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Looking at the End of the Bench


Chris Duhon has had some low moments this year. But with JJ Redick and Gilbert Arenas injured, he has had to gain confidence quickly and play for the Magic once again.

When Otis Smith signed veterans Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson to multi-year contracts worth the mid-level exception combined, he did not envision them having a sporadic role as the playoffs grew closer. Without doubt, those two players disappointed in their early season play. They could have been one of the reasons Smith opted to make the trades that brought in Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson and sent Duhon and Quentin Richardson to the end of the bench.

The two, especially Duhon, have gotten a bad rap while with Orlando. They have performed well below their career numbers this year. Whatever it was, they just have not clicked with the Magic.

So, they have both waited on the bench hoping for an opportunity and to fill a productive role for this team once again. Quentin Richardson has had his opportunities, as Stan Van Gundy likes his defense in certain situations. Many people believe Richardson will play himself into the rotation for the playoffs or at least gain consistent minutes there.

Duhon has had a tougher time finding his place. He has played in 42 games and is on pace for his career low in that mark. He is averaging 14.7 minutes per game, which is by far the lowest of his career. He averages 1.3 turnovers per game, which is within his averages. But in fewer minutes, those turnovers look much much worse. Duhon’s turnover rate this year is an ungodly 33.9 percent.

You can see why he has been relegated to the bench as he just could not find confidence coming off the bench behind Jameer Nelson early in the season.

With JJ Redick and Gilbert Arenas fighting injuries recently, Stan Van Gundy has turned to the seven-year veteran and relying on Duhon to fill the role he struggled so much with earlier in the season.

Duhon has not earned a rotation spot based on his play the last two games. But you have to admire how he has stepped in and shown some improvement and some confidence after being on the bench and limited to mop-up duty for the better part of the last four months.

Duhon has averaged about 17.3 minutes per game in the last four games. He is shooting 4 for 8, has dished out eight assists. But he has had seven turnovers.

Those numbers suggest Duhon has not improved the things fans criticized  him for earlier in the year — a reluctance to shoot and a copious amount of turnovers. His 75.0 percent turnover rate in the win over Milwaukee was an aberration of sorts, but it was also his 13th game this year with a turnover rate higher than 50 percent.

Still, Van Gundy is going to him, both out of necessity and out of some measure of confidence he still has in the veteran. Van Gundy said Friday he wants to use Arenas (when he is healthy) at the two more. That means Duhon is going to get the call to play.

Duhon is by no means perfect, far from it, but Orlando is still trying to find an effective way to use Gilbert Arenas. And if Arenas can be more successful and effective off the ball, that means the team will have to rely on Duhon a little bit. The important thing there is to make sure Duhon does not hurt you. Anything you get from him is bonus.

And the last four games, in limited minutes, Duhon has not completely hurt Orlando. He has kept the ship afloat until Jameer Nelson can come back in. That is not enough for him to crack the rotation, especially as the postseason gets closer.

The unfortunate part of all this is that it may actually be taking playing time away from Quentin Richardson who has shown he can be effective off the bench at numerous points this season. Van Gundy said it is because he does not like playing Richardson at the two and prefers to use him as small forward. But if Duhon struggles, expect Richardson to be the likely replacement.

Of course, both Richardson and Duhon likely see their playing time completely diminish once JJ Redick makes his return.