Denton: Oladipo Learns Plenty at Summer League

By John Denton
July 12, 2013

ORLANDO – For the first five days of the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League, Victor Oladipo looked at every challenge thrown his way – from playing point guard to checking bigger foes – as opportunities to grow his game at the NBA level.

So naturally when Oladipo was given Friday off and allowed to rest during Orlando’s 102-83 loss to the Boston Celtics, he approached it as another chance to learn more about the NBA game. He studied scenarios from the bench, trying to find ways he could be better as a point guard when he’s back around his Magic teammates in the coming weeks.

``I had some good moments and some rough moments this week, but it was a good learning process. Even today, watching from the sideline, was good for me because I could see some of the reasons why I make some of the mistakes and what I can do to correct them,’’ Oladipo said. ``It was just a great learning week for me and I’ll continue to think about the game and watch the film and try to learn.’’

Pleased with the growth they had seen from Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn and the aggressiveness from Oladipo, the Magic gave the three the day off on the final day of the Summer League. That afforded more playing time for the likes of A.J. Slaughter (25 points, nine assists and seven steals), second-round pick Romero Osby (14 points and four steals) and guard DeQuan Jones (15 points and three 3-pointers). Jones and Osby are expected to be invited to training camp in October, while Slaughter might have shown enough explosiveness as a scoring point guard to be with the Magic in the preseason.

Friday’s lopsided loss dropped Orlando to 2-3 for the week, a disappointing record for a team that hoped to win the championship that Oklahoma City (5-0) ultimately won when it topped Houston (4-1) earlier in the day. Still, Magic coach James Borrego said he saw the necessary improvement from several players to make the week a success.

``The summer league is about their growth and development and understanding who we are as a group and what our culture is,’’ said Borrego, the lead assistant coach for Jacque Vaughn’s staff. ``We’re disappointed with our 2-3 record, but as a whole we’re happy with their development and what we saw over the five games.

``Andrew (Nicholson) showed that he’s gained some strength and confidence down low with some physicality that he didn’t have last year,’’ Borrego continued. ``Kyle O’Quinn looks a lot more patient and comfortable as a NBA player. Mo Harkless has improved his ball-handling skills and his attacks to the rim. And as a whole we’ve seen what their work in the weight room has done and how it translates to the court. They are a lot more committed to being a physical team and that will help us going forward.’’

There will be plenty of eyes on Oladipo going forward after a week in which he averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals in four games. He shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, but he was impressive from the 3-point stripe by hitting seven of 13 tries (53.8 percent). He answered some of the questions about his ability to play point guard by handing out 20 assists, but he did kick the ball away 19 times. It’s all just a part of the tricky transition from college shooting guard to NBA point guard, he said.

``I’m a week more comfortable,’’ Oladipo said with a chuckle about his switch to point guard. ``I’m slowly but surely trying to learn it. I’m trying to take every aspect of the point guard position and trying to perfect it. I have to limit my mistakes and know when to be aggressive and when to get my teammates involved.’’

Borrego said the past week was very informative for the Magic as it relates to Oladipo because it shows how the point guard reacts to ball pressure, his ability to break down defenders and his calm under pressure. He hit the game-winning shot on Thursday when he drilled a 22-foot, step-back jumper over Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams with 4.4 seconds remaining. And in his four games, Oladipo showed his explosiveness off the dribble by repeatedly getting into the rim and averaging 10 free throw attempts a game. ``It’s his ability to make plays (that is the most impressive), and in today’s NBA, point guards who can break down the defense off the dribble and create havoc change the entire game,’’ Borrego said. ``I think we saw a young man who has those skills to break down a defense off the dribble. On top of that, he showed he can shoot, defend the point guard and has a winning quality that helps us moving forward.’’

After spending the past five weeks going through pre-draft workouts, practicing for the summer league and playing his first games in a Magic uniform, Oladipo is due some time off for the next couple of weeks. After that, he said he’ll be back in the gym working to improve his skills prior to NBA training camp opening in October.

He said he was fortunate to go through Summer League in his new hometown of Orlando, allowing him to get used to working at the Amway Center. But he knows when he returns for informal workouts in September and training camp in October that it will be to compete against NBA-level talent. And he’s vowing to put in the work to get himself as ready as possible.

``It was nice playing around here because I’m not really used to the area. So this week I’ve been getting familiar with it, playing and practicing in this arena and learning my way around the place,’’ Oladipo said. ``I just have to keep getting better, staying in the gym and staying hungry. It’s about building a relationship with my teammates and my coaching staff because we’re going to go to war together every night. I have to earn their trust.’’

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