Denton's Notebook: Jan. 28


By John Denton
January 28, 2013

BROOKLYN – Orlando Magic swingman Arron Afflalo felt a twinge in his left calf muscle and Achilles tendon in practice on Sunday and hoped for the best on Sunday when the Magic hosted the Detroit Pistons.

It didn’t take long for Afflalo’s fears to resurface, resulting in an injury that knocked him out of Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

``I went up for that layup early on that got blocked and I felt it right away,’’ Afflalo said of the pain he felt in his calf and Achilles tendon in Sunday’s 104-102 loss to the Pistons.

Afflalo tried pushing through the pain in his lower leg on Sunday night, playing 26 minutes. But he was clearly hampered as he scored just four points while handing out four assists. Afflalo played only eight minutes in the third quarter and didn’t play at all in the fourth period as the pain intensified in his calf.

He was still sore on Monday, knocking him out of Monday’s game. The Magic play next on Wednesday against the Knicks. At this point, Afflalo – Orlando’s leading scorer this season at 16.7 points per game – is unsure when he’ll be able to return to the starting lineup.

``It’s one of those situations where it doesn’t hurt until I make certain moves and then it really hurts bad,’’ Afflalo said. ``It’s been something that has been building on me.’’

Magic rookie Maurice Harkless, a Queens native and a St. John’s product, started at small forward in place of Afflalo on Monday night. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he’s seeing daily growth from Harkless in practice and feels he is better prepared now to be a starter than early in the season when he made 20 starts.

``It’s a great sign that he sees (progress). The questions that he asks are great questions and that means he’s getting a good feel of what’s going on now,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’s anticipating things now more so than being late (to react). So he’s really done a good job of getting better.’’

CARLESIMO COMPLIMENTS JACQUE: As an assistant coach in San Antonio during the later stages of Vaughn’s playing career, Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo always thought that the former point guard would make an excellent NBA head coach someday. But Carlesimo admitted on Monday that was worried somewhat that Vaughn – who had no previous head coaching experience – took on the monumental task of rebuilding the Magic.

``My reaction when he took (the Magic job) – and there was no question that he was going to be a head coach in the league – selfishly, I thought he could have picked an easier job to start in the league than the one he did,’’ Carlesimo said. ``But he’s thrived at it and I’m sure that he’ll continue to do that.’’

Carlesimo said accounting for all of the offseason turmoil and injuries that the Magic have to endure that Vaughn has done a spectacular job. Of Vaughn’s work, Carlesimo said: ``I don’t think he’s done a good job; I think he’s done an excellent job. I’m prejudiced because I love Jacque, but I think he’s a done a way above average job.’’

Carlesimo said you’d never know that Vaughn was a rookie coach considering how well-prepared the Magic have been this season. And Carlesimo said Orlando’s players clearly respect Vaughn because of the effort they have poured into game’s on a nightly basis. Put it all together, and Carlesimo marvels at Vaughn’s work as a rookie head coach.

``The only thing that I’m a little surprised by is that he’s taken this quickly to becoming a head coach with zero experience,’’ Carlesimo said. ``That is not an easy thing to do. Most people start like I did when I was 25 years old and there are 17 people in the stands. But to start in a NBA setting, and a real challenging setting right from the beginning and thrive, it’s great.

``His team plays very hard and they are very well-prepared,’’ Carlesimo continued. ``That’s the two things as a coach you hope for every night. These guys play very hard and I think Jacque’s doing a great job.’’

CAPTAIN SPEAK: Magic co-captain Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said it is his responsibility to impress upon his teammates the need to play with more of a sense of urgency. Davis said if the Magic play harder from start to finish, pay closer attention to details and play with an urgent mindset that they can snap out of the funk that has dogged the team for the past month.

``We have to have a sense of urgency. When you understand winning and what it takes you realize that you have to have an unbelievable sense of urgency,’’ he said. ``It has to be almost insane, crazy-like and willing to sacrifice and willing to do whatever it takes. It has to be collective and not just one person. That’s the only way we can win ball games. It has to be do or die. I’m not doing a good job of letting my team know the sense of urgency and I have to do a better job as a captain.’’

Davis is hoping that the nine-day, five-game road trip facing the Magic now will help jar the team out of its doldrums. Davis point to early December when the Magic headed west while riding a three-game losing streak and proceeded to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.

``I’m reading a book called `The Power of Now.’ That (now) is all that we have to worry about. We can’t focus on anything else,’’ Davis said. ``The last time we started to make a run was on a West Coast trip and you started to see a new team. Hopefully this trip will bring us together and we can win some ball games.’’

ETC: With two teams in the greater New York City area it is now possible for teams to plays two games in the area on either back-to-back nights or over a three-day period. The Magic are the first NBA team to do just that this season, playing in Brooklyn against the Nets on Monday and in New York City on Wednesday against the Nets. The Magic are staying in the same hotel for three days, and Vaughn said he has no concerns over the distractions that New York City could bring. Said Vaughn: ``We have responsible men on our team and we’re going to study and be prepared to play. It’s less travel, so I’ll take it.’’ … Vaughn said he held rookie forward Andrew Nicholson out of Sunday’s game because of matchups against Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell. Vaughn has tried to put Nicholson only in positions where he can succeed and he’s tried to keep him away from having to guard the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. … Since returning from his shoulder injury, Davis has been hot and cold early in games. He feels like if he had played better on Sunday – when he missed six of his first seven games, picked up another technical foul and asked out of the game – the Magic would have beaten the Pistons. Said Davis, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half: ``No matter how the game goes I can’t keep letting people stop me in the first half. If I play a little bit in the first half like I played in the second half, it wouldn’t have been a game (on Sunday against Detroit).’’

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