Afflalo and Oladipo Excited About All-Star Weekend

By John Denton
Feb. 13, 2014

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo is hopeful that this weekend’s trip to the NBA All-Star Game will be the first of many to come in his career. But there is only one first time, and Oladipo is reveling in the sense of accomplishment of making it to one of the game’s grand stages.

Oladipo, Orlando’s prized No. 2 pick from last June’s NBA Draft, will be playing in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and he will be competing in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday. In between, he’ll be cheering on teammate Arron Afflalo in the Foot Locker Three-Point Challenge, enjoying time with family and watching Sunday’s marquee event, The NBA All-Star Game, intently. After all, this is part of the dream that Oladipo has had for years.

``It’s going to be something that I’ve always dreamed about experiencing,’’ Oladipo said of the All-Star Weekend. ``I’m looking forward to it and I’m definitely going to try to enjoy myself.’’

The Magic should be well-represented throughout the midseason all-star classic when Oladipo and Afflalo in the various events. Oladipo has had one of the best rookie seasons in the NBA, ranking second among all first-year players in points and minutes and third in assists. Afflalo is averaging career highs in points (19.6), rebounds (4.1) and assists (3.7).

Afflalo takes a sterling 3-point percentage (42.6) into Saturday’s contest. He certainly isn’t lacking for confidence when it comes to competing on the big stage. ``I still think I’m going to win, man. I’m going to win,’’ Afflalo said upon being asked if he had practiced for Saturday’s event. ``I’ve gotten some advice from guys who have competed. Practicing shooting off the racks is probably beneficial to a certain degree, but at the end of the day you have to make the shots. So it shouldn’t be that hard to pick the ball up. I’m going to practice Friday and Saturday, though.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn purposefully didn’t bring up the All-Star break prior to Wednesday’s game against the Memphis, but said he would talk to Oladipo and the entire team about having the proper approach over the next four days. He wants Oladipo and Afflalo to get as much rest as possible in between All-Star functions and events. As for the other Magic players, Vaughn wants them to keep their focus and conditioning up during the time off.

``I will talk to the whole group about using their time wisely, getting some rest and also prepare for when we get back,’’ Vaughn said. ``I’ve always felt there’s a little bit of an advantage (to working out). I’ll calculate the hours of how many hours they will have off and how many hours I will ask them to spend (working out). It will seem pretty miniscule to spend three hours out of that entire time to get a little exercise or cardio in.’’

Oladipo will be on the same team with fellow rookie point guards Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke, players he became close friends with during the pre-draft process. All-Star games such as the Rising Stars Challenge tend to favor guards because there aren’t many plays run and guards can freely push the ball in transition. Those factors should play perfectly into the hands of the speedy Oladipo.

As for the Skills Challenge, Oladipo said he’s done some post-practice work on drills to prepare himself. He said he’ll take advantage of the arranged practice time on Friday and Saturday to get himself ready for the skills event.

``I’ve been trying to do some practice in here, but it’s hard without the little loops. You can practice going around the cones, the jumper and the layup, obviously, but the passes might be the toughest part.’’

Afflalo will be competing in his first Three-Point Contest since he was in the McDonald’s High School All-Star Game. He plans to take advantage of a new rule in the contest that will allow players to strategically place the money balls (two points) wherever they’d like at the five shooting stations.

Afflalo shoots 49 percent from three spots on the left side of the floor, including a spectacular 55.1 percent from the left corner. He shoots just 36.7 percent from the right side of the arc. He has made seven of 17 tries (41.8 percent) from straight on.

``They have a practice session for us there and I’ll take advantage of those days,’’ Afflalo said. ``To me, the idea seems to be make the shot. They’ve got some different rules this year which is pretty entertaining, being able to put all of the money balls where you feel comfortable. I’ll just try to take advantage of the rules. I was told to put (the money balls) in the left corner. But I might put one up top. I’m not sure if I can rotate them around, but I’ll get the details (of the rules). Whatever it takes.’’