COMPTON, Calif. — As Danny Afflalo walks out of his house and into his backyard on a cloudless Sunday, you learn why he moved here in 1999 and one of the reasons why his son, Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo, enjoyed living here.
A decades-old pecan tree towers over the one-story, stucco house. The family dog — a Rottweiler and Labrador retriever mix named Yoshi — runs free in a fenced-in enclosure. From a neighboring yard, the sounds of chickens clucking and roosters crowing fill the air.
This isn't some country town. It's the Richland Farms neighborhood within Compton, a city just south of Los Angeles.
"It has some serenity to it," Danny says. "It's peaceful like this most of the time. There's shootings and stuff like that. Right in the streets, somebody just got killed the other day. It's not a good area, but it's kind of peaceful around here. There's always something happening. The area's like this for some reason. It's still Compton."
Compton also is the place where Arron grew up and became a high-school basketball star. He lived primarily with his dad from 1999 until he enrolled at UCLA, and those years helped develop him into the person and player he is today.
"I think that the image and everything about Compton just came from a little bit of gang violence because it was so vested in that small area," Arron said recently. "But it shaped me a little bit. It made me tougher. It kind of created my demeanor a little bit. It's a rough neighborhood, but it also created a lot of character for me."
Arron returned home Sunday, when he, his Magic teammates and coaches arrived in Southern California for their game Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.
In two games last season in Los Angeles, Afflalo helped lead the Magic to two wins — a 113-103 victory over the Lakers and a 104-101 victory over the Clippers. He scored 30 points in each game.
It's no coincidence that, in both games, he was playing in front of his dad and his mom, Gwendolyn Washington, and his friends.
Arron lived in Inglewood, Calif., and Carson, Calif., before he was a teenager, and moved in with his dad after his mom gave birth to his half-sister.
He's close to both of his parents, but he has a special bond with his father, Danny, a 55-year-old building mechanical inspector who works for the city of Los Angeles.
Danny is about 6-feet-3, two inches shorter than his son.
They have similarly shaped eyes. They walk with the same stride. They sound alike.
And they have the same work ethic.
When Danny bought his home in 1999, he also acquired three surrounding houses.
He fixed each of them up and rents them out.
Danny still lives in the house that he and Arron shared.
In the largest room, Arron's high-school and college trophies adorn shelves, while Arron's jerseys from the 2004 McDonald's All-American Game, UCLA and his first NBA team, the Detroit Pistons, hang on a wall in frames.
The room features an immaculate hardwood floor, but when Danny first moved into the house 15 years ago, the floor was simple concrete.
It's a rec room now, but back in Arron's early teens, it also served as Arron's weight room. Arron often played — and sometimes struggled — against older, stronger players. So, Danny advised him to start lifting weights.
"We were here by ourselves together," Danny says. "We just communicated. He saw me working. He saw me operating on a daily basis with people, and there was just a mutual respect."
Arron often did conditioning work on the street outside.
It's not just any street.
Richland Farms isn't a group of farms, but it is an agriculturally zoned area, a kind of quiet oasis within urban Southern California's hustle and bustle.
A few neighbors keep chickens and horses.
"It's just an area where in older times the land space was bigger, but it's not farms," Arron said.
On Sunday afternoon, on a street that runs parallel to the Afflalos' street, a man named Sidney Cosby walked a 6-year-old, 1,300-pound black-and-white horse.
Cosby is an educator who keeps the horse as a family pet.
"This place is uncommon, and most folks don't even know that it exists over here, but this place has been here for years," Cosby said.
"You know what? A lot of cowboys remain around here. It keeps them out of gangs. It keeps them invested in the family and friends. It also teaches them the joy of loving animals, not just horses."
Until a visitor on Sunday afternoon asked him about Richland Farms' most famous former resident, Cosby had never heard of Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo considers himself as much a citizen of Compton as a former resident of Richland Farms.
"I've always had a great support system in my life," he said. "Although my school and my city is a tough environment to grow up in for most kids, I was privileged to have my father around and great coaches, and my mom was around. So I didn't have to deal with the streets so much. But just day-to-day life was tough a little bit."
Arron has approached his NBA career the same way his dad went about fixing up his four houses: He built piece by piece.
Drafted in 2007 by the Pistons, he joined a team loaded with veterans who had reached the Eastern Conference finals a month earlier.
To get on the court, he played tenacious defense.
In 2009, the Pistons traded him to the Denver Nuggets, and the Nuggets gave him an expanded role, primarily as a 3-point shooter. But even then, he often was a fourth option on offense behind Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Nêne.
Afflalo's trade to the Magic before last season gave him the chance to be the focal point of an offense.
Opposing defenses focused on stopping him.
"I had some growing pains last year trying to be that guy a little bit, and I learned a lot," he said.
"I learned patience. Sometimes when you're given the ball, you can't hide. You start pressing. You want to succeed so bad, especially because that was my first opportunity at the NBA level being asked to do that. So over the summertime I learned to read the game a little bit better, pick my spots a little bit better. The key word for me is just efficiency. It's not about having the ball and getting a lot of shots. It's about taking and making the right shots, making the right plays."
Afflalo will begin Monday's game against the Clippers averaging career-highs in points (21.2 per game), rebounds (4.5) and assists (4.0). He has a realistic chance of being picked as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
His dad watches every Magic game on a TV that sits maybe five to 10 yards from where Arron used to lift weights.
Danny says: "Once he started seeing the results and started seeing how that physical strength helped him to do what he wanted to do, he started going full bore on it.
"And that's never stopped."
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