Denton's Notebook: Monday, April 1

By John Denton
April 1, 2013

HOUSTON – Nine-year NBA veteran Beno Udrih is well aware that the Orlando Magic are in a transition period and he knows that Jameer Nelson is entrenched as the starter at point guard.

Still, Udrih wouldn’t mind returning to Orlando next season because of his trust in Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn and his comfort in the system in place.

Udrih, acquired in late February in a six-player trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, has repeatedly gushed about his delight of being in Orlando and playing for Vaughn. The two were once teammates in San Antonio, and Vaughn has so much trust in Udrih that he’s allowed him to close games either running the team or playing alongside of Nelson.

And with Nelson out with a sprained ankle, Udrih got the start in Atlanta on Saturday night and delivered with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. He started again Monday in Houston, and will likely remain in that role as long as Nelson is out.

And there is a part of Udrih, who will become an unrestricted free agent in July, who hopes that there’s a way that he’s back in Orlando next season.

``The system here is really comfortable for me, so I wouldn’t mind staying here,’’ said Udrih, whose wife hails from Tampa. ``But I’m just trying to finish the season strong, get a couple of more wins and then when July 1st comes around, we’ll see what happens.’’

In 19 games with the Magic, Udrih averaged 8.7 points and 5.3 assists in, most importantly, 23.2 minutes a game. He was unhappy in Milwaukee, where he played just 18 minutes a night and was mostly buried behind Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.

But with the Magic, he said he is much more at ease because he knows that he has Vaughn’s trust and that he is being used at both point guard and the shooting guard position.

``We both came from San Antonio on a defensive-minded team, and (Vaughn) just makes me comfortable that I always know the way that he is thinking,’’ Udrih said. ``I’m just trying to come in here and do the right things and make the right plays.’’

TOBIAS TIME: Magic forward Tobias Harris was asked recently how he was holding up now that he is playing big minutes for the Magic and usually the team’s leading scorer. It was a legitimate question considering that while in Milwaukee earlier this season Harris was out of the rotation and playing only 11.6 minutes a game.

Said Harris: ``This is what I asked for, what I’ve always wanted. So I can’t be getting tired now.’’

What is somewhat of an adjustment for Harris is the fact that he is suddenly the focal point on opposing team’s scouting reports. That was never clearer than Saturday in Atlanta when the Hawks almost exclusively used defensive ace Josh Smith to check Harris. Clearly, the Hawks saw that Harris hung 29 points on Charlotte on Wednesday and a career-best 30 points on Washington on Friday and they shaded their defense toward slowing down Harris.

Harris said it’s a challenge getting used to opposing defenses keying in on him. He said he was somewhat bothered by Saturday’s five of 18 shooting night, but he has learned that he has to move on quickly in the NBA.

``Each and every night you go out, it’s another challenge. It’s a challenge for us as a team, but also for you personally as a player. You have to come in focused to play your game, get everybody involved,’’ Harris said of being a focal point of defenses. ``I’m one of those guys who it’s always on my mind because you never want to have an off night, but I regroup quickly from it and get ready for (the next) game.’’

ETC: Houston was without all-star James Harden (sore foot) and blossoming forward Chandler Parsons (food poisoning) Monday night. Parsons grew up in suburban Orlando and attended dozens of Magic games because his grandparents had season tickets for years. Parsons also starred at the University of Florida, which lost to Michigan in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. That prompted this sarcastic blast from Rockets coach Kevin McHale: ``I’m just saying that the Gators got whooped by a Big 10 team and his belly hurt.’’ … Nelson missed his second consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle that he injured when he accidentally stepped on John Wall’s foot on Friday night. Monday’s game in Houston was the 19th that Nelson has missed because of groin, forearm, Achilles, knee and ankle injuries. Nelson went through some light shooting drills before Monday’s game and could practice on Tuesday. … McHale had kind words to say about the Magic and the effort that they put forth on a nightly basis. ``They play hard. They’re young team and they play hard. They very seldom get beat energy-wise. They’ll sometimes get beat experience-wise and other stuff. But they are a nice team and I can relate to what they are doing.’’ … Orlando’s five-game, 10-day road trip continues in San Antonio on Wednesday night. Vaughn won a championship there as a reserve point guard in 2007 and he spent the last two seasons working for the Spurs as an assistant coach.

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