Rivers: "Vucevic is an All-Star"

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By John Denton
Nov. 19, 2014

ORLANDO – Watching Orlando Magic game footage in preparation for Wednesday’s night game, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he learned something that the rest of the NBA should be made well aware of.

``Vucevic is an all-star and a terrific player,’’ raved Rivers, referring to Magic center Nikola Vucevic. ``He’s probably the best player in the league that nobody knows. I don’t think you hear anybody talking about him, but when you look at his raw numbers they are superstar and all-star worthy, but nobody knows it.’’

Vucevic, who hammered Rivers’ Clippers for 30 points and 21 rebounds early last season, came into Tuesday’s game averaging a career best 18.8 points a game. Also, he is tied for first in the NBA in double-doubles (eight) and he’s second in rebounding (11.8) – trailing only Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan (12.4 rpg.).

Vucevic, who owns the Magic’s all-time record-holder for rebounds in a game with 29, said that when he’s facing another strong rebounder – such as Jordan on Wednesday or Detroit’s Andre Drummond two days earlier – he has to change his mindset somewhat. Rather than trying to simply corral every rebound he can get his hands on, Vucevic said boxing out becomes more important and his mission comes down to not letting the other team’s big man have success on the glass.

``I do have to really focus against a really good offensive rebounder like (Jordan) because he’s going to go so hard to the rim,’’ Vucevic said. ``A lot of times it’s going to just be more against him trying to box him out and keep him off the boards. I might not get the rebound, but my team gets it. That’s my focus – keeping that player off the focus and knowing that my team will grab the rebounds.’’

Vucevic’s combination of rebounding and his growth as a consistent threat from the low post has made him become one of the game’s best big men, Rivers said.

``He has a great offensive package,’’ Rivers said. ``He’s a great post player with his back (to the basket) and he can face up and make jump shots. He’s a good player.’’

FOURNIER INJURED: The Magic were without one of their most important pieces, guard Evan Fournier, on Wednesday night because of a left heel injury.

Fournier injured himself early in the second half on Monday night when he drove hard to the rim and Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope landed on the back of his foot. Fournier limped on the foot briefly, but stayed in the game and ended up contributing 14 points, eight assists and three 3-pointers.

Fournier, who had a large icepack on his foot following Monday’s game, went through a warm-up session on Wednesday, but was in too much pain to play. That was a big-time blow for Orlando considering Fournier’s production during a breakout season. In 12 games, he’s averaging 17.3 points a game while shooting 50.9 percent from 3-point range and 48 percent from the floor.

``He went through warm-ups today and he’s just not where he needs to be,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``I’m hoping so (it’s a one-game absence). He went through warm-ups and was going to try and give it a go, but he’s not comfortable giving it a go. And neither am I.’’

BIG BABY BACK: Wednesday’s game was the first back at the Amway Center for Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis since the power forward was waived by the Magic last February. Davis played for the Magic for 2 ½ seasons and averaged a career-best 15.1 points per game during 2012-13 season before fracturing a bone in the outside of his foot.

After his release from the Magic, Davis rejoined Rivers – his former coach in Boston – with the Clippers. Davis said that looking back on his time in Orlando he was happy about the opportunity given, but he admitted all of the losing wore on him.

``The growth process for me as a player, coming from a contender team like Boston and the next thing you know you are playing for a team that is barely winning games,’’ Davis said. ``I appreciate (winning) more now from going through that. It’s tough mentally losing games back-to-back and not really understanding which way we’re going. It’s tough to not play for something. My whole career leading up to that, I always played for something and played for something bigger. To go through that, it strains you.’’

ETC: Willie Green, who spent the previous two seasons with the Clippers, got the start on Wednesday night in place of the injured Fournier. Los Angeles released Green in the offseason, hoping to slide him through waivers and eventually bring him back to the team at a lower salary. However, the Magic claimed him off waivers so that they could have his veteran presence in the locker room and on the floor. Rivers said that he’s already told Green that he can have a spot on his coaching staff once his career is over. … Magic forward Tobias Harris has worked hard to become a more complete player and his line from Monday night – 24 points, five steals, five rebounds, four assists and three 3-pointers – reflected his growth as an effective player in other areas than just scoring. Harris said that while he was proud of his statistics from that game, his focus was solely on trying to help Orlando win games. Said Harris: ``More importantly, it came in a win. It’s about myself making those plays for our team and when it helps lead us to a victory, that’s the biggest thing for me. I evaluate our team on every game – and not just myself – and I want to be that voice out there for us to continue to move (the ball) and continue to have fun playing with each other.’’ … Even though the Magic have played the most road games in the NBA – they are 3-5 in eight road games – they will leave town again on Thursday to play in Charlotte on Friday night. Following a home game on Saturday against the Miami Heat, the Magic will play a 10th road game in Cleveland on Monday.

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