One day after defeating the New Orleans Pelicans for their first win of the season (game recap, post-game notebook), the Orlando Magic took the practice floor Saturday to prepare for Sunday's visit from the star-laden Brooklyn Nets. Here's the news from the Magic's practice court at Amway Center.
Davis closer to returning
Magic big man Glen Davis, who's been out since January with a broken bone in his left foot, was in uniform for the Magic's practice Saturday. Orlando won't go full-contact in that session, so his return to game action is not imminent, but he is nonetheless progressing in his rehabilitation efforts.
"I've been cleared," Davis said. "It's just I haven't played since January. So I gotta take my time, you know. Take my time." He later said, "I'll be out there when I feel good."
Davis appears to be in great shape. His eventual return to the floor will be a boon to a Magic team that's dealing with injuries to power forwards Solomon Jones and Tobias Harris.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn did not have an update on Harris' status, but said he would check with the team's medical staff later in the day. Harris has a sprained left ankle and has yet to play in 2013/14, while Jones suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and will be out indefinitely.
A formidable foe
The Nets moved to Brooklyn with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson in tow, but failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Coming off that defeat, the team acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry via trade with the Boston Celtics, and then added Andrei Kirilenko in free agency. The Nets' starters earn more than the Magic's entire roster, and Orlando will face a severe deficit in terms of raw talent Sunday.
"Obviously they made some good moves this summer and they got a lot of good veteran players on their team," Magic center Nikola Vučević said, quietly understating Brooklyn's offseason haul.
While Davis acknowledged the strength of the Nets' top-line stars, he made sure to point out that their complementary players are skilled contributors too.
"I think they really got a lot of good added bonus players that do really, really well," Davis said, specifically mentioning Kirilenko, shooting guard Alan Anderson, big man Andray Blatche, and point guard Shaun Livingston.
The Magic's Arron Afflalo doesn't seem to be sweating the matchup. "Most teams in the NBA probably don't have the accomplishments or the experiences of the Nets," he said, "but most teams generally have good players all around the court." The veteran swingman said Sunday's game will be "a good challenge for us."
Vaughn has a longstanding relationship with Nets coach Jason Kidd. The two played against each other in high school in California--Vaughn played for John Muir High in Pasadena, whereas Kidd attended Saint Joseph in Alameda--and the two were teammates for two seasons with the then-New Jersey Nets. But Vaughn, in his second season at the Magic's helm, doesn't have any advice for Kidd, who makes his Nets coaching début Sunday after serving a two-game suspension.
"Absolutely nothing," Vaughn said when asked what wisdom he had to offer his former teammate. "I'm trying to beat him tomorrow."
The Nets made headlines for hiring Kidd as coach just 10 days after he announced his retirement from playing. Vaughn believes he will excel in the role.
"If the criteria [for a coach] was a guy who is a leader, who knows the game, who can communicate and relate to guys, then he definitely checks all those boxes," Vaughn said.
Harkless making strides
Second-year forward Maurice Harkless excelled in Friday's win against the Pelicans, scoring 20 points and snaring eight rebounds. He turned heads with his performance. Afflalo, whose locker stall is next to Harkless', takes pride in the youngster's development.
"He's young and he's growing," Afflalo said of the 20-year-old New Yorker. "At times, he can be stubborn, but he's also very open. A very willing listener as well. It's fun to see him grow a little bit and have a game like he did yesterday."
Vaughn believes that Harkless' maturity has enabled him to grow as a player.
"Usually when we say 'development,' everyone thinks [about] the physical skills on the floor, whether its free-throw shooting, ballhandling, jump hooks, things of that nature," Vaughn said, asked specifically about Harkless' improvement. "But there's a mental aspect to the game also. If you can improve that part of an individual, then that helps the physical."
Odds and ends
- Afflalo took responsibility for the "horrible miscommunication" which led to Kevin Love hitting a three-pointer to force overtime in Orlando's loss to Minnesota on Wednesday. Zach Harper of ESPN 1500 broke down the play here.
"I just felt terrible about that, not being more mindful in that moment so that their best player didn't get that shot off," Afflalo said. The Magic planned to switch every screen on the play, even before the ball was inbounded, and Afflalo erred in calling for one particular switch, a mistake which contributed to Love's wide-open shot.
- Vaughn is trying to instill a defensive mindset in his team, saying that his team needs to "glorify" that aspect of the game, which by its very nature is not as fun as playing offense. "Defense does matter for our team to be successful," Vaughn said. "And that goes for every guy. When different individuals accept that, a lot of times a team can flourish."
- Jones is unable to participate in practice, but he helped during Saturday's session by rebounding for players as they shot free throws.