The rumors have already started with Arron Afflalo. Not that they ever stopped.
It was not long before the season ended that rumors that the Hornets were interested in acquiring a veteran like Afflalo or Jameer Nelson popped up. Then there was Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel writing this weekend: “Orlando’s classy leading scorer wouldn’t mind being moved to a playoff team. The clock is ticking loudly on his career as he’ll turn 29 in October.”
That is no demand for a trade or statement coming directly from Afflalo, but it is pretty easy to sense Afflalo’s desire to join a winning team rather than suffer through another “development” season. Afflalo has always conducted himself with class and professionalism. He is not one to overtly rock the boat. This could be wild speculation.
But it is not that wild. Certainly Afflalo understands the nature of the business of the game.
If that is the case and Afflalo really is on the market, what kind of statement did he make last year?
He averaged 18.2 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting and 42.7 percent 3-point shooting. He seemed a lot more comfortable in a primary shooting and scoring role in his second year with the Magic. But the wins did not come. And as the season went on, Afflalo seemed to wear down and his role changed somewhat.
“Just to be honest, it is a combination of after I came back from ankle injury and got a slow start,” Afflalo said of the end of his season. “My mindset kind of slightly changed just because of the nature of our season a little bit and not being competitive for the playoffs. It was kind of a difficult thing to handle. It’s just a maturity thing on my end. I’ve still got to show up and play and compete hard.”
Again, there was never a question of Afflalo’s effort at any point this season. He played his hardest at all points, but his production certainly tailed off and that was partially by some design.
Take a look at a sampling of numbers from Afflalo pre- and post-All-Star Break:
Numbers were clearly down across the board as Afflalo fought through an injury and the changing reality of the Magic’s focus for the rest of the season. Afflalo’s role at that point was to be solid and consistent, providing an example of professionalism for the players that were about to get a little bit more of the load.
“It’s important that I give the effort and have the motivation to win,” Afflalo said. “Do my best to do the little leadership things here and there. And hopefully join in with the rest of the guys in closing out the season strong. If you have the option to end the season out on a positive note or a somber note, it’s best to end it on a positive note. That’s my idea right now.”
Individually, Afflalo may not have accomplished that part. He seemed to tire some with the weight of extra attention. It was clear from watching him as much as it was from the numbers. Orlando’s record certainly suffered from it.
But if Afflalo’s final statement this year was to show his value to a Playoff team, he showed it in being willing to take a step back to let the young guys play a little bit more and take more control.
While Afflalo has had a sterling record of improving his scoring average in each of his six years, he also is someone who understands what his role should be on a team. And he is adept at performing that role, doing whatever his team needed.
Afflalo had a great year for the Magic this past year. His final statement, if it truly is his final one in a Magic uniform, was a large one for the team’s future and perfectly described the kind of player he is.
The numbers do not suggest it, but it still feels like Afflalo made a solid closing statement to 2014.