Denton's Notebook: Training Camp Day 1

By John Denton
October 2, 2012

ORLANDO – While much of Orlando is still getting used to a Magic roster that is without center Dwight Howard for the first time in eight years, Arron Afflalo has been through a similar situation before where a city is adjusting to basketball minus a superstar player.

Afflalo, the Magic’s new shooting guard, was in Denver when all-star forward Carmelo Anthony demanded a trade and ultimately forced his way to the New York Knicks. Life after Anthony wasn’t so bad in Denver last season as a deep and talented Nuggets team won 38 games and extended the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the playoffs.

The Magic dealt Howard to the Lakers in August, and like the Nuggets, Orlando jump-started its retooling efforts by acquiring several players from different places. Afflalo and Al Harrington came from Denver, while Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless were acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Howard deal.

Afflalo, who figures to be the Magic’s leading scorer this season, sees a lot of similarities between what the Nuggets went through after losing Anthony and what the Magic are getting used to after trading Howard.

``After ‘Melo got traded (out of Denver) there was an opportunity there for a lot of guys to create an identity for themselves and we did a great job of it by basing everything on team play and staying unselfish,’’ Afflalo said. ``We’ve got a good starting point toward doing something like that here in Orlando and I’m looking forward to this season. It’s going to be fun.’’

Afflalo’s scoring average has risen each of his five seasons in the NBA and he hopes that his game can take another major step this season in Orlando. He hopes that he will be looked to as the Magic’s go-to scorer, and he’s excited about being a leader on a young team. Afflalo put a lot of significance in Tuesday’s first practice with the Magic and he’s eager to make the most of this season.

``That opening NBA experience (in Orlando), this was kind of like my first practice in Denver because I’m looking forward to the different role and the different opportunities that I may have,’’ he said. ``It was a lot of fun, the guys went hard and the practice was very well-organized.’’

OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG BABY: No one on the Magic roster is more excited about the prospective opportunities ahead of them than Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis.

For the first time in his five-year NBA career, Davis has a great shot at becoming a full-time starting power forward. During his four seasons in Boston, he backed up Kevin Garnett and his role was a minimal one. He expected to start last year in his first season in Orlando, but he was beaten out by the perimeter-shooting Ryan Anderson.

Davis finished last season in impressive fashion, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds in five playoff games against the Indiana Pacers. That strong finish spurred him into the offseason where he worked to trim down, improve his stamina and get his midrange jump shot more consistent. And as one of the veterans on this team, Davis hopes to be the kind of leader that the Magic can lean on and rely on.

``It’s a challenge for me and I’ve been playing the game in my head all summer to make sure that I’m accountable by setting the tone and walking the walk,’’ Davis said.

``I’m excited about the season and I look forward to the ups and downs and the trials and tribulations. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, so I have no complaints at all.’’

CENTERS OF ATTENTION: With veterans Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, J.J. Redick, Al Harrington, Afflalo and Davis expected to command most of the minutes and shot attempts this season, the center position is the Magic’s one spot where major question marks remain.

Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon and rookie Kyle O’Quinn are expected to battle for the starting job at center for the Magic.

Vucevic, 22, had a solid rookie season in Philadelphia last season, appearing in 54 games and making 15 starts. Despite playing just 15.9 minutes a game, the USC product averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Sixers.

Ayon, 27, made his NBA debut last season with the New Orleans Hornets after spending several years playing in the Mexican League. He averaged 5.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.1 minutes a game. He scored in double figures 10 times and became a consistent role player in New Orleans because of his willingness to defend in the post.

New Magic coach Jacque Vaughn spent a few days before the start of training camp watching game footage of Vucevic (7-0, 240 pounds) and Ayon (6-10, 250 pounds) to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses as players. Vaughn said he’s been impressed so far with the two young center’s work ethics and likes the promise they hold.

``I’ve watched tape on them, but I’m still learning about them,’’ Vaughn said. ``I’ll give them the chance to prove themselves on the floor. My initial thoughts are that Goose is extremely physical, plays hard and runs the floor extremely well. Nik is very skilled, does a great job of shooting the ball and he’ll be a great teammate. My job now is to get more out of both of those guys.’’

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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