Arron Afflalo's eagerness to improve has sparked his strong start

Arron Afflalo revamped his offseason training routine over the summer. He swam. He boxed. When he lifted weights, he gave himself less rest between sets. He ate better, too.

He feels more energetic now. He notices more definition in his physique. His legs feel stronger.

But as important as those changes are, perhaps they pale in comparison to the improvements he made to his mental game. Challenged by his coaches to play more efficiently after a disappointing season, he entered this season determined to refine the way he attacks on offense.

"I think it's just a mental outlook and a perspective on what happened," Afflalo said. "You can't be stubborn about your game per se or the situation and you can't complain. You have to just be open to saying, 'You know what? These were some areas that were faults of mine that I need to improve on.' "

That attitude has made a huge impact on Afflalo and the Orlando Magic so far this season.

On Wednesday night, he scored a career-high 36 points and made eight of his 11 shots from 3-point range as the Magic narrowly beat the Milwaukee Bucks.

He did everything. He collected eight rebounds, recorded six assists and played sound defense.

The performance was emblematic of his season. He's averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-point shooting accuracy.

"He really wants to be great and he wants to come back each year as a better player," coach Jacque Vaughn said.

Afflalo remains one of the most competitive players on the Magic roster.

All of the Magic's losses last season pained him.

So did his play.

Opposing defenses made stopping him one of their top priorities for the first time in his career. He faced occasional double-teams, and opponents did their best to take away open 3-point looks, especially from his favorite spots, the corners.

Afflalo still scored a career-best 16.5 points per game, but he made just 43.9 percent of his shots.

"I just had some different things on my mind mentally last year, feeling like I had so much to prove," he said.

"The situation was so fresh, and I wanted to just take a hold of it so bad. I trained really, really hard this summer to get my conditioning right. All the experiences I went through last year — with the much bigger role, handling double-teams, handling the pressure to be consistent night-in and night-out — I took those things to heart to prepare myself this season mentally and physically."

Afflalo wanted to be able to play a full 48 minutes without feeling tired, and his offseason conditioning has helped him do that. According to SportVU player tracking technology, which the NBA is using, Afflalo had traveled 23.0 miles during games this season — the sixth-highest figure in the league through Wednesday.

"Last year, we put so much on him offensively that I'm not sure if it was fair for him to concentrate on both ends with the amount of minutes and what we were asking him to do," Vaughn said. "I think he's better conditioned himself, which has allowed him to focus defensively."

Afflalo turned 28 years old a month ago.

In NBA terms, he's beginning to get old.

In his eyes, he's just beginning to meet his potential.

"I'm always motivated — period — to be better," he said. "I just think in this game sometimes age is supposed to diminish you a little bit. But, for me, it only enhances who I am, because every player's path in this league is different. I wasn't necessarily given the freedoms and things of that nature early in my career."

He has that freedom now.

And he's making the most efficient use of it. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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