Denton's Notebook: Friday, March 1

By John Denton
March 1, 2013

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic is the only player on the team to play every game this season and his 1,882 minutes before Friday’s game were second only to shooting guard Arron Afflalo’s 1,894 minutes.

That grind might be wearing on Vucevic, who also didn’t get much rest during the all-star break because of his appearance in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Vucevic, who earlier in the season had a stretch of 30 consecutive games with at least nine rebounds, has struggled offensively and somewhat on the glass since the all-star break, prompting Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to contemplate cutting the second-year center’s playing time in the sake of saving some of the wear and tear of a long season.

Vucevic has failed to score in double figures three times since the all-star break and twice he’s failed to grab double-digit rebounds. His two boards in Wednesday’s loss to Sacramento were a season-low. Of course, he did have 19 rebounds on Tuesday in Philadelphia and he authored a 16-point, 13-rebound performance in Dallas last week.

``I just have to continue to remind myself that this is the most minutes he’s played and the most he’s been asked for on a consistent basis,’’ Vaughn said. ``We’ve asked a lot of him. That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop pushing him or asking more from him. But I might have to be smarter in how I use minutes with him. There have been times when I would play him 12 minutes (straight) because he can do that, but we’re at a stage now where I won’t keep doing that going forward.’’

Vucevic, 22, said he doesn’t think fatigue has been a factor for him going down the stretch of the season. Vucevic played 812 minutes last season as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers and he played 1,187 minutes as a junior at USC.

``I’m holding up pretty well,’’ Vucevic said. ``I’m just taking care of my body, resting and sleeping right. It’s a lot of minutes, but I’m fine.’’

HAVING FUN AGAIN: Buried on the bench for much of his time with the Milwaukee Bucks, Tobias Harris said he is having fun again while getting major minutes with the Magic.

The Magic acquired Harris, Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb last week at the NBA trade deadline in a deal with the Bucks for J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith.

In his first three games with the Magic, Harris played 28.7 minutes a game. Comparatively, he played less than 13 minutes a night in 28 games with the Bucks. He’s made the most with his time with the Magic, averaging 17.7 points while shooting 67.7 percent before Friday’s game.

``It’s been fun being out there with the guys again. I’m enjoying the game and it’s a nice to be playing again,’’ Harris said. ``My expectation was to come here and show my game and show what I can do. I’m a scorer and I’ve always been a scorer. But my goal is still to turn these games into wins.’’

Harris admitted that after playing sparingly as a rookie and then falling out of favor with Milwaukee coaches Scott Skiles and then Jim Boylan that his spirits were down. But he said he was revived by the trade to Orlando and the chance to show that he can play at a high level.

``It’s just another new opportunity for me and I’m really grateful for it,’’ Harris said. ``It’s hard when you are on the bench every night and not playing. But I have that love for the game and I don’t take it for granted.’’

ETC: Magic veteran point guard Jameer Nelson missed his fifth consecutive game on Friday night because of a bruised patellar tendon in his left knee. He suffered the injury in a scrum for a loose ball last week in Dallas. Nelson has missed 16 games this season – six with a strained groin, one with Achilles tendinitis, two with a sore left hip, two with a forearm contusion and five with the patellar tendon soreness. … Per research done by Fox Sports Florida play-by-play announcer David Steele, Friday’s game was the first of his career (regular season) for Houston point guard Jeremy Lin against Orlando. Lin played previously with the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks before signing a free-agent deal with the Rockets over the summer. Lin did not face the Magic last season when he became an overnight sensation for the Knicks. … The Magic host the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday at 6 p.m. The Grizzlies toppled the Magic 88-82 in Memphis last Friday. After Sunday’s game, Orlando plays in New Orleans on Monday and in Miami on Wednesday.

MORE STORIES: Harris Finds Inspiration From Father; Thriving in Orlando | Udrih Relieved to be Out of Milwaukee

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