Denton's Notebook: Sunday, Jan. 27


By John Denton
January 27, 2013

ORLANDO – Jacque Vaughn is an eternal optimist of a coach, and even though his Orlando Magic have fallen on hard times of late, he is confident that his team can put all of the aspects of good basketball together and become successful again this season.

At various points in the season, the Magic have identified issues dogging them and found a way to correct them. They were top 10 in the NBA in several major defensive categories early in the season, but struggled to score. They have gotten better of late offensively, but their defense has slipped dramatically. And the Magic are still on pace to set the NBA record for the fewest free throws attempted by a team over a season, but they have actually been significantly better of late at attacking the rim and getting to the line.

The ebbs and flows of the NBA’s marathon season have actually encouraged Vaughn that the Magic are closer than some think to putting it all together. Orlando was once 12-13 and playing its best basketball of the season, and Vaughn sees no reason why Orlando can’t correct its deficiencies and get back to playing winning basketball.

``It makes me hopeful that we can put all of the pieces together,’’ Vaughn said. ``We went from being a high turnover team to taking care of that; to defensively guarding to not guarding; going from not putting up enough points to putting up enough points now. To go from not shooting threes to shooting threes now; to go from not getting to the free throw line to now we’re getting to the free throw line. So there’s a hope and an excitement that we can put it all together and showcasing the totality of our team.’’

LOOKING AHEAD: NBA players are taught to focus simply on the next game and not allow their eyes to wander to points ahead on the schedule. But because the team was scheduled to leave for a nine-night, five-game road trip immediately after Sunday’s game, players had to look ahead and spend part of Saturday and Sunday packing for the trip ahead.

``It’s not easy and my least favorite thing in the NBA is packing and picking out what I have to wear on the road,’’ Magic center Nikola Vucevic said of preparing for freezing temperatures in New York, Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. ``But it’s part of the job. It’s what we get paid for and what we do and we have to go with it.’’ Vucevic is just 22 years old, but he said even he gets fatigued on the road because of all of the travel, nights in hotels and living out of a suitcase.

``It tough because it’s not like home when you have access everything at your (practice) facility where you can do your treatments, getting in the cold plunge or working on your game,’’ Vucevic said. ``It’s different on the road and you have to adjust to the team schedule. We all do stuff together. But we’re all kind of used to it because we’ve had two (long) roadtrips already and we’ve done pretty well on the road. You just try to take care of yourself as much as you can and stay on top of things.’’

ETC: With the NBA schedule-makers giving the Magic consecutive games against the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks, the team will spend three straight days in New York City. The team is supposed to be off on Tuesday, giving rookies Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn – both Queens, N.Y. natives – a chance to visit with family and friends. Said Harkless: ``I’m definitely going to see family. And I’m going to head up to St. John’s and check out their practice. So I’m going to try to see as many people as I can while we’re there.’’ … Vaughn said Saturday was the first time all season that the Magic had 15 players on the roster healthy and involved in a practice. Veteran forward Al Harrington, who has yet to play this season after having four procedures on his knee last summer, is taking contact and involved in some full-court work. The hope is that Harrington can make his Magic debut in the coming two weeks. … The Magic open their road trip Monday night in Brooklyn against the Nets. Orlando is 0-3 against the Nets this season.

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