Oladipo Shows Familiar Intensity in Summer League Action

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By John Denton
July 5, 2014

ORLANDO -- Victor Oladipo played on the biggest stages in basketball last season as a rookie with the Orlando Magic and he more than held his own while going toe to toe against point guard greats Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry.

Saturday’s setting was the no-frills Orlando Pro Summer League and a matchup against lightly regarded Philadelphia rookie Casper Ware. Considering Oladipo’s searing intensity level and the crispness of his execution, it was difficult to see any drop off whatsoever in the fiery guard’s mindset.

Oladipo was so good for the Magic on Saturday in first-day summer league action that he somewhat overshadowed the NBA debuts of Orlando lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Oladipo poured in 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists in Orlando’s 83-77 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers at the Amway Center.

For Oladipo, Saturday’s performance was about setting a tone for his teammates and being a player that others can look to for stability. Whether it was him diving for a loose ball near midcourt, letting out a guttural scream following a Magic run or confidently stroking jumpers off pick-and-roll plays, Oladipo was eager to show everyone that he was locked in for the summer league action. At one point, Oladipo even waived off the bench and stayed in the game after getting rolled up on and slightly twisting his ankle.

``From the jump they want me to lead the team and be a leader out there, so that’s the only way I know how to lead – high energy is how I play,’’ Oladipo said. ``I feel like the guys fed off me and I had to bring it. I felt like I did a good job with that today. I had some little tiny mistakes, but everything is correctable and I can get a lot better.’’

Gordon, the No. 4 pick in last month’s NBA Draft, and Payton, the No. 10 pick acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, both battled through rookie jitters throughout the day, but showed flashes of excellence. Gordon made just three of 11 shots for seven points, but he finished at the rim midway through the third quarter to steady the Magic and he had a put-back layup off a head fake with 1:27 to play that sealed the victory.

Gordon, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder with a 39-inch vertical leap, had the play of the day when he soared into the air and snatched K.J. McDaniels’ layup attempt for a block. Gordon, who is still three months away from his 19th birthday, said that despite his shaky shooting and four turnovers Saturday will always be memorable because of him making his NBA debut.

``Definitely (it’s memorable) because it’s something new and kind of like me getting to go against all of the college players that I never played against and there were a lot of pros in the game and people trying to make it to a roster,’’ Gordon said. ``It was a really fun game. It was exciting and I will remember it.’’

Payton, a 6-foot-3 point guard, didn’t start but played almost 18 minutes off the bench. His ball-handling skills were tested by a Philadelphia team intent on swarming him and he turned the ball over four times. But Payton did have a driving shot off the glass and five assists for the Magic.

``I was a little nervous, but once I got into it and started playing it went away because it’s just basketball,’’ said Payton, 20. ``I’m just trying to cause havoc and disrupt rhythm for the other team.’’

Second-round pick Devyn Marble was impressive with two 3-pointers and 13 points, while Kadeem Batts chipped in 11 points off the bench. Marble knows that with no contractual guarantees that he must do everything in his power this week to open eyes and earn an invite to training camp in October.

``Once you see that ball go in, as a scorer you are going to keep trying to put it in there,’’ Marble said. ``I just came out and did what I do – I score the ball and I defend. Those are the two things that I know the coaching staff wanted me to do.’’

Marble played collegiately at Iowa and competed for two years against Oladipo when he played for Indiana University. Marble was already quite familiar with Oladipo’s intensity level, so it didn’t surprise him to see the Magic standout playing with fire and aggression on Saturday.

``That’s why I like him – because he’s competitive like me,’’ Marble said. ``He was probably my favorite player to match up against and go against in college. So it doesn’t surprise me that he was playing like he was because that’s his competitive nature. He brings his teammates along as everyone could see today.’’

With Magic teammates Kyle O’Quinn, Evan Fournier and Maurice Harkless looking on from courtside seats, Oladipo jump-started himself midway through the first half on Saturday by stripping Ware at midcourt, pushing the ball the length of the floor and finishing at the rim as he was fouled. Later, Oladipo repeatedly drilled jump shots while coming off screens and he sank two 3-pointers – once while getting clearly hit across the arm.

``He was a lot more comfortable and the more we put him in those situations the better,’’ Magic coach Wes Unseld Jr. ``He has to assess situations and read how the defense is playing him.’’

Oladipo’s commitment to wanting to get better could be seen in his waistline. He recently spent two weeks in Los Angeles to work on his conditioning and skills. His work throughout the summer has helped him drop 20 pounds – from 230 pounds to his college playing weight of 210.

``I just feel a lot better as a player. My body feels good. My mind feels good. Going out there, I’m not worried about making mistakes and I’m just relying on my instincts,’’ Oladipo said. ``I shot like three airballs today, but if you looked at me you couldn’t even tell. I love this game of basketball and I want to be great at it, but I am not going to be perfect. I’m not going to let anybody know that I’m down or upset so that it will look like I’ve never made a mistake. When I do that, my teammates will feed off it. I’ve got to keep that going and apply it to next season because we’re definitely going to need it.’’