Denton's Notebook: Friday, Oct. 19

By John Denton
October 19, 2012

ORLANDO – When he’s not getting instructions and critiques from the Orlando Magic coaches center Nikola Vucevic can call home to Montenegro and get an earful from parents who know a thing or two about professional basketball.

Vucevic was born in Switzerland and later moved to Belgium because his father, Borislav, played professional basketball for 24 years and competed on the Yugoslavian National Team alongside of Hall of Famer Drazen Petrovic. Also, his mother played professionally in Bosnia, giving him great basketball bloodlines as he learned the game.

Vucevic, whom the Magic acquired in August from the Philadelphia 76ers, talks basketball regularly with his parents. Already, the family is planning a trip to Orlando later in the season to see Nikola play for the Magic.

``I talk to my dad a lot and he’s like my personal coach,’’ Vucevic said. ``He watches the games online and he tells me what I can do better. I don’t always enjoy talking to him about it because he gets onto me. But he gives good advice and he’s been doing it my whole life. I actually like it when he’s here because he can watch the game live and give me advice.’’

Vucevic went into Friday night’s preseason game against the Indiana Pacers averaging 8.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 18 minutes a game. The 7-foot, 240-pounder has split time with Gustavo Ayon throughout training camp, and Vucevic appears to have the leg up on the starting position because of his all-around skills. He’s made progress in playing tougher in the post, holding his own against Robin Lopez and Anderson Varejao.

``I have shown mostly that I can rebound and be a presence inside. I think those were some of the questions about me,’’ he said. ``And I’ve shown that when I roll that I have good hands and that I can catch the ball and finish. And I can make plays for others. I just try to do what they ask of me and play hard.’’

CHEMISTRY COMING ALONG: With 12 players on the roster that didn’t wear Magic blue last season, chemistry was somewhat of a concern this preseason for Orlando. Injuries to key players Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Ish Smith and Maurice Harkless have hampered the Magic’s ability to put all of their pieces on the floor together.

But veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s longest-tenured player, said the team has used time on the floor and roadtrips to Mexico City, Cincinnati and Detroit to build chemistry. He feels the team’s cohesion is coming along just fine.

``We do have a lot of new faces, but it’s not up to me to put guys out on the floor; it’s up to coach. I’m just trying to play and get comfortable with the guys out on the court,’’ Nelson said. ``We need to get some of the other guys out there like Arron and Moe out there and get used to playing with them. I don’t know how long it’s going to take (to get used to the injured players) because some guys you mesh with quicker than others. Off the court, we’ve connected so that should make it a little easier on the court.’’

AFFLALO CLOSE TO RETURNING: Long after his teammates had already left the team headquarters on Friday morning, Afflalo got in an intense full-court workout with Magic assistant Brett Gunning.

Afflalo injured his left hamstring two weeks before the start of training camp and then ``tweaked’’ it during the Magic’s third practice. He has yet to play in a preseason game as he’s worked to rehabilitate and strengthen his hamstring. Pain and fatigue in the leg have been problems the past two years, and Afflalo wants to make sure that the injury does not return later in the season.

Afflalo does hope to make his Magic debut on Sunday when the Magic host the San Antonio Spurs at 6 p.m. During one point during shooting drills on Friday, Afflalo made 14 consecutive 3-pointers. He said is getting closer to being fully ready to play again.

``What I’m trying to do is now that I feel healthy I don’t want to just jump back into it fully. I want to progress the stages of my conditioning and not push the muscle too much,’’ said Afflalo, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday. ``I’ve done some stuff live and some competitive stuff, so it was good to be back out there.’’

ETC: Orlando’s Jacque Vaughn was asked before Friday’s game if he was eager to taste victory for the first time as a head coach after his Magic had dropped the first four preseason games. Vaughn, who has chosen resting his veteran players and showcasing his younger players over going for meaningless preseason wins, chuckled at the question. ``I haven’t tasted an In and Out Burger in a while and I (still) know what it tastes like,’’ Vaughn said. ``So for us, it’s about improvement and guys getting used to playing together. Those are the crucial things for us moving forward.’’ … Josh McRoberts, acquired in August from the Lakers, got his second start of the preseason Friday night at power forward. Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis moved over from power forward to center to make room for McRoberts in the starting lineup. … The Magic host the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night at 6 p.m. at the Amway Center.

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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