Denton's Notebook: Sunday, Nov. 11

By John Denton
November 11, 2012

BROOKLYN – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic rolled off the screen, took a bounce pass in the lane and finished with a thunderous dunk over a 7-footer at the rim.

The only issue with the play for Vucevic was that the play occurred after a recent practice rather than during a game for the Magic.

The Magic coaching staff has made a point of emphasis of working with the 7-foot, 240-pound Vucevic on finishing around the basket and getting tougher while finishing plays at the rim. Magic video analyst, Matt Hill, a former college basketball player at Texas, is one of the staff members who works out with Vucevic and uses his 6-foot-10 frame to attempt to contest shots.

Vucevic, 22, is still making the adjustment to the NBA game after being raised in Montenegro. He played three seasons of college basketball at USC and he spent his NBA rookie year with the Philadelphia, but he is still learning how to bang inside with bigger and stronger players.

``I’m working to learn how to finish over tall, big guys when I roll to the rim. I have to do it different ways sometimes – dunking or shooting over them – and I’ve just got to keep working on it,’’ Vucevic said. ``When I first came to college, being more physical was something that I had to work on a lot. It’s not something that I was used to doing because I just used my (shooting) skills a lot. But in this league you have to be physical a lot more. It’s something that I’m kind of used to now because I’ve been playing in the league for a year. So now I just have to stay aggressive and be physical.’’

NEW YORK HOMECOMINGS: Sunday’s game in Brooklyn served as somewhat of a homecoming for Magic rookies Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn, both natives of Queens. The two of them grew up in the same neighborhood about a 10-minute walk apart, but didn’t know one another because of their differences in age.

O’Quinn, a reserve center who has appeared in four games, had 30 friends and family at the game – the same number that made the trek to Orlando for his NBA debut two weeks ago against the Denver Nuggets. O’Quinn, a second-round pick by the Magic after playing collegiately at Norfolk State, said every day in the NBA is still a learning process for him.

``It’s a fun whirlwind,’’ O’Quinn said. ``I come out here and I’m seeing people that I watched on TV last year. You’re travelling and you never stop, but it’s a fun experience.’’

Harkless, who made his NBA debut on Wednesday in Minnesota after missing all of training camp and the preseason because of a sports hernia, had 10 friends and family at the game. He played one season at St. John’s before turning pro, but he said his teammates wouldn’t be attending because they had practice on Sunday.

``It’s exciting because I get to see my family and they get to come and watch me play. That’s always a good feeling,’’ said Harkless, as he addressed envelopes with tickets in them. `If other people are coming they bought their own tickets. I don’t have money like that.’’

ETC: Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, 37, was the MVP of the 1993 McDonald’s High School All-American Game. Also playing in that game was Nets veteran forward Jerry Stackhouse, 38. Stackhouse scored 11 points and hit three 3-pointers against Vaughn’s Magic on Friday in Orlando. … Vucevic has played well this season when not in foul trouble. He said he has to walk a fine line between playing with physicality and staying out of foul trouble. Said Vucevic: ``Obviously I have to be smart and not get in foul trouble so that I can help my team. It’s not something I worry about, but I know that I have to play physical. The refs are going to call the small fouls when you reach in, so I just have to use my body and keep playing physical.’’ … Vaughn played for the Nets in 2005-06 when the franchise was located in New Jersey. He said while it’s somewhat sad that basketball is no longer in New Jersey, it’s a boon for Brooklyn. ``I have good memories of the Nets, I had some good teammates and we went to the playoffs two years,’’ Vaughn said. ``My son was born in New Jersey and I enjoyed my time there.’’ … The Magic host the New York Knicks on Tuesday night at 7 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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