After playing two games with the Erie BayHawks, Orlando Magic rookie swingman Devyn Marble's returned to the big club Friday against the Brooklyn Nets. Marble had played just five minutes over five games before Friday, but he quadrupled his minutes total in one game, finishing with four points and four rebounds in just over 20 minutes of play. While his numbers may not jump off the page, Marble did have a significant impact on the game.
With the team struggling and things looking very bleak, head coach Jacque Vaughn went to a lineup that consisted of Elfrid Payton, Ben Gordon, Evan Fournier, Marble and Channing Frye that gave the team the spark to make a furious comeback attempt. Marble, who was tasked with playing the power forward spot due to the smaller lineup, drew one of the tougher matchups on the defensive end, having to guard Brooklyn's seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson. And Marble, who's got the length to be a very good defender, did an excellent job, holding Johnson to two points, both of which came form the free throw line.
After the game, Coach Vaughn was asked about Marble's performance, especially on defense. "He gave us some life on the defensive end of the floor," said Vaughn. "He stepped up to the challenge of defending an All-Star and life must be good. You come from Erie and play 21 minutes. Life's good."
Marble said that he didn't think too much about the fact that he was guarding an All-Star in Johnson and that he just "went out there and played basketball." He went on to talk about how he had to adjust to playing with some of the guys that he did, and that it was just nice to be out there with his teammates again after a long layoff.
When asked if he can make an impact on the defensive end even when his shot isn't falling, Marble said, "I think I can. I'm 6-foot-6, wiry, got the length. I've got all the tools, I'd just got to keep putting my mind to it and making sure I'm staying focused, watching film, and see how I can use what the other team is doing to my advantage."
While his impact wasn't felt much on the offensive end, his impact on the defensive end was one of the biggest keys to the team's comeback. Orlando has talked about wanting to buy in on the defensive end, so having a guy like Marble who can come in and lock people down, while also having upside offensively, could be big. Now Marble just has to prepare for the challenge of possibly guarding a handful of Charlotte Hornets wings Saturday night.
Over the last five to six games, we've begun to see the rookie point guard Payton look to score more. While he's limited in what he can do because of his poor shooting, his ability to get to the rim and finish there can be a big thing for the offense. Payton's looking to score forces defenses to play him tighter, and even collapse on him at times, which can open up passing lanes for Payton, and cutting lanes for his teammates.
Coach Vaughn attributed Payton's more aggressive nature to "a bit of everything," from scouting reports to how the defense's are playing him. "I think he's understanding how the defense is trying to play him, and he's getting more comfortable with getting the shots that he wants."
Payton's attacking nature was one of the biggest reasons the Magic were able to dominate the fourth quarter and make the game interesting late. Every time down it seemed as though Payton was driving to the bucket and either drawing contact, or kicking it out to an open shooter for a good look. After the game, Payton said he was trying to get into the paint and make the right read, be it taking his own shot, or kicking it out to an open shooting.
I asked Payton about his increased look to score. "Just whatever the team needs," said the rookie. "You know, that just comes from experience in the first unit, whether they need me to score or distribute, just trying to fill the game out each game."
Payton's looking to score gives the Magic another dynamic part to the offense. Opponents aren't able to sag off him and play four-on-five on the defensive end, which in turn makes everyone else on the court that much better. He's also been distributing the ball at a higher rate -- over the past six games he's averaged seven assists per. Things are going pretty well for the rookie right now.