Denton's Notebook: Tuesday, Nov. 6


By John Denton
November 6, 2012

CHICAGO – Orlando Magic captain and point guard Jameer Nelson wanted to clear up a couple of things on Tuesday regarding his injury status: No, he doesn’t have a sprained ankle and his strained hamstring isn’t one he deems serious.

Nelson was battered in the Magic’s season-opening win against the Denver Nuggets. He was hit in the face, he twisted his ankle when he stepped on a teammate’s foot and later went to the floor clutching his hamstring.

It’s the hamstring ``strain,’’ according to Nelson, that has kept him out of action the past four days and two games, and an injury that likely won’t allow him to return until Friday at the earliest. Nelson said because he goes to the rim so much that he often twists his ankle and doesn’t deem that to be a problem. As for the hamstring, he said he is close to returning, but is trying to be smart with the injury so that it doesn’t linger for weeks.

``I’m making progress, just getting treatment and drinking lots and lots of water,’’ Nelson said. ``I don’t want to set a timetable (on a return), but I’m just going to continue to treat it, be smart about it and listen to the training staff.’’

E’Twuan Moore, signed as a free agent over the summer from Boston, started his second consecutive game at point guard on Tuesday. He averaged 14 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds after 13- and 15-point performances in the first two games.

Moore will likely be the starter again Wednesday night when the Magic face the Timberwolves in Minnesota. Nelson is hoping to return by Friday when the Magic face the Brooklyn Nets at the Amway Center. The two teams play again in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Sunday afternoon.

``It wasn’t a pull at all; it was just kind of a strain on the hamstring,’’ Nelson said. ``I don’t know where the ankle stuff came from because I probably twist my ankle every game. But I’m getting better and I’ll be back soon.’’

ROOKIE MEMORIES: There was a moment during a break in the action on Sunday when Magic rookie DeQuan Jones looked around the Amway Center and tried to take a mental picture of everything that was going on. Deep down, he knew he’d never have a feeling like this again being that it was his NBA debut.

When Jones started and played in his first NBA game on Sunday it capped a glorious climb of him going from an undrafted, unheralded rookie to the NBA. He impressed the coaches with his toughness and athleticism and made the roster when the Magic decided to waive Quentin Richardson. And after missing the opening game with an abductor strain in his groin, Jones was elevated to the starting lineup when the Magic lost Hedo Turkoglu for four weeks with a broken left hand.

``It was amazing,’’ Jones said of his debut. ``It didn’t hit me initially, but after I settled down and looked up in the middle of the game all of it hit me. And it hit me again when I was at home laying in bed.’’

Jones scored his first NBA points on a left-handed scoop shot and his teammates recognized the significance of the moment by standing and congratulating him when he came out of the game. And Nelson had a message for him: ``(Nelson) came over to me and said, `Welcome to the NBA, rook.’’’

Jones realized the magnitude of the moment after Sunday’s game when he met with his six family members and friends in the family room at the Amway Center.

``It was cool after the game because I came into the family room and my cousin had one of my jerseys on and he asked me to autograph it,’’ Jones said somewhat incredulously. ``This is a kid, who is 13, and I grew up with him and pretty much raised him, and now he’s asking me for my autograph. That was kind of a cool moment for me.’’

ISH ROUNDING INTO SHAPE: Ish Smith was promoted to the third point guard role when Nelson went down in the opener, and he played 15 minutes in Orlando’s defeat of Denver and Phoenix.

But in Smith’s eyes, the guy out there on the court looked like him, but wasn’t necessarily playing like him.

Smith needed major shoulder surgery in July to repair a separated shoulder and a torn labrum and was away from basketball for two months. It also kept him out all of training camp and he missed seven of the Magic’s eight preseason games.

Smith had five rebounds and two assists in the Magic’s first two games of the season, but he felt that was playing too hesitantly and looking to blend in with others too often. Several times, Smith got into the lane, but passed up shots and instead passed the ball to others. He said the hesitancy comes from being away from the game so long and thinking too much.

``A lot of the guys were telling me after the game to just be reactive and not think so much,’’ Smith said. ``They told me, `If the shot is there take it. You’re shot has improved and you have to be aggressive and play my style.’ I have to play my style and stop trying to feel it out. When you miss a couple of months you try to feel everybody out instead of just playing and reacting. So when I stop (overthinking) I’ll fit in a lot better.’’

ETC: Usually one of the greatest challenges for a rookie coach at the NBA level is handling the in-game substitution patterns. Orlando’s Jacque Vaughn, the youngest coach in the NBA at 37 years old, said pregame preparation and some help from lead assistant coach James Borrego have helped him keep player’s minutes in check. But injuries to Nelson and Turkoglu have caused him to have to tinker with his rotations: Said Vaughn: ``It’s been a revolving door with the injuries. Prior to the game there’s a plan going in and foul trouble can disrupt that, but I always have James next to me keeping track of minutes. It’s a combination of us communicating and preparing a map as well.’’ … When told before Tuesday’s game that Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau repeatedly praised the Magic for the intensity and hustle with which they play, Vaughn said: ``That’s how we have to play. That’s the only way we have a chance of putting a `W’ in the column.’’ … Tuesday’s game allowed Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo to go against Richard Hamilton, the player who mentored him in Detroit when Afflalo was a rookie. Afflalo said that he knew going into the game that he’d have to keep his cool because of the mental games that Hamilton tries to play with opponents. Said Afflalo: ``It was always fun competing against Rip back then in practice. Rip is still a guy who talks a lot of trash, so I’ll be ready for that. But he was a guy who ignited my competitive spirit in the NBA. It was fun time playing with him for a few years.’’ … Afflalo is usually the quiet, mild-mannered type, but he went nose to nose with Phoenix’s Luis Scola on Sunday night after getting shoved in the back. Said Afflalo: ``Whenever I step on the court, there’s a totally different personality for me. I enjoy competing and I love to win and I’ll do whatever it takes.’’

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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