Arron Afflalo: Happiest Time of Career Was in Orlando

Afflalo Rejoins Magic, Thinks Highly of Developing Roster

By John Denton
July 27, 2017

ORLANDO – A free agent after playing for four NBA teams the past three years – most of which marred by dismal, dysfunctional losing seasons – Arron Afflalo just wanted to find happiness again on and off the basketball court.

For the 31-year-old Afflalo, the decision that could potentially lead him back to happiness was an easy one considering that life was never more enjoyable for him than when he played for the Magic in Orlando from 2012-14. Even though the Magic are still in rebuilding mode and only a one-year, veteran-minimum contract was being offered, Afflalo jumped at the chance to return to Orlando and hopefully revive the positive vibes from three years earlier when the shooting guard was at the top of his game.

``Being in the NBA you have to be happy and this (past in Orlando) is by far the happiest that I’ve ever been – not just because I was able to play some of my best basketball – but on the court, off the court, the environment and the city,’’ Afflalo said on Thursday after officially inking his contract with the Magic. ``Being here with (GM) John (Hammond) and (President of Basketball Operations) Jeff (Weltman), there is just a combination of things that really fulfilled me as a person. When you are happy as a person I think that brings the best out of you as a professional.’’

Afflalo’s heartfelt excitement about returning to Orlando could be seen in his emotional posts on Instagram in recent days. He hails from the Compton section of Los Angeles, but he clearly views Orlando as his adopted home. In two Instagram entries, Afflalo posted pictures of himself wearing blue and black Magic jerseys, and under one came this caption: ``There’s no city that I would rather give everything I’ve got … .’’ In his most recent post, Afflalo videotaped a Magic jersey with his familiar No. 4 and he candidly states, ``I’m never taking this off again.’’

On Thursday, Afflalo repeatedly vowed his affection for Orlando and the Magic, stressing that he’s never forgotten the joy that he felt in his two seasons playing in Central Florida. After being acquired in the massive four-team, 12-player deal that involved center Dwight Howard leaving Orlando, Afflalo averaged 16.5 points a game in 2012-13 and a career-best 18.2 points a night in 2013-14 for the Magic.

In that first season with the Magic, he showed off his vast promise as a player on the rise by scoring 20 points 15 times and 30 points in two games. In 2013-14, Afflalo put himself into All-Star consideration for the first time in his career by scoring 20 points 23 times, 30 points four times and topping the 40-point plateau once. Two of his finest games as a professional came that season as a member of the Magic – his career-best 43-point, 52-minute effort in a double-overtime loss in Philadelphia and a 36-point night in a win against the Bucks when he made 11 of 15 shots, eight of 11 3-pointers and hit all six of his free throws.

``I live through (those memories) still,’’ Afflalo admitted. ``I’ve been a player who constantly progressed the first seven years of my career and all I ever dreamed about was getting better as a person and a player. Essentially, the ship just stopped for me right there (at the end of his first run with the Magic) and I’ve been hungry to instill that passion. Everything that I gained here, I just want to get right back to it.’’

That sentiment is understandable considering the rough road that Afflalo has travelled since he was dealt to the Denver Nuggets on draft night in June of 2014 for Evan Fournier, a shooting guard who he will be battling now for minutes and shots. Afflalo played 53 games with Denver in 2014-15 before being shipped to Portland at the trade deadline. The Nuggets were 20-33 at the time of his trade and the Blazers ended the regular season poorly before being ushered out of the playoffs in five games by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Afflalo was signed by the New York Knicks in 2015 to provide veteran toughness, but that season was equally bad for him because of the chaos and controversy surrounding the franchise. Then, it was onto Sacramento where the Kings were bogged down by the tantrums of mercurial center DeMarcus Cousins and a youth movement cut into Afflalo’s time on the court. He played just 61 games this past season and started only 45 – his fewest since his second year in the NBA in 2008-09.

Afflalo, a 10-year veteran with a reputation for being coachable and a good influence, said that several NBA teams showed interest in signing him this offseason. Still, he said he never considered any of them because he wanted a return to Orlando that could possibly revitalize his love for basketball.

``My first five years in the NBA I was in some positive, winning environments, but in the later half, the environments have been different,’’ he said. ``For me, (this choice) wasn’t so much about winning as it was finding the people, the front office and the coaching staff that would allow me to be productive as a person and a player. This city (of Orlando) has meant everything to me in my career. I’ve been able to persevere through some tough times because of some of the things that I was able to build while I was here (playing for the Magic).’’

As the oldest player on the Magic at 31 years old, Afflalo knows that he will be looked to to provide some veteran leadership to young players such as 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Isaac, forward Aaron Gordon, point guard Elfrid Payton and wing Mario Hezonja. Afflalo knows that in the NBA actions speak a lot louder than talk, and he’s shown his commitment to his new opportunity in Orlando by working to improve his body. He is trying to battle the effects caused by Father Time by working out for approximately five hours a day to improve his agility, strength and stamina.

``I can’t speak on numbers, minutes and stats and stuff, but effort-wise I’m going to be there every night,’’ he said. ``I’ve lost 15 pounds already this offseason and I’m just truly committed. I want to give the guys an example of true commitment to your team, to your teammates and to your city. When you give that highest level of commitment, you can reap some very good rewards. I’m just really excited to play, period.’’

In his final game of this past season, Afflalo showed that he still has plenty of energy, veteran guile and shooting touch to help the Magic. In 34 minutes while playing for the Kings against the Los Angeles Clippers, Afflalo made eight of 11 shots, scored 34 points and handed out six assists. That performance allowed him to shoot 41.1 percent from 3-point range for the season – the sixth time in his career he’s connected on at least 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. He’s never made as many threes as the 274 he connected on in 2013-14 while playing for the Magic, and he’s hoping he can do the same now that he’s back in Orlando’s blue, black and silver pinstripes.

``My daughter (Dylann) was born when I was here (in Orlando) and I had some of my best memories when I was here. Just getting off the plane (Wednesday) night and coming into some familiar territory, it gives me a good feeling and it makes me want to work and enjoy life,’’ he said. ``I’ll try to get back to some of the norms that I had (previously in Orlando) and add a few wins this time around.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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