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Ronnie Price does not get a ton of playing time — about 9.8 minutes per game in 21 appearances for the Magic. He did not even show up in Monday night's blowout against the Pacers, even with Jameer Nelson being out of the lineup.
That is not what he was brought into to do however. Price is not a player that is going to make an impact in a game. Sure, Price sometimes unleashes powerful dunks for a guy in such a small frame. Those highlights seem to be reward enough for him.
It is truly Price's work off the court and the energy and leadership he brings behind closed doors that continues to make an impact for this team and for the young players. The veterans notice too. In several games that he has played, teammates point to Price's energy in his limited minutes as key points to the game.
"He is an unbelievable professional," Jacque Vaughn said. "He's great to have in the locker room. It's great for me to see him every day. His approach every day doesn't change. We're talking about consistency.
"I told the guys after the game [on Nov. 13, a win over Milwaukee], he had no idea he was going to play. He worked out before the game to get his conditioning in and he does that every game in preparation. He was in tune with the scounting report in film this afternoon. He was ready to play. His number was called and he was huge tonight."
That game against the Bucks was a long time ago, obviously. Much has changed in the season. In that game, though, Price had seven rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. What he did obviously did not show up on the box score. It rarely does when it comes to Ronnie Price.
The stated role for him when the Magic brought him in was to be a leader in the locker room and an energy guy when his number was called. It is a hard role to quantify and it is not one that asks a lot out of the player numbers-wise.
Again, though, you talk to the coaching staff and fellow players and they talk all about Price's ability to be ready to play and contribute whatever the team needs from him — whether it is points or support or simply energy in practice.
"I try my best to do whatever I can in the locker room and when I get a chance to play to do whatever I can on the floor," Price said. "I can only do what I'm capable of doing and that's that. I have faith in my teammates and I have faith in this team. I think we're just a small piece away from really getting it and understanding how good we can be."
It is Price's job to help the team realize how good it can be at the end of the day.
Sure there is a lot of cheerleading and towel waving in the process, but it is also a work ethic and approach that the Magic want him to bring to this team. He is leading by example with his approach. Price is truly someone who is thankful to be in the league.
Price went to tiny Utah Valley State College and went undrafted. He earned his playing time with the Kings in the 2006 season and began his sojourn through the NBA in Northern California before returning to Utah. He made his mark on coaches seemingly from the moment he stepped on the floor.
"He's a great guy first of all," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, who was an assistant while Price was with the Jazz from 2008-11. "He had some spectacular plays for us. The thing I loved about the guy, and I still love about him, is he came in working to get better. And it wasn't for him. He wasn't playing many minutes. He came into practice and worked hard and made the other guys work hard every day to get better."
That is just Price's m.o. throughout his career. He has always duckedh is head, done his work and made his impact in more intangible ways.
Vaughn has noticed and that is likely exactly why he remains on the roster even if his impact during games are not as great.
"I think if you ask his teammates, I think his approach to practice of being ready, going hard and then also, I think it goes unnoticed most of the time, he sits in the first seat next to the coach and he is very talkative to the guys on the bench, encouraging them," Vaughn said. "I think he has been really good and really that starts with him being locked into the gameplan and a lot of times conveying the gameplan and the messages to some of the younger guys."
Price knows he sets that example. And continues to do so.
For a player like Price who came in with so little notoriety and played in the league for eight years in almost complete anonymity, doing what he can no matter where it shows up is what he is all about.
"It's just an honor to be here first of all," Price said. "It's just one basketball game, we have a long season ahead of us. It could be anybody else's name being called at any moment to go out there and do their job. We have to all understand no matter if we are projected to be in the rotation or not, we have a job to do as basketball players and we all got to be prepared every night. We can't take any nights off because nothing is going to be handed to us. I think we have a great team, a great unit, I'm excited to see how this season is going to be moving forward."
He may not be directly making the impact, but his example has helped this young Magic team continue to grow with that approach.