Denton's Notebook: Sunday, Oct. 7


By John Denton
October 7, 2012

MEXICO CITY – Arron Afflalo stressed that he is usually the impatient type, pushing trainers to allow him to return to action and play through minor injuries. But in this case, the new Orlando Magic shooting guard plans to err on the side of caution with his strained left hamstring.

Affalo, whom the Magic acquired in a trade in August, ``tweaked’’ the hamstring three weeks ago during a conditioning run and re-injured the back of his leg during the third day of training camp. The injury, one that usually results in pain and fatigue in the leg, is one that has bothered Afflalo occasionally the past two years.

Afflalo did not dress for Sunday afternoon’s preseason opener against New Orleans. He also ruled himself out of the Magic’s home preseason opener Thursday night at the Amway Center against the Philadelphia 76ers.

``I just need a few days of rest to let it properly heal, then do some rehab just for my conditioning and then I’ll be good to go,’’ Afflalo said. ``Generally, you’re supposed to give this injury two weeks, but the tweak was so minor it could be less time. But because it’s preseason and I’m not missing regular season games, we’re erring on the side of caution to let it heal.

``I would say I’d be back in the next week or two, but I doubt I’ll play (on Thursday). I’ll read my body and try to gauge it, but I doubt I’ll play,’’ Afflalo continued. ``I’ll definitely be playing in preseason games, but until it fully heals I don’t want to rush it because I don’t want it to reoccur.’’

Small forward Christian Eyenga also did not dress because of a strained left hamstring. Al Harrington (knee surgery), Ish Smith (shoulder surgery) and Quentin Richardson (illness) did not travel with the team. Afflalo said he won’t be happy having to watch his new team compete from the sideline over the next week.

``Man, it’s very difficult for me to sit and watch,’’ he said. ``Just being in that practice environment on (Saturday) and here today, I want to be out on that court. But I have to think about the long haul of the season.’’

NBA EXPANSION IN MEXICO? The NBA already has roots outside the U.S. in Canada and now some are wondering if the league could look elsewhere in North America for expansion outside of the United States.

The construction of the 22,000-seat Arena Ciudad de Mexico could make it possible for the NBA to consider Mexico City in future endeavors. Mexico City has an exploding population of 26 million and the NBA is wildly popular in Mexico, according to Magic center Gustavo Ayon, a native of Nayarit, Mexico.

Mexico has hosted several NBA exhibition games through the years, most recently 2010 when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers. Sunday’s Mexico Game between the Magic and Hornets was the first NBA game played in the arena that has mostly hosted concerns, professional wrestling and boxing the past two years. In fact, a Monster Truck Jam was held in the arena earlier in the week and crews spent four days cleaning out the dirt and dust to get the facility ready for the NBA.

NBA President of League Operations Joel Litvin addressed the Magic and Hornets at a reception Saturday night at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence and said that expansion very well could be in the NBA’s future.

``We’re here in Mexico City to grow our game,’’ Litvin said. ``We know (expansion) is where the future of the league is. So we want to bring the NBA to people in other parts of the world.’’

RYNO REMEMBERS: All the way up until the day that he was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets in a sign-and-trade transaction, Ryan Anderson thought he would remain a member of the Magic. After all, Orlando was the location of Anderson’s greatest successes in the NBA, culminating with him winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award last season.

But when Anderson struggled through the playoffs last spring and still received a four-year, $36 million offer from the Hornets, the Magic declined their option to match the contract. Magic GM Rob Hennigan said that while the franchise hated to lose an improving asset such as Anderson, he felt it was more important for the team to retain financial flexibility for the future.

Last season, Anderson became just the second power forward in NBA history – Orlando’s Rashard Lewis was the other in 2008-09 – to lead the NBA in 3-point makes. He made 166 3-pointers while averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a game. His scoring average improved each of his three seasons with the Magic and he said that Orlando will forever hold a special place in his heart.

``It was a surreal whirlwind for me in Orlando with so many ups and downs, but at the end of the day it was an amazing opportunity for me in Orlando,’’ said Anderson, who snuck into the Magic’s locker room on Sunday before the game to re-acquaint with some of his former teammates. ``I had a great three years there, really learned a lot and played with a lot of great players.’’

ROOKIE DEBUT: In addition to Magic rookies Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn making their NBA debuts on Sunday, the Mexico Game was also a first in the NBA for first overall pick Anthony Davis.

The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Davis led Kentucky to a national championship last spring and then won a gold medal with Team USA in the Summer Olympics in London. After being selected No. 1 overall by the Hornets, Davis feels he is ready for the NBA this season after getting a crash course on the game from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant over the summer.

``It was great playing with those guys and they taught me a lot about the game,’’ said Davis, who has been slotted at power forward after playing mostly center in college. ``Whatever (New Orleans) Coach (Monty) Williams wants me to play, that’s what I’m going to play. They’ve had me running power forward right now, so that’s where I will be to start the year and I’m looking forward to it.’’

ETC: Magic rookie Maurice Harkless said it’s almost torturous for him to be in the NBA and not be able to make his debut like other rookies. Harkless, a first-round draft pick out of St. John’s, suffered a sports hernia during pre-draft workouts and needed surgery to repair the injury. Harkless is travelling with the team and going through daily rehabilitation, but said he’s stills suffering from two kinds of pain – mentally because he can’t play and physically in his abdomen. Said Harkless: ``Just watching them practice has been so difficult, so I can’t even imagine how it’s going to hurt during games. I’m feeling better every day but it’s a long process. I’ve just got to get my core stronger because that’s what caused the injury. I’m back on the court and getting in shape. I just can’t wait until I can play in the games again.’’ … Reserve point guard E’Twaun Moore was the only Magic player to suffer a digestive issue during the trip, but still dressed for the game. Both the Magic and Hornets had team meeting rooms set up where three meals a day were served. The Magic also took plenty of precautions to keep bottled water available for players and staffers. … The Magic will host the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night in the preseason home opener at the Amway Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m., but there is no local television broadcast of the game.

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jdenton@orlandomagic.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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