. The Magic will play the Lakers (Sunday), Warriors (Monday), Jazz (Wednesday), Kings (Dec. 7) and Suns (Dec. 9) during one of their longest road jaunts of the season.

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