Denton: Harris and Oladipo to Start vs. Mavs
By John Denton
October 14, 2013
ORLANDO – It could be just a one-game experiment or the usual tinkering of the preseason, but Orlando Magic rookie Victor Oladipo will reach another step in his NBA career tonight when he is a starter for the first time as a pro.
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn made the decision on Monday to rest veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, power forward Jason Maxiell and reserve point guard Ronnie Price. Vaughn awarded a start to Oladipo, Orlando’s prized rookie who was the No. 2 pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
Tobias Harris and Oladipo are slated to get their first starts of the preseason when the Magic (0-2) face the Mavericks (1-1) in Dallas at 8:30 p.m. Nelson and Afflalo started the first two preseason games and could very well be back in the starting unit on Wednesday when Orlando plays in Houston.
Vaughn made the decision to elevate Oladipo to the starting lineup after he proved himself in practice and in Orlando’s first two preseason games. Vaughn said that Oladipo’s playing time will be completely merit-based, and he feels the rookie has put in the work to earn more minutes on the floor.
Oladipo had 10 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals in his first professional game last Wednesday in Jacksonville. He followed that up by scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds – both Magic highs – in last Friday’s game at the Amway Center.
Oladipo has been extremely humble with his success thus far, admitting that he is mostly playing off instinct and there are several lessons to be learned in his rookie season.
Oladipo has had high praise for Magic veterans Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and E’Twaun Moore, players who have served as mentors for the rookie making the transition from college to the NBA. Oladipo took the place of Nelson in Monday’s starting lineup.
``My mindset is to just let the game come to me and be patient,’’ Oladipo said recently. ``I had some turnovers from rushing a little bit (on Friday night), but it’s all a learning process. I’m trying to learn from players like Jameer and learn to take my time.’’
Oladipo is also attempting to make the tricky transition from college shooting guard to NBA point guard. He’s handled that adjustment well in the first two games, getting the team organized in half-court sets and pushing the ball in transition. He is continuing to walk the fine line of looking for his own shot and knowing when others need the ball – something that Vaughn said even veteran point guards struggle with from time to time. Vaughn, who is in his second season as Magic’s head coach, should know a thing or two about that as he was a point guard in the NBA for 12 seasons before becoming a coach.
In two games against all-star point guards Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday, Oladipo has 12 assists compared to just six turnovers. He also has four steals – many of them coming from hounding opposing guards all over the floor with his elite savvy on defense.
He has said his focus early in training camp and the preseason has been on creating opportunities for others because he knows how dangerous the Magic can be with the likes of Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson and Afflalo in the lineup around him.
``We’re an unselfish team and we play really well together,’’ Oladipo said. ``When we do that (play unselfishly) and take care of the ball, we can be really good.’’
Oladipo sought out the advice of several veteran NBA players this past summer to help him adjust to life in the NBA. Their prevailing message was to savor the journey and have as much fun as possible along the way. Oladipo has vowed that he will enjoy this process because he knows he’ll only be a rookie once and he wants to take pleasure in small firsts such as Monday night’s first-ever start in a NBA preseason game.
``I’ve been so focused on trying to win the game and when you get out there and get up and down the floor a few times you just realize it’s the game of basketball,’’ he said. ``But I’m just so blessed and fortunate to be here and I give glory to God to be here, be able to play and be healthy. I hope he keeps blessing all of us so we can do this all our lives.’’
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