By John Denton Nov. 25, 2013
ATLANTA – With the Orlando Magic incorporating two players into the fold and potentially poised to welcome back another from injury on Tuesday night, it’s as if training camp has begun again some 13 games into the regular season.
If Kyle O’Quinn can return from a sprained ankle on Tuesday when the Magic (4-9) face the Hawks (8-6) in Atlanta, it will be the first time all season that the squad is whole. Orlando got Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (two foot surgeries) back on Saturday and Tobias Harris (high ankle sprain) back on Sunday. The addition of O’Quinn – who said he’s close to returning following a pregame workout on Sunday – the Magic will have all 14 of their players available for the first time this season.
The good news is that the team will have more size and offensive firepower than ever with the returns of forwards Davis and Harris and center O’Quinn. The bad news is the team has to find ways to fit all of those players in on the fly as the games come fast and furiously during a hectic portion of the schedule. Figuring out rotations and rhythms – stuff usually reserved for training camp and the preseason – are why the Magic have the feeling of a team starting over anew again.
``Well, we’ve got to get a rhythm with each other and know where each guy is going to be. Roles have to be defined and minutes defined and all of that comes with incorporating a new group together,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``Hopefully we’re this solid (the rest of the season) and there are no injuries and we can get a rhythm together.’’
The Magic are hoping that Davis and Harris can quickly form a bond because of their potential together along the frontline with 7-foot center Nikola Vucevic. Before Sunday’s loss to Phoenix, the two of them had never played together before because Davis missed most of last season with a fractured foot and Harris didn’t arrive until a February trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Davis was in the midst of a career year last season before fracturing a bone in his left foot, an injury that not only ended his season, but also required a second procedure in July. Harris was a standout in Orlando last season, averaging 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds over the last 27 games. Playing together, where Harris can roam the perimeter and Davis can bang on the inside, they feel they can become a potent one-two offensive punch for the Magic.
``A lot of it is getting to know the guys again, but I love playing with Glen because he’s a great teammate,’’ said Harris, who had plenty of practice time with Davis over the past month as the two of them worked together to get back on the floor. ``Glen brings a lot of energy and he wants to win more than anybody on this team. So just to be out there with him will help my game and I’m going to help his game as well.’’
Davis, who has worked diligently over the past several months to slim down to lighten the load on his surgically repaired foot, made a stirring return on Saturday in Miami. He was in attack mode from the time he entered late in the first period, scoring 20 points and getting to the free throw line eight times. He scored just six points on Sunday against Phoenix, but he contributed in other ways with four rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. Also, Davis hit the floor a couple of times while diving for loose balls – hustle plays that inspired the Magic and delighted Vaughn.
``I thought his overall toughness was good for us,’’ Vaughn said. ``I think he demanded the ball in the post, which was good and it got some fouls to get us into the bonus. It was a good test for him on the back-to-back and we’ll keep going from here.’’
Where the Magic’s starting lineup and rotations go from here is up in the air as they look to give more minutes and more offensive responsibility to Davis and Harris. Veteran Jason Maxiell started the Magic’s first 10 games, but he has since fallen out of the rotation as Orlando went to a three-guard set with Victor Oladipo getting the first three starts of his NBA career.
Orlando’s starting five could soon change again with Davis and Harris back on the active roster. Davis was a starter last season at power forward, as was Harris after coming to Orlando following the trade with the Bucks. Davis can also play some center to occasionally spell Vucevic, while Harris has been cast more as a small forward this season so that he can create mismatches on the wing with his 6-foot-9, 230-pound frame.
``I think you will see (Harris) at both positions,’’ Vaughn said. ``It could be (different positions) on different nights, match-up wise. We will see how our rhythm is once we get everyone completely healthy. Then, we’ll have to find a balance of both units and it could mean him playing the (small forward) or (power forward).’’
The Magic are hoping that their full roster and their additions of Davis, Harris and hopefully O’Quinn will help them overcome their woes against Atlanta and their struggles away from home. The Hawks beat the Magic 104-94 16 days ago in Atlanta. That was the Hawks’ 11th straight defeat of Orlando and the seventh consecutive victory in Atlanta.
The Magic are 0-5 on the road this season, losing in overtime in Minnesota and in heartbreaking fashion in Miami. With a six-game roadtrip ahead that will span all or parts of 12 days, the Magic know they need their new-look roster to gel quickly.
``Hopefully, we can incorporate and learn one another while getting some wins,’’ said guard Arron Afflalo, Orlando’s leading scorer this season at 21.6 points per game.
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