Denton: Magic Want to Build Winning Habits at Summer League
By John Denton
July 6, 2013
ORLANDO – Victor Olidipo is the rawest of rookies, having only participated in five practices and having not even gone through an actual game yet.
But the Orlando Magic’s prized first-round draft pick can look beyond his lack of NBA experience and see a future where the franchise’s collection of promising young parts has a tremendously bright outlook.
``I can see it happening already, all of us together building a legacy here in Orlando,’’ Oladipo said. ``We have to be about something that’s bigger than ourselves, and we will. I’m just so looking forward to getting started growing with this group.’’
That growth process begins in earnest on Sunday as the Magic play the Boston Celtics at 11 a.m. in the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League. The 10 teams – Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Utah are the other eight teams – will each play five games over the next six days. For the first time, a champion will be crowned on Friday.
One of the youngest teams in the NBA last season by the end of the 82-game marathon, the Magic will feature a summer league roster loaded with NBA experience. Much of their promising core – namely Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn, Doron Lamb, DeQuan Jones and draft picks Oladipo and Romero Osby – will fill out the roster this week. Tobias Harris, a standout for the Magic late last season, has practiced with the team this week, but might see only limited action in the tournament for precautionary reasons.
By training camp, that group will be joined by center Nikola Vucevic, who was one of the NBA’s biggest surprises last season when he averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds. Nicholson (23 years old), O’Quinn (23), Jones (23), Osby (23), Vucevic (22), Oladipo (21), Lamb (21) and Harkless (20) form a young and promising foundation to a team whose future could be bright for years to come.
``People are probably wondering what the Magic are bringing (in the future) and we have to go out now and show them what we stand for,’’ said O’Quinn, who has been a regular at the Magic headquarters this summer while working to grow his game.
While a summer league championship would matter very little in the grand scheme of things, Harkless and Nicholson stressed that standing out as the best team this next week will be important for a young and impressionable Magic squad.
``I want to win the championship. Anything that we do, we want to win. We’ve got to build winning habits, have fun and go win,’’ said Harkless, who has dramatically improved his strength this summer and has boosted his weight to 222 pounds. ``You look at our Summer League team and it’s half of our (regular-season) team. You’ve got Kyle, Victor, Drew, Tobias and it’s half of our starting lineup from last season. So for us to be here now and able to grow together, it’s great.’’
Added Nicholson, who has also added some much-needed muscle through a summer of hard work: ``We have to be habitual about winning. This week is about going out there and meshing together and getting as many Ws as we can.’’
Assistant coach James Borrego, the team’s Summer League coach this week, said the summer action will be the perfect platform for several of the Magic’s players who have worked to improve their games. Harkless and Nicholson have gotten noticeably bigger, while Lamb has greatly improved his fitness level and strength. Others, such as O’Quinn and Jones, have worked with on-court drills to become more well-rounded players.
``They look better physically and they are hungrier. They’ve got another year under their belt. They look confident and look like they belong, like they’re NBA players,’’ said Borrego, head coach Jacque Vaughn’s lead assistant. ``We’ve been very happy these last couple of days with what we’ve seen. They’ve put in the work and now we get to see it in competition.
``They’ve all worked so hard on their bodies and on the court,’’ Borrego continued. ``The offseason is where you become a player. The biggest growth you see, in general, is between that first and second year. The first year you get a taste of what the NBA is about and the second year you get your feet under and you are ready to explode. All of our guys are ready to do that. Not one of them hasn’t gotten better, so it’s been a big summer for us.’’
It’s also a big summer for Oladipo, who is eager to show what he can do from multiple positions just a week after the Magic believed enough in him to make him the second overall pick of the NBA Draft. The Magic plan to throw plenty at Oladipo this week, using him at shooting guard and point guard and allowing him to defend several positions. He admitted that the start of his NBA career will undoubtedly induce some nerves, but he will eventually settle down.
``Of course, (there will be nerves) because it’s the NBA Summer League and it’s my first NBA game,’’ he said. ``There might be a little bit of jitters, but once I get out there and start playing and realize it’s just basketball I’ll get comfortable with the flow of the game.’’
In time, those nerves will fade for Oladipo and he hopes that as the Magic’s collection of young players grow together that success will soon follow. Oladipo might just be a rookie, but he thinks in time the Magic could have the kind of players that could produce the ultimate success for the franchise.
``Every time I walk in this gym and look at these (Eastern Conference championship) banners, look at the (Magic) logo and I say, `We’ve got to get another championship here,’’’ Oladipo said. ``I’m just trying to keep working and getting better. When I get better it helps my team get better.’’
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