Denton: Oladipo and Harris Accepting Reserve Roles

Victor Oladipo

By John Denton
March 28, 2014

ORLANDO – If they had their choice, Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris would start every game and play big minutes for the Orlando Magic. But both understand why they are once again in reserve roles and both have made the best of the situations.

After starting the past four games at point guard, Oladipo was moved back into a reserve role on Friday night when veteran Jameer Nelson returned from a sore knee. In his four games as a starter, Oladipo averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds to go along with 5.3 turnovers a game.

The move was made back to Nelson, head coach Jacque Vaughn said, because the 10-year veteran is a team leader and he has played well against Charlotte this season, averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 assists in the first two games against the Bobcats.

``It gives us the flexibility of having another ball-handler on the floor and Jameer has been good against Charlotte in pick-and-roll and we’ll be able to use that to our advantage,’’ Vaughn said of Nelson, who had started all of the 61 games that he’s played in. ``We’ve done it all throughout the course of the year. Before (Nelson) had the injury he was starting, so no need to change after he’s proved to be OK injury-wise.’’

Harris was moved to the bench nine games ago so that Orlando could go with a bigger lineup with 6-foot-10, 250-pound Kyle O’Quinn at power forward. The Magic were also eager to see what kind of scoring pop that Harris could provide as a reserve. Although he was initially upset about losing his starting gig, Harris has responded well to the change.

In the nine games before Friday, Harris averaged 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. He’s scored in double digits in eight of those nine games and his best games have come against Portland (25 points), San Antonio and Phoenix (23 points) and Washington (21 points). ``It’s just about going out there and playing hard,’’ Harris said. ``I’m doing what I can. I’ve gotten good opportunities and teammates are finding me. I’m taking advantage of it and doing what I can to help our team. I’m a basketball player and I just go out there and do my role.’’

As for Oladipo, he’s started 41 games and come off the bench 30 games. He’s playing 11 more minutes a game as a starter and accordingly his production is better as a starter (15.1 points, 4.8 rebound and 4.7 assists) than it is as a reserve (12.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists).

``I pretty much go out there and try to play the same way,’’ Oladipo said. ``I pick spots where to be aggressive and know when to look for my teammates. I try to bring that energy off the bench.’’

HAPPY FOR MCROBERTS: Josh McRoberts spent just half a season with the Magic before getting dealt to Charlotte at the trade deadline last Febraury. Still, the personable and versatile forward had quite the impact in Orlando.

McRoberts finished last season with a flurry and was signed to a contract extension over the summer. He’s played well for the vastly improved Bobcats this season, starting 72 games. He came into Friday averaging 8.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game as a do-everything forward for the Bobcats.

McRoberts’ success in Charlotte hasn’t surprised Vaughn, who said that the forward was a delight to coach last season in Orlando when he averaged 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game for the Magic. Nelson, Orlando’s veteran point guard, also put in a good word for McRoberts, telling Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford – a former Magic assistant coach – to keep the versatile forward on the roster.

``Josh was great when he was here,’’ Vaughn said. ``When Josh was here he could play multiple positions, he’s athletic and you can see that he’s found a home (in Charlotte). That always makes a player more comfortable. Not having a contract situation on your mind puts you at ease. That’s where he is right now.’’