Denton: Oladipo Out Tonight vs. Spurs

By John Denton
March 8, 2014

SAN ANTONIO – The last time that Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo missed a game because of an injury before Wednesday night was during his freshman year of high school.

Oladipo will miss a second straight game tonight when the Magic face the Spurs in San Antonio because of a sore left ankle. Oladipo is trying to use the unique experience of sitting out as another tool for him to learn in this his rookie NBA season.

``I’m learning through what I can see on the court. Sometimes it’s good to learn with your eyes,’’ Oladipo said. ``By sitting over there and looking at it, I can learn some things and get a different perspective.’’

The Magic (19-44) will welcome back the return of veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, who had missed the past two games with a sore calf muscle and an illness. He will have his hands full facing all-star Tony Parker and the surging Spurs (45-16). San Antonio, which is a half-game back of top seed Oklahoma City in the rugged Western Conference, is coming off a 111-87 thumping of the Miami Heat. The Spurs are 41-4 this season against teams with the 22 worst records in the NBA.

``It will be good to have the basketball in (Nelson’s) hands again,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``He’s played against Parker a lot of times in his career so hopefully that gives us a little familiarity.’’

Oladipo didn’t hurt his ankle on one play and instead has just been banged up after taking a series of hard falls and collisions at the rim. Oladipo was the only Magic player to appear in all of the first 62 games, but he was held out of Wednesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets. Vaughn said the team wants the rookie fully healthy while he’s on the floor.

``He’s played 62 games for us and I think if you took a look at the top five picks in the draft I’m quite sure he’s led in games played,’’ Vaughn said. ``I think three weeks ago I said I was going to be judicious is his approach and I want to keep him healthy. What I don’t want to do is turn a little ache and pain into something serious. So the philosophy hasn’t changed since we’ve been here and we’re going to be cautious and get guys back on the floor when we feel that they are OK to get back onto the floor.’’

Cody Zeller, the No. 4 pick in last June’s draft, was set to play in his 63rd game Saturday night for the Charlotte Bobcats, but he hasn’t started a game all season. Sacramento’s Ben McLemore and Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams will play in their 63rd games on Sunday. Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams is the only rookie to start more games than Oladipo (49 to 37), but Carter-Williams missed 12 games earlier in the season because of injuries.

Dressed in a checkered light blue suit and a brown tie, Oladipo was up off the Magic’s bench several times in Wednesday’s loss to the Rockets. He was encouraging his teammates and studying how the Magic treed to defend all-star shooting guard James Harden.

Vaughn was delighted to see his rookie guard keeping his mind focused on the action on the court even though he wasn’t going to be playing.

``It’s great to see him engaged in the game,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s a challenge for guys when they’re not playing and they’re either hurt or not getting minutes, to still be engaged with your teammates and what is going on. I think he got a different perspective of what’s going on on the floor. I think this opportunity for him to get healthy and seeing it from the sidelines will help him.’’

Oladipo was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month for February after averaging 14.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.92 steals in 12 games. He helped lead the Magic to impressive wins against Oklahoma City and Indiana and he battered the New York Knicks for 30 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in February.

``I think I’ve improved on a little bit of everything, whether it’s decision-making, shot selection and getting my teammates involved,’’ he said. ``There are some days I’m not as good and some days I’m really good. I just have to get more consistent at it.’’