O'Quinn Ready For More Challenges and Responsibility
By John Denton
Jan. 17, 2014
ORLANDO – Of all the standout performances to come from the Orlando Magic’s triple-overtime thriller against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, reserve center Kyle O’Quinn might have made the most surprising and welcoming production.
When O’Quinn scored 12 points in Wednesday’s 128-125 triple-OT loss, it was the first time he had reached double figures in scoring since a Nov. 1 defeat of the New Orleans Hornets. When he grabbed seven rebounds, it was the first time he had done that since the middle of December. And when he played 24 minutes of the 63-minute game, it was the first time all season that he was on the floor for that amount of time.
So even though Victor Oladipo scored a career-best 35 points, Jameer Nelson poured in a season-high 31 points and even Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis drilled a game-tying 3-pointer, O’Quinn’s production still qualified as the surprise of the night.
``It’s pretty tough (not knowing when he’s going to play), but Coach always talks about preparation and I try to stay consistent with my preparation,’’ O’Quinn said. ``Like I have said, I don’t know if I’m going to play or not play most nights, but I’ve had to stay ready. Sometimes I catch myself checking out and not being into the game, but it doesn’t work to my advantage. It helps me to stay locked in play to play. It’s one of the things that I’m trying to work on to stay ready.’’
O’Quinn should be ready tonight when the Magic (10-29) host the Charlotte Bobcats (16-24) at the Amway Center. Orlando will once again be without starting center Nikola Vucevic (concussion) and O’Quinn should see plenty of playing time behind Davis at the center position.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has said of late that he wants to continue to challenge O’Quinn with more playing time and more responsibility. Vaughn has desperately been searching for production off the Magic bench. The reserve big man came through in a big way on Wednesday when he made five of six shots and both of his free throw attempts.
``Coaches always want to challenge (players), but it’s about how the player responds to that challenge,’’ Vaughn said. ``I think you see that he’s grown and with the way he was able to play for us last game, it shows you he’s accepting the challenge and he’s getting better as a player.’’
As part of the Magic’s ongoing celebration of its 25th Anniversary Season, the franchise will honor forward power forward Horace Grant tonight between the first and second quarters. Grant played for the Magic from 1994-99 and 2001-03, averaging 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. He ranks fourth in franchise history in rebounds and fourth in blocked shots.
Magic reserve power forward Jason Maxiell grew up on the south side of Chicago and idolized Grant as a kid. He still wears No. 54 and for years has modeled his rugged low-post game after Grant. The two have never met, and Maxiell is hoping to get a picture of the two of them together tonight.
``Growing up in Chicago, everybody was a fan of (Scottie) Pippen and (Michael) Jordan, but I grew up watching (Grant) and I liked how he did a lot of small things,’’ Maxiell said. ``He was scrappy out there and getting grimy and physical down low. That’s something that I tried to model myself after.’’
O’Quinn spent most of last summer in Orlando in hopes of bettering his game and earning more playing time this season. So far, that extra work and growth from his rookie season hasn’t translated as he’s played in just 26 games and only 10 minutes a game. Vucevic being out for the foreseeable future could open a door of possibility for O’Quinn, who played much more at ease on Wednesday night against Chicago big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
``It’s about me taking advantage of this opportunity now because I don’t really have a solid role on this team right now,’’ O’Quinn admitted. ``Eventually, I want to get that (solid role). I want to show them that every time they give me a chance that I will take care of it. Hopefully I can build trust and things go well for me.’’
Nelson, one of O’Quinn’s best friends on the team, has tried telling his buddy to relax on the floor and let the game come to him. O’Quinn admitted that he sometimes plays not to make mistakes and needs to play freer. Nelson said O’Quinn’s performance on Wednesday was hopefully a sign of good things to come.
``He played well. When I looked at the box score, I told him that he played a heck of a game because he played with energy and made shots,’’ Nelson said. ``Most importantly, in a game like that he had seven rebounds. He played an all-around good game for us. I think that can help his confidence out. Not to say that he wasn’t confident before, but this may take his confidence to another level.’’