Denton: Spoelstra Has Great Respect for Afflalo

By John Denton
Jan. 4, 2014

ORLANDO – One of the negatives against Arron Afflalo possibly getting his first-ever All-Star Game appointment is the Orlando Magic’s record as they rebuild. But coaches throughout the NBA continue to overlook that record and point to the stellar play from the Magic’s standout shooting guard.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was the latest opposing coach to laud Afflalo for his dazzling play this season. Afflalo is averaging career bests in points (21.4 ppg.), rebounds (4.4 rpg.), assists (4.0 apg.) and 3-point shooting (43.5 percent).

Spoelstra marveled at the growth that Afflalo has made as a player throughout his seven-year NBA career. Afflalo has boosted his scoring average each NBA season and he has morphed into a go-to scorer for Orlando this season.

``He’s a physical player and he’s really improved,’’ Spoelstra said. ``When he came into the league he was a slasher and a driver, an offensive rebounder and a hustle guy. Now he can beat you in the post with his size and his skills. Also, he’s vastly improved his 3-point shooting which makes you have to guard him out there. And with his physicality and athleticism off the drive, it just makes him more dangerous.’’

Afflalo had a five-game streak where he scored at least 20 points while shooting at least 50 percent from both the floor and 3-point range. He’s one of just 11 NBA players to accomplish that feat since the 1985-86 season. However, Afflalo struggled the past two games as teams have sent more double teams and hard traps his way. He said it’s on him to figure out ways to beat the ramped up defensive intensity.

``As the season has progressed, it’s gotten tougher and tougher with teams trying to take me out of the hot spots,’’ Afflalo said. ``I’ve got to make some adjustments and at this point I don’t have any choice but to be as efficient as possible. Hopefully I can take advantage of the opportunities that are given, even if they are limited. I just have to play through it.’’

MEMORIES OF TURKOGLU: Upon arriving in Orlando on Friday, Rashard Lewis hopped in a taxi to go get some dinner and the driver – a diehard Orlando Magic fan – began chatting Lewis up about glory days that Lewis had with Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando.

The conversation brought a big smile to Lewis’ face as he thought about the playmaking skills and good-hearted humor of Turkoglu. Turkoglu was already in Lewis’ thoughts after the small forward was formally waived by the Magic on Friday. Turkoglu, who was with the Magic nine years over two stints, remained on Orlando’s roster this season but was not with the team because of a mutual agreement between him and the team.

Lewis, who starred for the Magic from 2007-11 and a starter for the season time this season on Saturday for the Miami Heat, said his memories of Turkoglu will always be positive.

``He was a funny guy and a great teammate and someone who helped us get to the Finals,’’ Lewis said of Orlando’s 2009 playoff run. ``He was most definitely a matchup problem every night running the pick-and-roll for us. He would throw lobs to Dwight (Howard) and get me the ball for 3-pointers. And he would finish himself if the defense didn’t collapse on him. He just had an all-around game and he was hard to guard. He created problems for other teams and helped us get to that next level.’’

Lewis became the first power forward in NBA history to lead the NBA in 3-point makes with 226 in 2007-08. Many of those looks came off feeds from Turkoglu, so Lewis said he owes much of the success during his time in Orlando to his former teammate.

``We played off each other and we were that three-four combination where they didn’t know where to put the (power forward) on him or me,’’ Lewis said. ``There was always a problem with one of us for other teams and we made it work.’’