Denton: Fatigue Could Be Factor Against Blazers

By John Denton
March 25, 2014

ORLANDO – In addition to facing the high-powered Portland Trail Blazers tonight at the Amway Center, the Orlando Magic could be in for a battle with another daunting opponent: fatigue.

After wrapping up their seven-night, four-game West Coast road trip in Los Angeles on Sunday, the Magic didn’t arrive back in Central Florida until 5:30 a.m. On top of missing a night of sleep, many of the players had to deal with the three-hour time change last night when they attempted to go to sleep on Monday night.

Some of the Magic players slept throughout the day on Monday, while others stayed awake during so as to get a good night’s sleep on Monday night. Still, there is expected to be some grogginess from such a short turnaround between games in Los Angeles on Sunday and in Orlando on Tuesday.

``I slept (Monday) until 4 or 5 o’clock and then it was hard to fall asleep last night,’’ Magic second-year forward Maurice Harkless admitted. ``But we’ve just got to get sleep anyway that we can because we have a game tonight.’’

The Magic (19-52) are happy to be back off the road and at the Amway Center where they have played some of their best basketball this season. Orlando is 15-18 this season and have defeated Oklahoma City, Indiana, the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn at home. Orlando is hoping to ride the positive vibes from the home crowd throughout a four-game home stand that includes games against Charlotte (Friday), Toronto (Sunday) and Cleveland (April 2).

``I don’t know what it is, but we just come together better here,’’ Harkless said. ``I don’t want to say that we play harder, but we kind of put things better together at home. Whether it’s the crowd or being comfortable, I don’t know what it is, but we just play better at home.’’

Magic players Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic were happy to be at home in their own beds on Monday so that they could attempt to recover from the lack of sleep and time change. As a rookie, Oladipo has said that the NBA’s marathon season and the sleep deprivation that it brings has been a challenge. He tried to combat Sunday’s red-eye flight in a different manner than most.

``I made sure I stayed up throughout the day so that I could get some rest at night time, and I’m feeling pretty good,’’ Oladipo said. ``It wasn’t really tough if you preoccupy yourself by putting in a movie or hanging out with your teammates, so I tried to do that (on Monday).’’

Vucevic is a veteran to time change, having moved from Montenegro to California for high school as a teen. His summers are usually spent in the states and in Montenegro, which has a six-hour time difference from Orlando. Still, he said that fatigue and learning to deal with difficult travel schedules is something that takes some getting used to.

``It’s kind of part of the league, flying late or early in the morning. I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane; I tried to, but I couldn’t,’’ Vucevic said. ``I just tried to getting back to a normal sleeping routine. I slept until about 10:30 or 11 a.m. and then I went back to sleep at a normal time to get used to Eastern time.’’

Orlando will be facing a Portland team that is in a fight for its playoff lives. The Blazers (45-26) lost in Miami on Monday night for their second straight defeat and their seventh loss in the past 10 games. Portland is currently seeded fifth, but they are just a game ahead of sixth-seeded Golden State and just three games ahead of Phoenix at eighth.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn used 11 players in Los Angeles on Sunday night in an effort to combat Orlando playing a second game in as many nights. He said he’ll employ a deep bench again tonight against Portland in case there is fatigue.

``Well, hopefully (fatigue) doesn’t bite us tonight,’’ said Vaughn, whose team will be without veteran point guard Jameer Nelson (sore left knee) for a fourth straight game. ``Hopefully everybody got some good rest (Monday) and fight that mental battle a little bit and be ready to play. But we’ll need everybody again tonight.’’