Denton: Nelson's Absence Gives Oladipo More Opportunity
By John Denton
Feb. 2, 2014
BOSTON– Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has stressed regularly that his players are being evaluated and tested in every minute of every game. With that in mind, the Magic will use the next two games to test Victor Oladipo’s ball-handling skills and growth as a point guard.
When veteran point guard Jameer Nelson was left back in Orlando because of soreness in his left knee, Oladipo was vaulted into the spotlight. Oladipo has usually started alongside of Nelson as the Magic’s shooting guard and then he’s eased into point guard spot when Nelson is resting. But on Sunday in Boston and likely Monday in Indiana, Oladipo will be used as the Magic’s starter at point guard.
The timing of the position switch couldn’t have come at a much tougher time what with Orlando facing Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley – two of the NBA’s best on-ball defenders – on Sunday.
``It’s a night of seeing growth from him,’’ Vaughn said of the test facing Oladipo. ``It’s not like it’s the second quarter and now the ball is in his hands; it’s from the beginning tap and can he get guys organized from the beginning of the game. And does he have the focus at the beginning of the game to get us in the right plays on both ends of the floor.’’
Nelson played the first 12 minutes of Friday’s defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks, but then retreated to the locker room for treatment on his sore knee. He did not return to the game and didn’t practice on Saturday and Vaughn said the decision was made to rest Nelson on Sunday and Monday.
``No MRIs, he’s back at home and it was smarter for us to leave him back at home because he wasn’t going to play the next two days,’’ Vaughn said. ``He can get treatment back at home and he can watch the Super Bowl in his own bed.’’ Oladipo went into Sunday’s game averaging 3.9 assists a game, but also 3.3 turnovers a game. He’s been good at creating offense for himself – as evidenced by his 13.9 points per game – but the switch to point guard will test his abilities to create as a point guard.
``It puts the ball in Victor’s hands more and that will be good for us to see,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’ll have his teammates around him to help him, but he’ll be leading the charge. Our offense doesn’t have to be initiated by a single person, so that will help Victor out, but this is a good challenge for him bring the ball up and initiating our offense.’’
BABY TALK: Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis is in his third season with the Magic, but Sunday was just his third time playing back in Boston because of injuries to his shoulder and foot. Davis started his career in Boston, playing with the Celtics for four seasons and being a part of their 2008 NBA Championship team.
``I look up in the rafters (at TD Garden) and I was a part of that (2008) banner,’’ Davis said. ``It not like I wasn’t a part of it; I was a part of it. So it’s always special to me.’’
Davis said he recently watched the tributes for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett when the former Celtics returned to Boston for the first time in the regular season last week. Davis admitted that it feels weird playing the Celtics without Garnett and Pierce – two players he was with for four seasons in Boston.
Davis said he and Boston point guard Rajon Rondo – another of his former teammates with the Celtics – are in similar circumstances trying to be leaders on young, rebuilding teams.
``It’s tough for him because he doesn’t really know losing like that,’’ Davis said of Rondo, whose Celtics just experienced a 15-loss January for the worst month in franchise history. ``He still has a long career and he’s still here. He has to understand what he’s trying to accomplish here. I know it’s tough for him.’’
As for his own circumstances, Davis said that while he enjoys being a mentor for Magic young players Kyle O’Quinn, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and Oladipo, he misses being in contention for a championship.
``I was just realizing that last year was my first year not making the playoffs,’’ Davis said. ``It was different, but you try to fight through it as much as you can. You try to teach the guys the importance of every play and playing together. You have to fight through it. It tests your patience, but you have to take one day at a time. You want to accomplish a lot in your career, do great things and win. And when that opportunity presents itself I’ll be there – wherever it’s at, here (in Orlando) or wherever my career takes me. You can’t worry about (losing) or you will get really frustrated. You’ve got to stay positive and stay focused.’’
NEW TO FOOTBALL: While growing up in Montenegro, Magic center Nikola Vucevic had no idea what the Super Bowl was. But that changed when moved to Southern California for high school and then attended football-crazed USC. While there, Vucevic learned the rules to football while attending USC games and he later looked on with interest at the game while going to Super Bowl parties around campus.
Vucevic now plays football video games and calls himself a big football fan. He latched onto the Philadelphia Eagles as his favorite NFL team because of his time spent in Philadelphia during his rookie NBA season. And he even has a distinct rooting interest in the Super Bowl.
``Definitely the Seahawks because of (Seattle head coach) Pete Carroll. He was at SC when I was there,’’ Vucevic said. ``He’s a good guy and I’ve had a chance to talk to him several times. He’s a great guy, so I’ll be pulling for him. He tried to get me at quarterback, but when I saw all of those big guys that would be coming at me, I said, `Nahhh.’’’