Magic try to get new players up to speed

Updated: December 22, 2010, 7:48 PM ET
By Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

ORLANDO -- Amid mounting losses, a brutal stretch in the schedule and trying to get four new players adjusted on the fly, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy felt the last thing his team needed after having played games on consecutive nights was a day off.

Apparently, there's no rest for the reeling in Orlando.

So instead of enjoying what otherwise would have been a work-free day coming off a back-to-back set, the Magic pushed through a two-hour practice session Wednesday afternoon.

The rare move to conduct a workout amid such a busy stretch is part of the Orlando's attempt to fast-track the acclimation process after acquiring Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark in trades Saturday.

Orlando (16-12) has lost four consecutive games, including its last two since parting with Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first-round draft pick and cash in the first major trade of the season.

Arenas, Richardson, Turkoglu have played two games with the Magic, but had not practiced with their new teammates until Wednesday.

"It's real tough right now, but we don't have a choice," Van Gundy said. "We just have to get some things done -- trying not to kill them, but still get things done. And they've just got to suck it up a little bit. It's a tough stretch, but we've got to get it up and running. There's just no other way to do it."

Van Gundy said it was his first time as a head coach that he had to call his team in to work the day after it played games the previous two nights. The Magic lost Monday on the road against Atlanta and fell at home Tuesday against Dallas.

Van Gundy is also in the midst of another first with the Magic. The team has lost eight of its last nine games, which marks the worst stretch Orlando has had since the 2006-07 season, the year before Van Gundy arrived.

The Magic spent most of Wednesday's session working on defensive adjustments and watching film in preparation for Thursday's home game against San Antonio. Orlando plays Boston on Saturday to finish off a week in which it will have faced teams with the league's three best records in succession.

In the two games they've played without the benefit of any practice time, Arenas, Turkoglu and Richardson shot a combined 13 of 53 from the field and have struggled with defensive rotations.

"I know everyone is expecting us to come in and just save everything really quick, but we've got to get adapted," Arenas said Wednesday. "I know most of the guys wanted the day off. But the new guys needed to learn what their concepts are. It's hard to go into a game and go on the fly. Little things that killed us [Tuesday] night, we went over today. And that's what we needed. It hasn't set in yet."

Magic center Dwight Howard declined to speak with reporters after Wednesday's practice. But he said after Tuesday's loss to Dallas that it was almost unfair to expect so much this soon from the newcomers, including Turkoglu, who's just starting his second stint with the team.

"Having four new guys come in, not knowing anything offensively or defensively, is tough," Howard said Tuesday. "When the other teams score, coach couldn't get mad or anything. He just knew, like, 'Hey, they don't know.' Once the guys learn the rotations, the system & we'll be fine. Keep home alive."

Before Wednesday's practice, Richardson said his initial indoctrination into the Magic's scheme involved running sets in hotel ballrooms during shootarounds before games.

"Pretending like a basket was there, making make-believe layups," Richardson said. "I wanted the day off, but we needed this practice. We really hadn't been on the court as a practice. It was good to go out there. It was actually good to have a rim to shoot at instead of a make-believe."

Michael Wallace covers the NBA for ESPN.com.

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