Jeff Turner Q&A: Reflections on Magic’s change to up-tempo style

Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton finished Sunday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with 19 points and eight assists.

John Raoux/AP

FOXSportsFlorida.com checks in with color analyst Jeff Turner to get the latest on the Magic. You can follow Turner on Twitter at @JTurnerMagic.

FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: From your perspective, what prompted the change in the Magic from a more deliberate, half-court offensive team to one which put up 120 or more points in victories over Chicago and Houston?

JEFF TURNER: My thought was in training camp, when I was watching them, that this is the way Jacque (Vaughn) and the coaching staff wanted to play. It’s just taken the players a while to maybe figure out what it’s going to look like on a night-to-night basis, to be able to run on makes and misses. Running on misses is a little easier because the defense is there. But running on makes — to me, that’s been the biggest difference, getting it out quick and going. A lot of that has to do with how you react when you get beat and somebody scores a bucket, to be able to take it out and get it going. And with a young team, one of the biggest things about running is it can’t just be the point guard. It can’t just be that person. If Luke (Ridnour), Elfrid (Payton) and Victor (Oladipo) push the ball and nobody’s running with them, there’s nobody to give the ball to. So it has to be a collective thing.

For whatever reason, at the end of the last road trip, it kind of all came together. I think they saw some positives. It looked to me like the players decided, "OK, we’ve got it. This is our identity. This is what we want to do."

FSF: So as far as the question of "Why now?", is that a reflection on how far Payton has come?

JT: I think so. My impression from listening to the players and everything was that Elfrid, from watching Luke in Portland (on Jan. 10) … For a while there, Luke was really trying to push the basketball. I think Elfrid wanted to but (was) not really sure in understanding what that might look like or even a comfort level. What it looks like, from my understanding, is that he said, "That’s the way I’ve got to play." And once he started, everybody kind of just (said), "OK, we’ll go."

The thing that impresses me about Elfrid is he’s so unselfish. And he’s got a great knack of finding open guys. So a lot of it too is guys figuring out, "OK, if I run, if I get to open spots, if I move, this kid’s going to get me the ball." But that comes through time, familiarity, getting to play, and understanding what he does and what he does well. That’s kind of a long-winded answer.

FSF: What happens when Tobias Harris comes back from his ankle injury and tries to fit in with this style of play?

Going up-tempo sometimes means going down hard for Magic

JT: I’ve said all along that I think Tobias is one of our better runners. I think Tobias will thrive in this because I feel like he’s always done a nice job of getting out and running, getting open looks and things like that. It’s a plus because Tobias has the ability to rebound the basketball and bring it himself. That could be a positive. I don’t see any letdowns. And when Aaron Gordon comes back (he played Sunday night against Oklahoma City), it fits perfectly with the way he would like to play and his skill set. So I don’t see anything changing with either of those guys back in the lineup.

FSF: Vaughn said that in Friday night’s loss to Memphis, he could have used a fully healthy Gordon to try slowing down Jeff Green of the Grizzlies. Have you found yourself in the past two months watching the Magic and thinking, "Boy, they sure could use Aaron against this guy or that team"?

JT: Absolutely, like (Sunday night). I was thinking to myself: You look at (Kevin) Durant. Who are you going to match up with Durant? This would be a great matchup where you can utilize Aaron with his size, length and quickness. Not that he can stop him, but physically he has the tools to defend him.

FSF: The Magic play the Grizzlies again next Monday night in Memphis. How do they go about imposing their will on them for a full four quarters, not just one, and continue to play the style that the Magic would prefer?

JT: I think it’s a challenge. When the game started slowing down is when Memphis began attacking and we were putting them on the (free-throw) line. We went through a little stretch where we didn’t make some shots and they created a little separation. But for the most part, they weren’t able to really get away from us. Since we started running, we got this new style. But we didn’t really struggle. Against Chicago, it worked — we scored get 121 points. You come back against Houston, and you get 120 and everything’s going well. So how does the team react when you’re playing this way and you’re not getting easy buckets and face a little adversity? All in all, I thought the response was pretty good. We were right there. Almost from the very beginning, you’ve just got to continue to keep attacking.

FSF: And it’s also going to be the Magic’s third game in four nights.

JT: That is the key. Looking ahead to the schedule, think about that. We’re here the night before against Indiana, another slow-paced team, a battle. And now you’ve got to get on the plane and fly three hours or whatever it is to Memphis and be ready to play the next night. That will be a very good test to see how this young team responds. That will be something they haven’t done playing this up-tempo style.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.