After a rare day off Sunday, the Orlando Magic returned to the Amway Center practice floor Monday morning. They don't play until Wednesday, and the break in the game schedule gives coach Jacque Vaughn an opportunity to address, in depth, some of the team's issues.
"It gives us a chance to clean up some things, gives us a little time to do that, which is good," Vaughn said of the long layoff. "[It] gives us a chance to get up and down and compete a little bit too, which I'm looking forward to seeing. And it also gives us a chance to put a few more things in [the playbook], not overwhelm the guys, but moreso clean up the stuff we already had in."
Here's a look at the stories that developed Monday
Nelson responds to benching like "a great teammate"
Vaughn made the surprising decision Saturday to bench team co-captain Jameer Nelson, Orlando's starting point guard, for the final 17:23 of the team's loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Vaughn preferred to have rookie guard Victor Oladipo, who is transitioning to point guard, handle the playmaking duties.
"The ball was in his hands against Dallas," Vaughn said. "We made them react to us. They started double-teaming him and so we were able to dictate a little bit, so that was positive for us."
Nelson, by all accounts, handled the decision well. "He cheered his team on and he wanted us to win and there's no doubt in my mind that he's a great teammate," Vaughn said. The coach added that he'll determine who gets crunch-time minutes at point guard on a game-to-game basis.
Nelson politely declined to speak to the media after Saturday's game, so Monday was his first opportunity to publicly face questions about the situation.
"I wanted to be on the court," Nelson said. "Coach decided not to play me, and that's his decision. I can only play the minutes that he gives me, play them hard as I can, and leave it out there for those minutes. It's his decision who's gonna play the minutes and when they're gonna play them. It's our job as players to, like I said, play the minutes as best we can."
Nelson declined to reveal whether he spoke to Vaughn about the benching.
"I never have, and I never will, tell you what's going on internally," Nelson said. "If I need to go talk to Coach at any given time, I will. If I don't need to go talk to him, I won't.
"Even if I did, or I didn't, I wouldn't tell you," he said with a wink, ending his remarks.
Teaching moment for rookie
Oladipo faced a big test Saturday against Dallas, shouldering the playmaking load down the stretch of a close game, but he did not pass with flying colors. He committed five of his game-high nine turnovers in that 17:23 stint, undermining an otherwise solid Magic comeback effort.
But Vaughn and the Magic as an organization have a long game to play here. They believe in Oladipo as a point guard and know he needs in-game repetitions, so to speak, at that spot in order to develop.
"That's our thought process," Vaughn said. "What are we, 10 games in? So 10 games from now, hopefully he learned from that Dallas game and he moves forward and he's better 10 games from now."
Oladipo agrees with his coach. "When I'm in that position again I'll know just how to act, what to say, even what plays to run," he said.
There's no way any practice session, no matter how intense, can duplicate the in-game sensation of leading a comeback effort on one's home floor. And even if there were, it'd still only be practice. That's why it's important to Oladipo to get in-game seasoning. On-the-job training, if you will.
"It's not only the physical part of getting it done, but the mental part of what happens next," Vaughn said. "'Can I play forward? Am I worried about the play behind?' All that is part of growth."
Oladipo said he watched film of his performance Sunday. What did he see?
"Me trying to make plays that aren't there," the Indiana product said. "I just gotta simplify it, really [....] a lot of the turnovers were me falling and stuff like that. I can't really do anything about that. But the other ones, where I throw it away, I can have control of those. It's all correctable, really, and that's all that matters."
Injured players return to practice
Vaughn said Monday he's eager to work Glen Davis and Tobias Harris, the Magic's injured power forwards, back into practice, and practice days are in strong supply: Orlando has two days before its next game, Wednesday against the Miami Heat, and another two days between that game and the next one, with which to prepare.
Neither Davis nor Harris has played in 2013/14. Davis had surgery on his left foot in July, while Harris sustained a high left ankle sprain in the preseason.
"Hopefully we can give those guys some more and hopefully we can get to the point of getting them up and down this week," Vaughn said.
Harris, the Magic's leading scorer a year ago, is just as eager to see himself back as his coach is.
"To get out there will be good, just to see how it feels," Harris said.
Key to Harris' recovery, apart from strengthening the ankle, is getting into game shape. "I think that I'm a player that feeds off of how much energy I can play with out there on the floor," Harris said. Harris' conditioning, he said, "will determine when I can get out there and play."
There is still no firm timetable for either player's return to game action--and the Magic never make such information publicly available, in order to avoid placing undue pressure on their players--but the week of practice time ahead will certainly aid the two power forwards as they work their way back.