Advice From Uncle Horace Helping Jerian Grant Adapt in Orlando

by John Denton

ORLANDO – Jerian Grant knows full well that his first season in Orlando could be a make-or-break one for his career, but he doesn’t have to go too far for helpful advice about what it’s like to play for the Magic.

Grant’s uncle, Horace Grant, was a Magic legend during his two stints in Orlando from 1994-99 and 2001-03. Even though Horace lives on the West Coast and has been retired from the NBA since 2004, Jerian is reminded of his uncle daily when he passes a large collage of pictures near the Magic training room at the Amway Center. In one particular picture, a goggled Horace is soaring high into the air to snatch a rebound over a foe from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

``It’s real special to walk into the gym every day and see my uncle’s picture up there, it means a lot,’’ said Jerian, whose Magic (1-2) host the Memphis Grizzlies (2-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in preseason action (TV: Fox Sports Florida). ``Both him and my dad (Harvey Grant) played in this league and had success in this league and they give me advice all the time. They tell me, going into my fourth year, that it’s time to make a difference.’’

Grant, 25, hears a similar message almost daily from another player with strong Magic ties in his past. Victor Oladipo, who played in Orlando from 2013-16 before blossoming into an all-star performer in Indiana, not only played high school and AAU basketball with Grant, but the two of them took turns living at one another’s houses throughout much of their teenaged years. In fact, not long after Grant found out that he had been traded to the Magic back in July, he stayed at Oladipo’s Orlando-area house and the two of them talked basketball and life for hours.

Like Oladipo – the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player award winner – Grant is hopeful he can make a significant jump with his play this season and have a major impact winning in Orlando.

``Vic’s a player who has improved every year – to the point where he’s an all-star now,’’ said Grant, a Silver Springs, Md. native who played with Oladipo in high school at the famed DeMatha Catholic. ``We both come from the same background, same high school and same AAU and we grew up together. We’ve both improved every year and I’m just looking forward to becoming a better basketball player and getting to where I want to be.’’

Grant, a fourth-year pro, showed off some of his personal progress in Orlando’s 90-89 preseason loss in Miami on Monday. Not only did he score 17 points, but Grant proved that he’s grown as a shooter by drilling two 3-pointers and making all five of his free throws. Magic head coach Steve Clifford has raved about Grant’s steady play all preseason and he said Monday’s game was a glimpse of all the things he can do for Orlando this season.

``His defense was really good, he made good decisions, he got his pick-and-roll game going and he had a good post-up sequence where he used his size in the paint,’’ Clifford said. ``Also, he made his threes. He’s playing better and better and he’s getting more comfortable and he can play really well for us at both ends of the floor.’’

Grant, a 6-foot-4 guard with long arms, averaged career highs in points (8.4), assists (4.6), rebounds (2.3) and steals (0.9) last season for the Chicago Bulls. Still, there was a feeling that he could do more if only he could solve his issues with shooting (41.6 percent overall and 32.6 percent from 3-point range).

The Magic believed in Grant’s future enough to acquire him a three-team trade that involved the Bulls and Charlotte Hornets. Though he’s happy in Orlando and has been thrilled with the open lines of communication with Clifford, Grant knows that he is at a critical juncture in his career with his rookie contract expiring following this season. He knows there’s a lot riding on his ability to show major improvement.

``Personally, I have a lot to prove. I’ve been in this league for three years now and I’m going into my fourth, but for me it’s just about really proving what I can do and leading a team to wins,’’ stressed Grant, who has averaged 6.6 points and 3.0 assists over the first three years of his career while playing for three Bulls coaches. ``This is a great opportunity for me. I’ve been talking to the guys and talking to Coach Clifford and everybody is hungry to do something special here, including myself.’’

Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said Grant’s hunger and willingness to prove himself was one of the motivating factors in trading for the guard who will back up starter D.J. Augustin. Weltman likes Grant’s positional versatility and toughness on the defensive end and feels he could be poised for a breakout season.

``Jerian is a guy who the league looks at as an unfinished product,’’ Weltman said. ``Here’s a guy who has a high basketball IQ, he’s got size and he has the ability to be a two-way player. He’s just got to develop a consistency with his shot and find a consistent home.

``He is still on his rookie contract and the book hasn’t been fully written on him,’’ Weltman added. ``So, we’re hoping he can come in and this will be the place. We always say with signings and free agents, it’s not always so much about `who’ as it is about `when.’ When you get a guy in their career is important.’’

Grant has gotten similar advice from Oladipo, uncle Horace and dad Harvey Grant – three people who know quite a bit about the NBA. Horace and Oladipo also know quite a bit about having success in Orlando. Oladipo was one of the first friends to talk to Grant after word came down that he was being traded to Orlando and he told him he’d love the Magic because of the solid structure of the organization and the support of the fanbase.

As for Horace, their conversations haven’t been as frequent because of the older Grant’s aversion to sending/replying to text messages and frequenting social media, but the two of them have shared plenty of laughs about Jerian’s NBA path.

``I’ve talked to him a little about Orlando and obviously I was in Chicago where he played, too,’’ Jerian said of Horace, who was a four-time NBA champion, a four-time All-Defense pick and an All-Star in 1994. ``He’s just been making jokes about his nephew going to the two teams where he had a lot of success. I’m just looking forward to having some of the same success here.’’

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