Afflalo set to make Magic debut against former teammates

Shooting guard blossomed in three seasons with Nuggets prior to offseason trade
by Aaron Lopez

With Andre Iguodala’s return to Philadelphia behind them, the Nuggets headed to Orlando for stop No. 2 on their early season reunion tour.

The Nuggets look to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the 76ers when they face former teammate Arron Afflalo and the Orlando Magic at Amway Center (5 p.m. MT, Altitude TV) on Friday.

Afflalo played three seasons in Denver, averaging a career-high 15.2 points in 2011-12, before moving to Orlando as part of the four-team trade that sent Iguodala from the Sixers to the Nuggets.

Forward Al Harrington also went from Denver to Orlando in the deal, but he is sidelined indefinitely while recovering from offseason knee surgery.

“It will be different facing those guys, but we’ve got a lot to focus on here,” Afflalo told reporters in Orlando. “Honestly, I haven’t given (Denver) much thought, other than the fact that they are going to be a really good transition team. That’s really it.”

After spending his first two seasons as a reserve in Detroit, Afflalo emerged as a dependable starter for the Nuggets. He was a valuable perimeter defender who also developed into a consistent 3-point threat.

“Coach (George) Karl and that whole bunch, they gave me a great opportunity,” Afflalo said. “Initially it was a defensive thing, trying to fill that void that Dahntay Jones had left the year that they went to the Western Conference finals.

“I was able to take advantage of that opportunity of starting and expanding my role within the limits they had given me. And over three years it progressed. It was a good time for me, but again this one (in Orlando) is even better. I’m excited about it.”

Fittingly, Afflalo likely will start Friday's game matched up against Iguodala. Both are lanky wings who can cover point guards, shooting guards or small forwards, if necessary. That could present some interesting cross-matchups as the game goes on.

“Coach Karl loved to go small at times, playing (former power forward) Nene at the five and (small forward) Danilo Gallinari at the four,” Afflalo said. “There were opportunities playing the three, and I can guard most threes. That’s the reality of it.”

While there are certain to be some hugs and handshakes before the game, the Nuggets will be more concerned about erasing the memory of their 84-75 loss to Philadelphia.

Denver committed 22 turnovers and fell behind by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter before rallying within one with 4:41 remaining. The Nuggets went 33-for-88 (.375) from the field, including 4-for-18 from 3-point range.

“I think the video will show that it was one of those tough games,” Karl said. “Finding confidence was very difficult offensively. Philadelphia did a great job of defending us most of the night.

“I thought we had our opportunities to catch up, and the situation was pretty impressive on our part for that. It’s pretty clear we have some work to do, and I think our guys are up for the challenge.”