NBA players were consumed by rumors and imagined scenarios last week, as the trade deadline approached and front offices shipped players around the league. But now comes the hard part for teams: trying to incorporate new players in the midst of a season.
Lineups have to change. Guys have to learn when and where certain players prefer the ball. Getting up to speed on defense is often a process, too, since figuring out which teammates are (and aren’t) capable of guarding opponents straight-up, without needing to switch, takes time. And while practice would be a great place to acquire that knowledge, day-to-day workouts are pretty scarce in the jam-packed NBA schedule once the preseason ends in October.
Which is why Orlando coach Frank Vogel sought to simplify things last week for swingman Terrence Ross, who had just joined the club from Toronto in exchange for Serge Ibaka. Vogel, shortly after coming out of a timeout in the Feb. 23 game against Portland, ran a double screen for Ross to get an open shot — and his first bucket as a member of the Magic.
After the three, Dante Marchitelli, a Magic sideline reporter for Fox Sports Florida, explained the genesis of the call: “During the timeout, coach Vogel told Terrence: ‘We’re gonna run this play, and it’s exactly the same play you ran in Toronto. Every time you ran it against me, you got a dunk or a three, so I expect exactly the same thing on this play.’ And lo and behold: wide open for a three there.”
I confirmed the on-air anecdote by looking at past games between Ross and Vogel. But interestingly, Ross and the Raptors didn’t use this play against the Magic this season. Which means that Vogel must be thinking back to at least last season, when he still coached the Pacers.
It also says something about Vogel’s memory that he remembered getting burned repeatedly by Ross whenever that play came up. Those recollections, paired with Ross’s 52 percent mark from 3-point range against the Magic this season, likely factored into the organization’s desire to acquire him.
Although Vogel’s playcall for Ross worked, the rest of the game against Portland highlighted that it may take some time for the 26-year-old to get a feel for the team. He shot just 4-of-17 in his Magic debut, with several of his jumpers looking rushed and out of rhythm. (Then again, he went 10-of-15 in his next game, so Ross may just be a hot-and-cold player.)
Still, there isn’t much pressure for Orlando in this situation. The Magic — better off losing at this point, for the sake of a higher draft pick — aren’t in the playoff race, so they can afford to give Ross reps regardless of whether he’s logging stellar outings. And because Ross is under contract for two more years, the team won’t have to make a decision on him anytime soon.
But thinking about how long it takes for players to adjust to a new setting and cast gives me a greater appreciation for two groups: scouts and execs who can find those players who fit seamlessly and teams who take on multiple players at once. Hell, sometimes it’s hard to bring in one player and have him be on the same page as everyone else. Just ask Evan Turner.
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