Jeff Turner: Could Magic be legit playoff contender?
FOXSportsFlorida.com checks in with color analyst Jeff Turner to get the latest on the Magic.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: What do you see as the reason why Arron Afflalo has become such a prolific scorer in the early going of the season?
JEFF TURNER: You listen to him talk about the work that he put in — not just on his game, but his conditioning and physically getting stronger, doing a lot of cross-training. What I’ve noticed, though, is a comfort level with the guys. Last year, Arron came in and tried to be the go-to guy. And he had never been in that position before. Mentally, he is competing right now at such a higher level. A lot of NBA coaches use the word “motor.” When he’s on the floor, his motor is always going from a competitive standpoint. He wants the ball. He wants to take the big shots. So what you’re seeing is the hard work combined with that. And the results are the numbers he’s putting up and the way that he’s playing.
FSFla: Were you surprised to see Victor Oladipo become a starter after coming off the bench during the first 10 games? And what does this mean going forward for him?
JT: Not really surprised. Victor’s one of those guys that the more minutes he plays, it’s going to accelerate the learning curve for him. There’s so much natural ability and talent that he has. So you want him on the floor. You live with the mistakes. Over the last few games, those mistakes — the over-penetration, the getting caught in double teams — we’re seeing less and less of that. He said after the (Nov. 26) game (a 109-92 win at Atlanta) that the game’s slowing down a little bit for him. He’s not rushing. And that’s normal for most young players.
FSFla: What does the return of Glen Davis from a foot injury mean for this team, on offense and on defense?
JT: Offensively, he gives you a big body. He takes up space in the post. I think he’s a guy that teams have to gameplan for now as a low-post player, much like they’re starting to adjust to (Nikola) Vucevic a little bit in the post. When he gets his conditioning and gets healthy … I thought last year, he was one of our best pick-and-roll defenders before he got hurt. I think he’s still working himself into condition right now. But the ability to step up, clog the lane, communicate — he can do those things, and he can help improve our defense.
FSFla: Going into last Friday, there were only two teams with winning records in the Eastern Conference. Do you have any explanation as to why there are so many sub-.500 teams thus far?
JT: I’ve been intrigued by that. And I’ve looked back over the last couple years. If you just look at the East vs. the West, what I saw was the number of teams in the East that had winning records against the West was pretty comparable to right now. Over the last three or four years, there’s been about three or four Eastern teams that have winning records vs. the West and eight to nine Western teams have winning records (against the East), about half. You can argue that the two best teams in the NBA right now, in my opinion, are the Pacers and the Heat. And they’re in the Eastern Conference. So I don’t know. It doesn’t look good right now. The problem we’re looking at is the teams we thought were going to be powerhouses — the Knicks, the Nets, the Bulls — they’re not playing well.
FSFla: If this trend continues, can the Magic become a legitimate playoff contender?
JT: After about 30 games, another 15 games (from now), we’ll see what it all shakes out to be.