After every game Magic reserve point guard Troy Hudson grabs a
small bottle from a bag in his locker and dabs his forehead with
anointing oil from a Pentecostal minister. His teammates
jokingly call the oil the secret to his success, and following
Hudson's 34-point outburst during a 119-114 overtime win over
the Suns last week, it's suddenly in great demand. "We've all
started to use the stuff," says 33-year-old starting point guard
Darrell Armstrong. "I mean, compare the Troy Hudson you saw last
year to the one you're seeing today. Something's gotten into him."
Troy Hudson today is one of the NBA's most explosive reserves,
averaging 10.8 points and 2.9 assists through Sunday, while
shooting a league-high 90.3% from the free throw line. Seven
times he had scored 20 or more points, including those
career-high 34 on March 13, his 26th birthday. With his quick
release and darting defense, the 6'1" Hudson reminds Orlando
coach Doc Rivers of Allen Iverson. "Grant [Hill] is out, and
Darrell's no spring chicken," says Rivers. "Troy gives energy to
A year ago Hudson and the Magic mixed like oil and water. He had
gone undrafted as a junior out of Southern Illinois in 1997,
kicked around the CBA, played eight games for the Jazz and spent
parts of two years on the Clippers' bench. Before the 2000-01
season he signed a two-year, $1.1 million deal with the Magic.
But Rivers needed a backup point guard who would pass first, and
Hudson, a natural scorer, never adjusted to that role. He lost
his confidence and his touch, hitting only 33.6% of his
attempts. "It got to the point where I was thinking, Man, I do
not want to be out here," recalls Hudson. "It was totally
mental. I was a shooter, and I couldn't shoot a lick."
Disgusted, Hudson spent two months after the season thinking
about everything but basketball, even refusing to lift a weight
or jog. He expressed his feelings through rap, which he had
started writing on napkins and Wendy's bags six years earlier.
Holed up in the studio in his Orlando house, Hudson started to
record material drawn from his upbringing in Carbondale, Ill.,
and his ups and downs as a pro. "A lot of guys write about
things like jewelry and cars," says Hudson, who has completed
his album and is looking for a distributor. "I like to write
about things people go through."
After using rap to return to his roots, Hudson set out to
rediscover basics on the court as well. "I got back into it the
way I got in it," he says, "by shooting a ton of baskets on the
playground." In a meeting before Orlando's first preseason
practice Rivers said three words to Hudson that sounded better
than any rap riff: Play your game. Following the model of former
Piston Vinnie (the Microwave) Johnson, an undersized third guard
who was an incendiary scorer, Rivers let Hudson loose. His
production off the bench has been vital for offensive-minded
Orlando, which stood fifth in the Eastern Conference playoff
race. "I'm getting my shots and earning the trust of my
teammates again," says Hudson. "Last year, playing was just a
job. Now I can't wait for the next game."
In the meantime he'll be on the lookout for a care package from
Carbondale, where his grandmother obtains the bottles of olive
oil from her minister. The Magic can only hope Hudson's renewed
spirit continues to rub off.