Denton's Notebook: Tuesday, Jan. 22


By John Denton
January 22, 2013

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Officially at the halfway point of his first NBA season as a head coach, Jacque Vaughn said the Orlando Magic’s first 41 games have served as confirmation that he picked the right line of work.

A player in the NBA for 12 seasons and an assistant for two years prior to this one, Vaughn said that in a different sort of way coaching scratches the competitive itch that he thrived on as a player. Vaughn said that his prior experience left him totally prepared to be a head coach and the only surprise has been just how much he’s enjoyed the job.

``I love it. I wouldn’t use the words challenging because I love it,’’ Vaughn said of coaching. ``I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I’m fortunate and blessed to have this job. My coaching staff has been unbelievable and management has been great to work with and I like my players. Not all coaches can say that.’’

Vaughn said that the cat-and-mouse games between opposing coaches and the daily challenge to motivate and inspire players are the aspects of the job that he enjoys the most. He said he is usually hard on himself after games, self-evaluating what he did right and wrong in the midst of close games. But it’s a labor of love, and one that he said drives him to want to be successful.

``The competition factor is definitely there for me,’’ he said. ``I can’t physically do it on the floor and I can’t pick up a point guard 94 feet away anymore. But can I game plan and get my players ready? Or after timeouts or at the end of games, can I read an opposing coach before his actions are taken? And competing mentally in the course of the game, it fills my competitive juices for sure.’’

GOOSE IS LOOSE: Magic reserve center Gustavo Ayon was cleared to play and activated for Tuesday night’s game following a protracted layoff for a deep contusion in his right leg.

Ayon missed nine of the last 10 games with swelling and a deep bruise that caused significant swelling in his lower thigh and knee area. The injury was so severe that Ayon was on crutches for about a week and unable to drive a vehicle because of the lack of flexibility in his leg.

Ayon, only the third Mexican-born player ever to reach the NBA, has been a nice find for the Magic this season because of his energy and basketball smarts. Ayon, who was acquired in the sign-and-trade transaction involving Ryan Anderson last July, is averaging 3.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. Because he is one of the team’s best passing big men, head coach Jacque Vaughn prefers to put the ball into his hands at the high post and runs the offense through him.

ETC: In order to activate Ayon, the Magic were forced to deactivate Hedo Turkoglu. The veteran small forward has played just six games this season after breaking his left hand in the season-opener and missing the next eight weeks. Turkoglu returned on Dec. 29, but struggled with his conditioning and lingering soreness in his hand. He hasn’t played in the past seven games while he continues to work with Magic Strength and Conditioning Coach Joe Rogowski. … Upon arriving in suburban Detroit on Monday night, the Magic were greeted with temperatures of 9 degrees with wind chills that dipped into negative numbers. Said Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick: ``I thought I was prepared. I brought my scarf, brought my warmest coat with the collar flipped up to protect the ears, and it’s still not enough. I need Isotoners and Long Johns too. I walked three blocks to the movies (Monday) night to watch `Zero Dark Thirty’ and it was the most brutal three blocks ever. It was brutal.’’ … The Magic are back at the Amway Center on Thursday to face Toronto. Orlando is 0-3 this season against the Raptors, losing twice in Toronto and once at the Amway Center.

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