Denton: Udrih Relieved to be Traded From Milwaukee to Orlando

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

By John Denton February 25, 2013

But then Udrih got right to the point about his happiness of being with the Magic and his disdain for the franchise that he formerly played for, the Bucks.

``I’ve been here (in Orlando) three days and I already feel more at home than I did in Milwaukee for a year-and-a-half,’’ Udrih said. ``It was just a bad situation there. I’m a professional and I’m a man and I like to be told what they expect from me, so in Milwaukee that never happened. In Milwaukee, they would say we know that we’ve got to play you a little more, but it never happened. And when I did get in the game I didn’t know what they wanted me to do. I was just trying to find myself (with the Bucks), but I never did.’’

Udrih, 30, got a personal greeting to the Magic from head coach Jacque Vaughn, a former teammate of his during their one season (2006-07) together in San Antonio as players. They shared the back-up point guard duties during what proved to be a championship season for the Spurs. And upon Udrih being traded to the Magic along with young players Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb, he and Vaughn talked about their time spent together in San Antonio.

After just a short time in Orlando, Udrih – a native of Slovenia – said he can see how Vaughn and several disciples from the Spurs are building something quite special in Orlando. While the Magic (15-41) are in full-blown rebuilding mode now, Udrih said the foundation and culture being established with the Magic will eventually become something that will prove to be highly successful.

``The organization here is top notch, the foundation of what they are trying to build here, it’s definitely the right start,’’ Udrih said. ``There are a lot of similarities to San Antonio. You can see that San Antonio has been at the top for decades now. It’s a good start that we have here now and we just have to build on it.’’

Udrih was highly disappointed with his lack of playing time in Milwaukee because he was stuck behind Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Playing time shouldn’t be an issue with the Magic, who could start him Tuesday night in Philadelphia because of a lingering knee injury to veteran Jameer Nelson. Nelson did not make the trip to Philadelphia because of a bruised patellar tendon, potentially freeing up major minutes for Udrih. The veteran point guard made the most of his time on the floor in his first game with the Magic on Saturday, scoring 10 points and handing out seven assists in 27 minutes.

Udrih has been a solid player throughout his nine NBA seasons, averaging 9.1 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor and 35 percent from 3-point range. He is just two years removed from averaging career highs across the board in scoring (13.7 ppg.), assists (4.9 apg.) and rebounds (3.4 rpg.) for the Sacramento Kings. And in addition to being a part of two championship teams in San Antonio (2005 and ‘07), he’s had four NBA seasons where he’s averaged double digits.

That kind of experience should come in handy on a Magic roster that features five rookies and three second-year players. Of the 10 players active for last Saturday night’s home game against Cleveland, only Arron Afflalo and Udrih were older than 23 years old. As a group, the Magic squad in uniform on Saturday was an average age of 22.9 years old.

``I’m going to try to do as much as I can and show the guys on this team,’’ Udrih said of being a leader for the Magic. ``I’ve been with Jacque on a championship team in San Antonio. I learned a lot during those three years and I’m going to tell the guys that it takes a lot to get to the Finals and win the championship. It doesn’t take six players; it takes 12 to 15 and the coaches have to think the same.’’

Udrih, who was traded to Milwaukee from Sacramento two seasons ago, said the Bucks never allowed him to show what he could do on the court. When the team drafted Brandon Jennings and traded for Monta Ellis, he was mostly buried on the bench and minutes were hard to come by. Both Ellis and Jennings averaged 37 minutes a game this season, making playing time scarce for Udrih.

So when the call came that he was being traded to Orlando – and to rejoin Vaughn and assistant coach James Borrego – Udrih was overjoyed.

``I know they have a good foundation here and they work hard. I wanted a change and a new start and I’m really happy to be here,’’ Udrih said. ``I know Jacque and (James Borrego), so it’s really an exciting moment for me and my wife. I’m just happy to be here.

``It was just not a good situation for me there (in Milwaukee),’’ Udrih continued. ``They had basically two guards – Brandon and Monta and those two guys were playing 40 minutes a game. So it’s not possible for me to get in and do what I do – move the ball around and get us in the offense. It was not a good situation for me and I just had to get out of there. I think it was the most frustrating time of my career, so I was ready (for a trade).’’

Udrih joked that it was a lot easier for him to get his muscles loose for Monday’s practice being that it wasn’t 20 degrees like in Wisconsin. But Udrih didn’t want anyone to think that his sensitivity to cold weather has anything to do with his age. While 30 years old might be something of a graybeard on the Magic, Udrih stressed that he still has plenty of game left even though some have already written him off.

An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Udrih could be using the final 26 games of this season to audition for his future with the Magic or another NBA team. He said the future is the furthest thing from his mind, and he just wants to use the added playing time in Orlando to show that he can be a good leader and playmaker for the Magic.

``I read something that I’m outside of my prime. Yeah, I’m a vet and I’m 30 years old, but I still feel fine and take care of my body,’’ Udrih said confidently. ``I’m only 30 and it’s not like I’m 34 or 36. I can still do a lot on the court.’’

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