Some of the first lessons Jason Maxiell learned as a Detroit Pistons rookie came from veteran teammates Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.
When Wallace thought Maxiell was pressing a bit on the court, Wallace advised Maxiell to slow down and play more patiently.
McDyess noticed that the bulk of Maxiell’s offense came from dunks. McDyess told the rookie that athleticism eventually fades away. McDyess recommended that Maxiell should start doing more work to hone his jump shot.
Now, eight years later, Maxiell finds himself in a different role. The Orlando Magic recently signed him to a free-agent deal to provide frontcourt depth and to serve as a mentor and example to young players.
“I’m not a very verbal guy, but sometimes you have to be,” Maxiell said in a phone interview.
“I will guide them along the way. I’m going to show them the first time and help them out the second time. And, by the third time, they should have it down pat, and then they’ll be on their own.”
Listed as 6-feet-7 and 260 pounds, Maxiell is most comfortable playing power forward, but he can also serve as a backup to center Nik Vucevic.
Along with Vucevic, the Magic currently have a total of eight players under contract who will be in either their first, second or third NBA seasons. The group includes wing Maurice Harkless, forward Tobias Harris, power forward Andrew Nicholson, center/power forward Kyle O’Quinn and guards Doron Lamb, E’Twaun Moore and Victor Oladipo.
The veteran leadership will have to come from point guard Jameer Nelson, shooting guard Arron Afflalo and power forward Glen Davis — especially if the Magic buy out the contracts of forwards Al Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu.
But Davis underwent surgery earlier this month to replace a screw in his left foot, and team officials will not rush him as he continues his rehabilitation. There’s a possibility Davis won’t be ready for the start of the regular season.
Maxiell will have to earn a spot in the playing rotation, but he potentially could emerge as a starter at power forward if Davis is unable to play early in the season.
Maxiell, 30, is regarded as a gritty, hard-nosed player.
That attitude enabled him to play minutes at center for the Pistons in recent years even though he’s actually shorter than 6-feet-7.
Last season, he started 71 games for the Pistons, and he averaged 6.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in almost 25 minutes per game. A detached retina cut his season short, but he said surgery has repaired the damage.
Over the course of his eight-year tenure in Detroit, the Pistons fell from one of the NBA’s elite teams to a team that has missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons.
Now, he’ll enter another rebuilding project with the Magic, and in this case, he’ll be one of the veteran leaders.
“It’s a chance to mix the old with the new,” he said.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.