Denton's Notebook: Monday, Feb. 4

By John Denton
February 4, 2013

PHILADELPHIA – Whereas trades are usually jarring to the confidence of young NBA players, the deal that sent Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia to Orlando in August was a breath of fresh air.

In Philadelphia, Vucevic felt restricted and unable to show fully what he could do. He played in 51 of 66 games last season, including 13 starts, but his playing time was cut drastically down the stretch and in the playoffs by 76ers head coach Doug Collins.

So when Vucevic was dealt to Orlando in the four-team, 12-player deal that centered around Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, the center from Montenegro was excited about the opportunity to play for the Magic. And he’s taken advantage of it by blossoming into the NBA’s only second-year player to average a double-double (12.1 ppg. and rebounds 11.3 rpg.).

Vucevic said his success this season is more a byproduct of opportunity than it is him being motivated by the Sixers trading him. He said from the very start, the coaching staff and management for the Magic helped to restore his confidence.

``Not just because of the trade, but I knew that I could do better than I did my first year. I knew I was capable (of playing like he has this season), but I just wanted to get a chance to prove it to people,’’ he said. ``This year, I have a coach who has believed in me and has given me a lot of minutes. My teammates believed in me from the beginning of the year and that helped me get my confidence back out. Once I got that back, I was able to play a lot better and the game is easier to me now.’’

ON GUARD: Injuries to J.J. Redick (sore shoulder), Jameer Nelson (bruised forearm) and DeQuan Jones (sprained foot) left the Magic will just two guards in uniform on Monday night. Those two guards, Ish Smith and E’Twaun Moore, started at the point and shooting guard slots.

Redick is scheduled to have a MRI on his shoulder on Tuesday, but he said it could be canceled if the condition of his shoulder continues to improve. Redick injured his shoulder near the end of Saturday’s loss in Milwaukee when Bucks’ center Larry Sanders landed on top of him.

``I knew it wasn’t separated or anything like that – not that I’ve ever had a separated shoulder or anything like that – but it’s scary anything you get hit in that area,’’ Redick said. ``I’m not going to lie – it hurts and it still hurts. It feels better than it did (on Sunday), so we’re on the right track.’’

Nelson, a native of Chester, Pa., had dozens of friends and family in the corwd on Monday night, but he said he couldn’t allow that to cloud his judgment of whether or not to play. Nelson is still in pain from the elbow he received from Boston’s Paul Pierce on Friday.

``I’m making progress. We’ll see how it feels and go from there,’’ said Nelson, who had a large icepack strapped to his arm Monday morning. ``I love my family and my friends and they’re coming to the game to support me regardless. I’m just looking at longevity over one game.’’

Jones, a rookie, hurt his foot in the Milwaukee game on Saturday. He was wearing a walking boot on Monday night and will undergo further evaluation when the team returns to Orlando.

ETC: Magic rookie Maurice Harkless was drafted No. 16 overall in the NBA Draft last June by Philadelphia, but he never played for the Sixers and was involved in the August trade. Harkless said he was back in New York City when he learned of the trade. ``I actually think I was in Wal-Mart with my uncle (in Queens, N.Y.) and I got a call from my agent telling me that I was probably going to be in Orlando by the end of the night,’’ Harkless remembered. ``I was surprised, but I feel like it was a good opportunity for me and I’m trying to make the best of it.’’ … Harkless played 30 minutes on Friday in Boston and a career-best 42 minutes on Saturday in Milwaukee. He was especially active in Milwaukee, setting new career-highs in points (19), rebounds (14) and steals (four). And he said that even though he’s just 19 years old, his body was worn down after playing 72 minutes in two nights. Said Harkless: ``(On Sunday), I don’t think I got out of the bed until 2 o’clock. It’s crazy because that’s the first time I did that this year. It’s tough.’’ … Former Magic guard Jason Richardson missed his 17th game of the season on Monday and his seventh in a row because of left knee synovitis. Richardson, 32, said he’s been struggling for weeks with pain in his knee. ``There’s just some swelling and fluid in it,’’ Richardson said. ``It’s been tough hurting and getting bumps and bruises. I guess that’s just a part of getting older. I just feel like every time I step on the floor something else is hurting. So that part of the transition has been tougher.’’ … Nelson hosted a Super Bowl party at his suburban Philadelphia home for the Magic players on Sunday. Nelson picked the Ravens to win and was still boasting about his selection on Monday. Said Nelson: ``The guys came over and we had fun. We actually enjoyed the game because it was a really good game.’’ … The Magic returned to Orlando after Monday’s game. They will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday at the Amway Center.

ORLANDOMAGIC.COM FEATURES: Vucevic Earns Spot in Rising Stars Challenge

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