Insider: Von Wafer Steps Up

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Von Wafer Finding His Role

When Magic guard Von Wafer was dealt to the Orlando Magic, it looked like the Magic were unlikely to bring back incumbent starter Jason Richardson. Wafer figured he’d have to compete only with J.J. Redick for playing time. However, just a few days later, Jason Richardson signed a four-year deal with the Magic and returned to the starting lineup, leaving Wafer as the odd man out.

Despite scoring nine points in an opening night game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wafer saw nothing more than mop-up duty before the Magic left on their west coast road trip. Wafer was thrust into action against the Sacramento Kings on January 8 and responded by scoring 12 points in 17 minutes. After playing just three minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wafer scored eight points in a come-from-behind victory over the Golden State Warriors the next day.

Although Wafer was held scoreless in a game against the New York Knicks four days later, an injury to Jason Richardson opened the door for Wafer.

He took advantage.

Wafer scored 13 points in 24 minutes in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday and followed that up with a 15-point outburst against the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night.

“Just bring energy and aggression,” Wafer said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”

In Wednesday’s loss to the Spurs, the Magic shot just 33.3% from the field and had just two players shoot over 50.0% in the game – Dwight Howard, who went nine-of-15 and Wafer, who made six of his 11 attempts.

“He brings great energy to the team,” forward Ryan Anderson explained. “And he’s a great scorer.”

J.J. Redick is Orlando’s primary scorer off of the bench, but with Redick moving into the starting lineup replacing Richardson, the role has fallen on Wafer.

“He’s the kind of guy that’s a real lifter,” Anderson added.

Wafer has responded, averaging 14 points on 57.9% shooting from the field. He’s also four-of-seven from beyond the arc.

“I like what he’s bringing us to us,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I like his energy and his effort. He’ll go rebound the ball, he’ll stick his nose in, he’ll attack the basket.”

However, it hasn’t been easy for Wafer. A mix-up with FIBA kept him out of a majority of the team’s already shortened training camp and the compressed schedule has made it difficult for Wafer to get reps in with the team in practice.

“He’s getting hurt because he’s not getting repetition in practice,” Van Gundy told reporters.

That hasn’t stopped Wafer from finding a way to fit in with his teammates.

“I’m very comfortable with those guys,” Wafer told reporters.

“Well, Stiff Neck, that’s his nick name,” Dwight Howard said when asked about Wafer.

“He’s good off the pick-and-rolls. He’s great, I really like him.”

Wafer likes playing with Howard and already knew what it was like to play with an elite big man from his days in Housotn.

“Playing with Dwight is a lot like playing Yao,” Wafer said. “He gets a lot of double-team situations. Those are easy situations to play off of, it’s easy playing off someone coming at me, so I can attack them or get the jump shot.”

Van Gundy often goes small late in games, using both Richardson and Redick together and has done the same with Wafer and Redick. Sometimes that’s tough because Wafer isn’t exactly known for his defense.

Wafer’s well-aware of his reputation and is working hard to change it.

“Trying to give good effort on that defensive end,” Wafer explained. “That’s what’s going to keep me in the game. I think that’s what’s been holding me back my whole career, just trying to get it right.”

If Wafer continues to improve on both ends of the floor, it’s going to be hard to keep him off of the court.

Larry Hughes Stays Ready

Wafer isn’t the only Orlando Magic player to step up lately.

Because of injuries and a lack of size on the perimeter, 12-year veteran Larry Hughes played nearly 30 minutes Wednesday night.

“It’s great to have a guy like that,” Van Gundy told ESPN Florida. “A veteran professional guy who we’ve really only used extensively twice this year. He’s come through and played well.”

After sitting out all of last season, Hughes must have been happy to finally see extensive action Wednesday. He won’t be consistently called on to contribute, but Hughes is going to be ready when he’s called upon.

“As a team, we have to stay ready and prepared to play,” Hughes explained.

Injury Update

Orlando’s starting wings – shooting guard Jason Richardson and small forward Hedo Turkoglu, both missed Wednesday’s loss to the Spurs. Richardson has a bone bruise in his left knee while Turkoglu is suffering from back spasms.

Neither injury appears to be severe.

Both players are listed as day-to-day and are due back the near future.

“J-Rich was pretty close to the point where he really tried today,” Van Gundy said following Wednesay’day game. “[He] went out and did some cutting and some defensive stuff on the court for the walk-through. I would hope Friday night he would be okay. And Turk, it’s when all the spasms calm down.”

News & Notes:

  • Orlando’s loss to the Spurs ended their five-game winning streak and dropped their record to 10-4.
  • The victory was San Antonio’s first road win of the season (1-5). The Spurs are a perfect 9-0 at home.
  • The Magic will host the Los Angeles Lakers in a game that will be televised by ESPN Friday night.
  • The Lakers’ splits look a lot like the Spurs – they’re 9-1 at home and 1-5 away.
  • The Lakers were blown out by the Heat in Miami Thursday night.