Magic Rookies Make Good Impression
By John Denton
July 13, 2012
ORLANDO – As a second-round draft pick with no contractual guarantees, Kyle O’Quinn’s NBA future is still very much up in the air. But the likeable, loquacious center plans to do everything possible this summer to learn the NBA game and stay on the consciousness of the Orlando Magic.
Asked if he’d be spending most of his summer back in his hometown of Queens, New York, O’Quinn shook his head and indicated that he’d be in the same place he’s been much of the past week while staring for the Magic’s summer league squad.
``I’m going to spend most of my time here (in the practice facility) learning about the Orlando Magic and the NBA game. You can’t learn about the NBA game in Queens, New York because my parents don’t know anything about (the NBA),’’ O’Quinn said.
Magic draft picks Andrew Nicholson (19th overall) and O’Quinn (49th overall) made quite an impression on the organization during the week of the AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League. Orlando (2-3) lost 94-73 on Friday in large part because it was playing just 12 hours after beating Philadelphia in double overtime on Thursday, but for the most part it was a successful week for the Magic rookies.
Nicholson, a 6-foot-9 power forward, showed off his skills in the low post and played especially well early in the week before tiring after playing five games in five days. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor.
As for O’Quinn, he was one of the most energetic players of the week for the Magic with his constant talking on the floor and his hustle chasing down rebounds and diving on the floor for loose balls. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game.
``Andrew competed with the level of consistency that we liked,’’ Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. ``Because the college game and the pro game are so different there is often an adjustment period. But he did a good job on the offensive end of the floor and showed the skills and components that he’ll be able to develop going forward.
``With Kyle, I thought he did a great job. His game complements Andrew’s game,’’ Hennigan continued. ``Kyle is physical and rebounds. He knows who he is and that his game is geared toward doing the dirty work. We like that he embraces that mentality.’’
Second-year Magic players Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins also thrived in what was their first summer of work. They didn’t get to play in the summer league last July because of the NBA lockout, something that set them back during their rookie seasons. Harper, adjusting to playing mostly small forward instead of power forward, averaged 12.2 points despite shooting just 34.9 percent from the floor and 28.1 percent from 3-point range. Liggins, a defensive specialist, shut down Brooklyn’s MarShon Brooks on Monday and had 14 assists and 16 rebounds in the five games.
Nicholson, a Canadian who didn’t start playing basketball until he was a junior in high school, said it hit him several times during the week that this was the start of his NBA journey. He had 24 points on Monday in his NBA debut, scoring the game-winning points in the final 30 seconds of a defeat of Brooklyn.
``It was exciting and I loved every moment of it,’’ Nicholson said. ``It’s a different type of game at the NBA level, but I feel like I adjusted to it. I’m ready to come back and get ready for the season.’’
Nicholson said he knew that the pro game would be faster with bigger bodies, and it will be even more so against true NBA players when training camps open in October. He said the summer league gave him an indication of the things that he needs to work on between now and then this summer.
``I have to continue to maintain my body because they have back-to-back-to-back games in the NBA. I’ve got to stay on top of that,’’ said Nicholson, who hopes to add muscle and weight to his 240-pound frame in the offseason. ``There’s always something that I can work on (with the post game). So I’ll work on that during the time that we have off now.’’
As for O’Quinn, he felt he showed the Magic that he was willing to mix it up inside and do the dirty work teams often expect from backup centers. He played his best game of the week against Detroit’s Andre Drummond, the ninth overall pick of the NBA Draft. But as O’Quinn stressed, there is still plenty for him to learn and that’s why he’ll be hanging out at the Magic facility most of the summer working on his game.
``I think I played pretty well this week, but I learned a lot and that’s the biggest thing,’’ he said. ``I learned all of those plays and I learned the NBA game. You can make mistakes in college and work your way back into it. But there is little room for error here in the NBA because the players are great.’’
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