Marreese Speights Best on Magic at Drawing Charges
By John Denton
Feb. 10, 2018
ORLANDO – Some coaches and analysts call the act of taking a charge – a defensive tactic that takes skill, courage and salesmanship – the ``most selfless act in basketball’’ because the defender is completely giving himself up for the good of his team.
While Orlando Magic center/power forward Marreese Speights isn’t the grittiest of defenders, he is certainly a crafty one who uses his basketball IQ and toughness to gain any edges he can find on that end of the floor.
Speights, a 10-year NBA veteran, headed into Saturday’s home game against Milwaukee having drawn a whopping 17 charges this season. That total ranks sixth in the NBA – trailing only Kyle Lowry (25), DeMarcus Cousins (24), Ersan Ilysova (20), Kemba Walker (18) and Quincy Acy (18) – despite playing just 13.2 minutes per game. When factoring Speights’ work out over 36 minutes a game, he would rank first in the league (1.1 a game) among players who have appeared in at least 10 games.
``It (speaks to his basketball IQ) and it speaks to his finding a way to win,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said of the veteran big man, who has also averaged 7.8 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 36.5 percent from 3-point range. ``He knows that he’s not a pogo-stick shot blocker and that he’s got to get the job done with body position. He’s effective with it.’’
Speights’ 17 charges taken are nearly as many as all of his Magic teammates combined this season. D.J. Augustin is second with five, while Aaron Gordon is third with four. Jonathon Simmons has drawn three charges, Shelvin Mack and Jonathan Isaac have taken two each and four players have one.
GORDON GETTING CLOSER: Gordon missed his seventh straight game on Saturday – far longer than he ever thought he’d be out with a strained left hip flexor – but he is inching closer to a return.
Gordon went through the non-contact portions of practice on Friday and then got in a spirited post-practice shooting session. He worked out again with the Magic on Saturday morning and could be cleared to play as soon as Monday if he continues to be pain free.
``I feel pretty good, I got in an extra workout with some resistance and some contact. And I did the full-court stuff and it feels good,’’ Gordon said. ``I’ll practice a couple of times and I’ll be back playing.’’
Gordon, Orlando’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, injured himself late in the Jan. 27 loss in Indiana when he was chucked by a defender as he was sliding laterally, causing him to wrench his body in a way that put strain on his hip. He’s had to miss 16 games on the season because of ankle, calf, hip and concussion injuries – something that greatly irks him.
``I just don’t like missing games,’’ he said. ``It’s just on me to be more diligent with my body so that things like this don’t happen and manage my workload so that I can be out there to help my team. I’m not help to my team when I’m not playing. It’s tough to watch, but I’ve got to be (patient).’’
Nikola Vucevic (fractured hand), Isaac (ankle rehabilitation) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain) also continue to be out. Vucevic and Isaac are back practicing with contact, but the veteran center is the closest to a return. Ross, who has been out since Nov. 29, has resumed sprinting and shooting drills, but likely won’t be cleared to play again until March.
AUGUSTIN ADJUSTING: With the trading of Elfrid Payton on Thursday to the Phoenix Suns, Augustin saw his minutes jump to 35 minutes in the 100-98 defeat of the Atlanta Hawks. Augustin professed to being quite sore after that seeing the extra time in his 18-point and nine-assist night.
Augustin isn’t about to complain about the extra playing time and likes that he factors heavily into Orlando’s plans for the rest of the season. He wasn’t always sure of that last season – his first in Orlando – after being in and out of the rotation at various times.
As his usage has become more consistent this season – one in which he’s averaged 8.8 points and 3.2 assists in 20.7 minutes a game – so has his production. A better comfort in Vogel’s system has allowed his to flourish this season.
``It’s hard when you come off the bench and sometimes your minutes are up and down and you never really get that consistency,’’ Augustin said. ``This season, I’m trying to be consistent with my shot and take good shots to keep my percentages high. Those are the things that I’ve tried to work on to be more consistent.’’
UP NEXT: Orlando will hit the road on Sunday for snowy Chicago where it will face the Bulls on Monday night.
Despite openly being in a rebuilding phase, the Bulls have won both meetings against the Magic this season. Chicago won 105-83 in Orlando on Nov. 3 and captured a 112-94 decision in the Windy City on Dec. 20.
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