NBA PM: Oladipo Ready to Help the Magic
VIDEO OF THE DAY - Rob Hennigan
Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks about the team's direction, the improvement of his young players and much more in this interview from media day.Watch More Video Here
Victor Oladipo’s new Orlando Magic teammates have nothing but positive things to say about the No. 2 overall pick, on and off the record. Not only has he impressed everyone with his intensity and motor on the court, he has become friends with most of his teammates. The young group, which is full of pranksters and comedians, loves Oladipo’s dry sense of humor.
“I think he’s going to be really good. He works really hard. That’s what I love about him. Off the court, he’s a great guy to hang around. Me and him, we have a lot in common. I think he’s going to be really good. He’s a gym rat and I think he fits in. He’s an up-tempo guard, who likes to run and push the pace. With our young team, I think that’s what we’re going to do a lot this year.”
Oladipo is part of Orlando’s strong young nucleus, which also includes Harkless, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O’Quinn, Andrew Nicholson and Doron Lamb among others. On the first day of the Orlando Summer League, Oladipo approached his teammates in the locker room, asking what he could do to help the team and how he could fit in with the Magic’s core.
It didn’t take long for Oladipo to get on the same page as his young teammates and he had a successful Summer League, averaging 19 points, five assists, 4.3 rebounds and three steals. While the numbers were impressive, Oladipo has repeatedly made it clear that he is only concerned about the team’s success.
“Victor, I like him a lot,” O’Quinn said. “He’s just totally on board. The first day in the locker room, he asked, ‘What do you guys need me to do?’Out there during Summer League, it wasn’t about him. He had a great Summer League, but it was all about the team. That’s why I think everybody progressed and we had such a great Summer League showing.
“The kid works. He works very hard. That’s a good sign because if he might not get it the first time, you know he’ll work for it. When he got here, all he wanted was just to be a part [of the team]. With all the young guys we had, he just said, ‘What can I do? What can I do?’ You don’t hear many No. 2 picks saying, ‘What can I do to fit in with you guys?’ It’s usually, ‘Listen, I’m here now.’ He doesn’t carry that attitude and he’s a good guy, a good teammate.”
Oladipo is thrilled to join the Magic and he’s determined to help the team rise up out of this rebuilding period. He spent the entire offseason working out in Orlando and couldn’t be happier with the situation he’s entering.
“I love Orlando, it’s a great city,” Oladipo said. “It’s hard not to be in a good mood when you wake up and the sun is always up. It’s unreal, I’ve never been in a place like this before. It’s crazy. I’m truly blessed to be here, fortunate enough to be here. My mother was actually here a few days ago and she loves it here too. That’s always a good thing when your mother loves something because then you know it’s really good.
“It’s a blessing to be part of an NBA program. It’s definitely a blessing, I’ve been dreaming about it all my life. I’m looking forward to going to work with my teammates and going to war every night.”
How comfortable is Oladipo in Orlando? During a team event several weeks ago, the guard mentioned that he loves to sing. When asked to show off his hidden talent, Oladipo belted out an R&B song (“So Beautiful” by Musiq Soulchild, according to one teammate) in front of everyone. Oladipo isn’t afraid to show off his singing in front of a large crowd, as evidenced by his participation in the student talent show at the Indiana University as a freshman and his performance in front of thousands of fans at the school’s annual Midnight Madness event.
“Good singer,” Nicholson said of Oladipo. “Good singer.”
There’s no questioning Oladipo’s talent (on and off the court). However, it remains to be seen how the Magic will use their versatile guard this season. Will he continue to play point guard, as he did at times during Summer League? Will he play shooting guard behind veteran Arron Afflalo? Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t putting a label on Oladipo’s position or revealing how he’ll use the newest weapon in his arsenal.
“There’s only one position on the floor and that’s the center, in today’s game,” Vaughn said. “That’s the way we approach things. Victor played some guard for us [in Summer League] and he’ll continue to play guard for us. Whether some people want to consider it ‘lead guard,’ ‘point guard,’ ‘off guard’ or ‘shooting guard,’ I’ll leave that to everyone else’s semantics. For us, I’m going to put basketball players on the floor and let them excel at playing basketball. … I think our past has shown that we’ve put [young] guys on the floor. That’s the greatest way for them to learn this game at this level. He’ll have his chances to be on the floor, but he’ll earn those minutes at the same time. He’s a guy that’s going to bring a certain amount of work ethic to our practice and the games that I think our fans will be excited to see.”
“I think versatility is becoming a little bit more in vogue as traditional positions may not be as concrete, if you will,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. “I think the more versatile you can be, the better prepared you are for anything that gets thrown at you.”
“I don’t have any sense of how much I’ll play at either position,” Oladipo said. “I’m just going to play. I’ll go out there and try to win at wherever they put me. If that’s where the coaches think I’ll be best to win, I’ll go out there and play my butt off. … I’m just looking forward to playing. I know you guys are looking forward to see how we do, and I’m just as anxious. This is the first practice of my NBA career, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m fortunate to get to experience it with such great gentlemen on my team.”
If Oladipo does play point guard, he’ll likely be coming off of the bench behind Jameer Nelson, who has already emerged as somewhat of a mentor for the rookie guard. Nelson has been giving Oladipo tips throughout the summer. He’ll be an excellent resource for Oladipo if he makes the transition to point guard.
“I’m just trying to soak up everything he can teach me every day,” Oladipo said of Nelson. “He’s a great veteran, great player. I grew up watching him, so I knew how great he was and how good he is. How smart he is, it’s just crazy to play a pick-up game with him and see how smart he is, how tough he is. He gets every loose ball. I’m just being a sponge – call me SpongeBob – I’m just trying to soak up everything.”
Oladipo’s teammates have been impressed with how he has played during their summer workouts and pick-up games.
“Obviously he’s athletic, young and energetic,” Afflalo said. “He has a great motor, great lateral quickness on the defensive end of the court, so he can help us there now. He has the ability to get in the paint. He has a strong upper body so there’ll be some more playmaking out there for him.”
“Oladipo is a great player and he’s going to bring a lot to the table for us at whatever position he plays, either the one or the two,” Harris said. “He’s a guy who can do a lot of things on the court.”
Earlier this summer, Oladipo briefly left Orlando to play in the 2013 Goodman League Roundball Classic. Oladipo found himself matched up against Kevin Durant in one game and the two players went at it, trading baskets and leading their teams. At one point, Oladipo stole the ball from Durant at midcourt and finished the fast break with a dunk. Video of Oladipo’s performance went viral, and it’s an experience he’ll never forget.
“For me to be on the court with him like that was truly a blessing,” Oladipo said of Durant. “I grew up watching him at Goodman League games, so to actually be playing in it against him, matched up one-on-one for most of the game, it was real fun. I knew he was going hard at me just like I was going hard at him, so it was a great time.”
Last season, Oladipo made huge strides and was one of the most improved players in the nation. He averaged 13.6 points and increased his shooting percentages significantly to 59.9 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 steals and nearly one block in his junior season. He also had the seventh-highest field goal percentage in the country, which is incredible for a perimeter player. Oladipo is hoping to duplicate that success in Orlando, but he knows it’ll be tough as a rookie making the transition from college to the NBA.
“You definitely have to make an adjustment, whether you like it or not,” Oladipo said. “I’m just grateful to get to play with my teammates. I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment as far as just basketball, but it’s 82 games and I’m not used to that. I’m not used to the size. Every night you’re playing against the best of the best – it’s the NBA and these are the best players in the world. I’m just looking for to it and I’m blessed to be part of this Magic franchise. I just want to help.”
One thing that will make Oladipo’s adjustment easier is having so many other young players around. While Harkless refers to Oladipo as a “kid,” he’s actually more than a year younger than Oladipo. Harris is also several months younger than the shooting guard. Orlando has 11 players on their training camp roster who are 24 years old or younger, which is nice company for a rookie.
“It helps a lot,” Oladipo said. “It’s always cool to have people be around your age and be around each other because they share the same interests and similarities as you do. They’ve actually been in the NBA the last couple of years, so they’re easy to talk to. I don’t know if there is any difference between how young and old people talk, but it’s just easier when they actually are your age. It’s always good to have people that you can relate to around you.”
Orlando is hoping that those young players can reach their full potential and turn around the franchise, which finished with the league’s worst record last season. Oladipo will certainly help the Magic as they try to right the ship.
“We’re all here to win,” Oladipo says, “and get this program back to where it needs to be.”
Turner Thought 76ers Would Trade Him
After the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round draft pick, Evan Turner thought he’d be the next player to get dealt. The 24-year-old thought he had played his last game for the Sixers, thought his fate would be the same as his close friend Holiday.
“I was getting ready for it,” Turner told Jason Wolf of USA TODAY Sports.
Philadelphia didn’t trade Turner, so now he’ll have an opportunity to be one of the focal points of this young team that desperately needs someone to step up and become the primary scorer. Last season, Holiday was the only Sixer who averaged above 15 points per game. Not only did the team lose Holiday, they also lost veteran scorers like Nick Young and Dorell Wright among others to free agency.
Turner, who was named NCAA player of the year at Ohio State, has failed to live up to expectations since being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. This is his fourth year in the league and the final season of his rookie contract. It’s time for Turner to step up, otherwise he may find himself parting ways with the Sixers after all.
“I definitely want to keep getting better and keep shooting better, but I’m not going to dwell on 14, 7 and 5,” Turner said, rounding his 2012-13 statistics up. “So, I mean, I don’t know what else you want me to say. You throw somebody else in that situation and do that. … If things would have gone better we probably would have won some more games. I’ll take responsibility for that. But I’m not going to get chastised for 14, 7 and 5. Somebody hasn’t done that in a while. I’m going to keep getting better and keep developing … but I’m not going to get beat down over what occurred last year.
“I just want to keep getting better. You’re never ever going to make people happy, you know what I’m saying? So what am I proving? I’m just fighting a ghost, and he’s just going to drive me crazy. I just want to keep getting better, I want to keep going out to compete and win, and that’s pretty much it.”
Sixers head coach Brett Brown, who was hired this summer, believes in Turner. He has also stressed that he doesn’t want the young player to listen to his critics.
“What I do know is he has a lot of areas that he really can blossom,” Brown said. “He is a talent, and I think that the weight of the city at times and the expectations, like they would anybody, can drown you if you let it. I think it’s important that we don’t pay attention to what you write, seriously, and I hope he’s not caring about what goes on on Twitter.
“Everybody talks about he’s got to be a three-point shooter, or is he a point guard, a three-man, a four-man? To me, he’s a generic player. He’s a good player. And we hope to improve his perimeter game, but most of all we hope to help him find a real joy to play again, to find the passion to play again. He’s been excellent to talk with, he’s been excellent in the gym, you can see emerging signs of him being a leader. He’s young. People sometimes forget that.”
It’s true that Turner is still very young. However, he hasn’t been as impressive as expected in his first three seasons in the league, so it’s time for Turner to take the next step in his development. He’ll have every opportunity to succeed in Philly this season. Now, it’s on Turner to take advantage.