Denton: Oladipo Has Important Message for Future NBA Prospects

Victor Oladipo

By John Denton
April 2, 2014

ORLANDO – With college basketball season ending for most teams and several elite-level players starting to declare for the June NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo has some advice: Buckle your proverbial chinstrap and start readying yourself now for the intense rigors of the NBA.

Oladipo went to Indiana University for three seasons because he said he was nowhere near ready for professional basketball when he came out of high school. Oladipo ultimately became an All-American college player and put himself in position to be the No. 2 pick by the Orlando Magic last June.

Even though Oladipo has played about as well as any rookie this season – he went into Wednesday night’s game against Cleveland averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game – Oladipo said the difficulty of playing in the NBA is much higher than he ever thought it would be. It’s hard enough facing the superstar players, Oladipo said, but other players such as Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, Cleveland’s Dion Waiters, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, Denver’s Ty Lawson, Boston’s Avery Bradley and Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight have given him fits with their high skill levels. Oladipo said he’s needed no reminder this season that every night he’s facing the best of the best basketball players.

``It’s definitely a tough league and it’s the greatest players in the world,’’ Oladipo said. ``I can’t say the things that I thought from far away or while watching it at home were (accurate). I don’t want to say that it was a rude awakening for me, but it definitely gave me a different perspective on the league. You have to be on you’re A-game in this league because you’re going against the best. You are going to have a lot of ups and downs, but you have to keep working and stay positive throughout the whole season.’’

Oladipo has twice been named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month and in January he became the first rookie in Magic history to have at least 35 points and at least eight assists in the same game. He’s scored at least 30 points twice and 20-or-more 11 times this season. But he was especially hard on himself when asked for a grade of himself throughout this rookie season.

``If I was giving myself like an A, B, C or D, I’d probably say a D,’’ Oladipo said candidly. ``For real, I’ve got a long way to go from where I want to be and where I feel that I can be. I’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m just going to keep getting better.’’

CLEVELAND COMPARISON: If any team in the NBA can relate to Orlando’s painful rebuilding process after losing a superstar player, it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland is in Year 4 of its rebuild after franchise player LeBron James defected to the Miami Heat. Since then, Cleveland has gotten the No. 1 draft pick twice (selecting Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett), the No. 4 selection twice (selecting Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters) and the No. 17 pick (selecting Tyler Zeller). The Cavs also signed free agents Andrew Bynum and Earl Clark last summer, but both proved to be abject failures.

Orlando lost star center Dwight Howard in August of 2012 and is in Year 2 of its makeover. The Magic had the NBA’s worst record last season and used that to nab Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. They have the NBA’s third-worst mark this season and are in line for another high draft pick.

Cleveland entered Wednesday 10th in the Eastern Conference and three games out of last postseason slot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have yet to make the playoffs since James departed and they know firsthand the patience that it takes when rebuilding the roster around young players.

``It’s a tough process and it takes some patience,’’ said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who was fired after the 2010 season and re-hired last summer. ``It takes patience from everybody because it’s not always going to be pretty, especially with the way social media is and how easy people can get information. The win-now thing is a big deal. You have to have some patience throughout the process until you can get some continuity and figure out what the nucleus is going to be. Those are the ones that are going to have success down the road.’’