For the first time in a long time, the Magic are relying on rookies to carry a significant load early in the season.
DeQuan Jones became the first Magic rookie to start a game since Courtney Lee in 2009 (Daniel Orton was technically not a rookie last year although Basketball-Reference lists him as one). Of course, it took Lee 30 games before he cracked the starting lineup for the first time. Jones' start in the second game of the year is the earliest a rookie has started for the Magic since Dwight Howard started on opening night in 2004.
"Life is good isn’t it?" coach Jacque Vaughn said about giving DeQuan Jones his first start Sunday. "Take advantage of the opportunity life puts in front of you. Relish those opportunities, and I think he will."
Jones did that. He played a shade more than 16 minutes and scored two points on 1-for-3 shooting. He made hardly much of an impact -- his role is to do more of the nitty grittyintangible things that do not end up in a stat sheet. It was a quiet and solid debut.
The team's other rookies too made quiet, subtle impacts in their first action in the NBA.
And while Maurice Harkless did not make his NBA debut this weekend in the first two games of the season, Jacque Vaughn anticipates bringing into a game soon. Andrew Nicholson played 18 minutes in the two games this weekend, both at critical junctures in the third quarter where he got a taste of NBA life. Kyle O'Quinn stepped in during the foruth quarters for five minutes in the two games.
Rookies are going to be an important part of the Magic's future in 2013 and beyond. And the injuries are working to push them along a bit sooner than expected.
Jacque Vaughn said his goal with the rookies is to put them in positions where they can succeed. And so their progress may initially be a bit slow. But expect their minutes to slowly increase. Especially with the injuries hitting this roster. An opportunity to learn on the job and get game experience is presenting itself. It just depends on how Vaughn wants to bring them along and the situations he wants to put them in.
Vaughn said after Sunday's game that he was happy to get Jones the 16 minutes he got and allow him slowly to regain his timing. Especially since Josh McRoberts was able to provide good minutes at small forward in Sunday's win, it allowed Vaughn to make that slow transition for Jones and likely Harkless as they get back.
For these young players, there is a lot of learning by listening and a lot of work in practice to do and glean. Harkless said the veterans have told him to go out and play like you are not afraid to make mistakes. Harkless said the veterans advised him to play hard and play through everything when he finally gets out there.
Andrew Nicholson echoed similar advice from the Magic's veterans. He said veterans advised him to play hard and stay focused on the reason he is in Orlando -- to help the team win.
Undoubtedly having these veteran players showing them the ropes seems to have rubbed off on them already even before they get meaningful minutes.
It is a wealth of new experiences and perhaps Vaughn's advice for his rookies entering their first opening night echoed what he said about DeQuan Jones' first start Sunday:
"Enjoy the now. There is only one now. Enjoy it. It will never come again. Can’t simulate, can’t repeat it. We’re not in an era where we time capsule. Enjoy the now," Jacque Vaughn said.
I'm a new Magic fan this year as a graduate of St. Bonaventure. I didn't have an NBA team and now that Andrew Nicholson got taken I, like many other graduates who didn't follow the NBA as closely have become Orlando fans.
I have been somewhat disappointed over the first three games with Nicholson's minutes, and was hoping he would be in the team's early rotation a bit more. He seems to only get clock during the late third quarter. Do Magic fans think this will change? Are expectations on him not as high as I think they are? He was a killer in college and has a versatile offensive game if given the chance. I'm assuming they are just easing him into the system and he will get more time as the year goes on but right now I think he's being under-used.
My observations on the Magic thus far: Redick is a nice NBA player as is Affalo...both can run hot and cold. Davis is going to shoot a garbage FG% and is very selfish in the half-court; he thinks he's a guard at times. I like Moore a lot, he was good at Purdue and finally Ayon is complete trash, I have no idea why he gets any time.
@Ianrnolan Appreciate you coming on board. I have spoken to a lot of St. Bonaventure fans and even some Norfolk State fans (for Kyle O'Quinn) and they are excited to see their alums play in the NBA.
I would say be patient. Nicholson is going to get more playing time as the season goes on. Jacque Vaughn, as I mentioned in this post, is trying to bring the rookies along slowly and build their confidence by playing them in situations where they can succeed. Trust me, Magic fans are frustrated that Maurice Harkless, who is apparently ready to play, has not stepped on the court yet after his injury. Vaughn does not want to throw people out there before they are ready.
Nicholson has done a lot that is really good. He is a really smart post player and has good court sense. He needs to increase his strength, but that comes in the course of a season and offseason. Nicholson's defense and post defense has really impressed me so far. He is really smart in how he uses his weight and leverage to battle down low. I suspect we will see Nicholson's minutes increase as the season goes on. He got into the game during the first half last night in Chicago and his role is slowly expanding. He has pushed Josh McRoberts to the three in the Magic's rotation. Vaughn is trying to get him out there.
@Philip R-R @Ianrnolan Thanks for the reply and insight on Nicholson. I think what Magic fans will find in Andrew (I have watched literally every game of his career) is that he can pick up some cheap fouls and he may struggle to guard more powerful forwards, BUT, he can make up for his lack of size and strength with his long wingspan and footwork.
Offensively, Andrew has a variety of offensive moves and his footwork is top rate for a rookie. He is NOT a project by any means. He can shoot it up to 19-20 feet and play the pick and pop game (though ORL doesn't seem to run the pick and roll a lot). I don't think he's a star in the league but I do think he is a credible NBA forward who will shoot a much higher FG% than Davis, that's for sure.
I think you are correct in saying they are going to bring him along slowly, which makes sense. No one wants to fail right away, so put him in a position to succeed. Also, if the team heads the other way and becomes the doormat of the East, I expect his minutes to increase and for veterans to find a place on the bench...allowing Nicholson, Harkless, etc. to see more time and develop.
I also think trading Davis to a playoff team would be wise. The Magic need to determine if they want to fully rebuild or try and contend. Right now they are in the middle. Davis, and someone like Redick would have good value on the market for a team who is close to contending.
@Ianrnolan Trading Davis is easier said than done. He still has two years left on his deal after this one. Going to be tough to move him. Redick seems more likely to be moved. The Magic want to create a winning culture while maintaining draft position. It is a very awkward position for the franchise and fans.
I think as the season goes on, we will see the rookies get more playing time. I have not talked to a single person who does not think Nicholson will make it in the league and have a role in this team's future. We all really like his game. His post game is really developed and he is really smart with the ball. Right now, for him, it is about increasing his strength and getting used to the speed of the game. He will get there and I think he will be part of the full rotation probably by the All-Star break at the latest.