The Orlando Magic split their mid-level exception this summer on former New York Knicks teammates Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson, and while evaluating those transactions based on four games that don't count for anything would be foolish, it's apparent that both players have the potential to help the team.
Coach Stan Van Gundy, a longtime admirer of Richardson's. Following last night's exhibition win against the Charlotte Bobcats, in which Richardson contributed 15 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. He praised Richardson's ability to grasp the team's concepts on the fly, calling him "a guy you know you can trust on the floor."
But Richardson didn't have as great a reputation a few years ago because, Van Gundy says, "his conditioning wasn't as good." Upon joining the Miami Heat last season, he got in much better shape, something that's carried over to this year. "I don't think there's ever been any question about his ability to play, his toughness, his competitiveness, his leadership..." he said. "We were very, very fortunate to get him [in free agency]."
For his part, Richardson says learning the Magic's system was a breeze. "Basically a lot of the things are similar to the things I got used to in Miami, as far as the offense, and the schemes, and stuff like that," the 10-year veteran said. "Especially on defense." But he declined to take all the credit for his quick assimilation, saying, "these teammates have made it easier, as well as the coaching staff."
Richardson said he's dropped from "about 259 [pounds]" upon joining the Heat to 227 pounds now, as well as 7 percent of his body-fat, thanks to intense workouts with a personal trainer, whom he still texts to say "thank you." The "drastic and dramatic" change in his body is readily apparent to his friends and family, who are often surprised to see his new figure.
Upon Richardson's signing, Kelly Dwyer wrote that he could be "a solid minutes-sopper on the wing," but only "if he returns [to camp] slimmed down." That has indeed been the case. Last night's game brought his preseason average to 9 points and 4.3 rebounds on 53.9 percent True Shooting.
In tallying 5 points and 6 assists to just 2 turnovers, Duhon played one of his best games with the Magic. Van Gundy praised Duhon for "[running] the team well" and for "[getting] us organized," especially in light of the fact that both he and Jameer Nelson have had to play almost every possession at point guard in the team's three-and-a-half-hour practices for the last several days, with Duhon yet to get a night off.
Those practices are having a positive effect on the Duke product. "The intensity in practice is so high that when we go to the games, it's just normal," he said. It's not something he's been used to of late. "[Practicing this hard] isn't new," he told me, noting that he often felt prepared playing under coach Scott Skiles in Chicago. "It wasn't as much like that in New York," he said, calling the Magic's intensity "refreshing." He also said that he feels much better prepared with regard to "what's coming at me and how we're going to defend it" in Orlando.
That level of preparation is helping Duhon "almost get into cruise control" after playing the last game at "150 miles per hour." Duhon estimated that he'll "be completely comfortable" after one more exhibition game.
Duhon wasn't alone in briefly contrasting the Magic's approach with the Knicks'. Rather bluntly, Richardson said, "I was in a situation where it was all bad for 4 years, so for me to be here, it's definitely a blessing."