Always Special Trip For Frank Vogel When Magic Visit Pacers

By John Denton
Jan. 27, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – By the time the Orlando Magic landed in Indianapolis on Friday, Frank Vogel’s grogginess and cold morphed into something stronger that knocked him for a loop most of the night.

Still, even as he was battling the effects of a nasty virus, Vogel felt nostalgic as he returned to the city where he lived and coached from 2007-16.

Vogel served as an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers from 2007-11 and was promoted to interim head coach and, months later, full-time head coach during the 2010-11 season. He got the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time in six years that first season and he ultimately led the franchise to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and ’14 before losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat both times.

Vogel still has a home in Indianapolis, and it served as his haven on Friday night as he tried to nurse himself back to health prior to the Magic’s game against the Pacers on Saturday.

``Everywhere I go around here (he has memories). It was nine years and it was an important nine years of my life with my kids being raised here,’’ Vogel said of living in Indianapolis. ``I went out to my house (Friday) night and I drive by University High School and the first thing that comes to my mind is, `That’s the hill that my daughters and I went sledding on their whole upbringing.’ It’s really endless (with the memories) here.’’

Vogel said there were times on Friday night and Saturday morning when he didn’t think he would be able to coach in Saturday night’s game because of the fever and achiness he felt from his nasty cold. He wanted to try and work – especially since he had his wife, children and approximately 20 family and friends in the crowd on Saturday night.

HAPPY FOR OLADIPO: During his three seasons of playing in Orlando from 2013-16, Victor Oladipo was a favorite among Magic fans and even with his teammates in the locker room because of his bubbly personality and willingness to work.

Now a member of the Pacers, Oladipo is in the midst of his finest season as a professional – one strong enough to earn him a spot in the NBA All-Star Game – and no one is happier for him than his former teammates with the Magic. While some congratulated him last week on his selection as an all-star, others were excited to see him on Saturday, so they could tell him in person.

``That’s somebody who is a friend of mine or more of a brother, to be honest, and I’m so happy for him,’’ said Magic point guard Elfrid Payton, who played with Oladipo for two seasons. ``I’m just happy that we got the opportunity, and a lot of times that’s what it’s about – getting the opportune situation. He’s thriving in it and I’m happy for him.’’

Oladipo came into Saturday averaging 24.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 40.1 percent from 3-point range to earn his first all-star game appearance. Oladipo never shot better than 43.8 percent from the floor or 34.8 percent from 3-point range in his three seasons with Magic. However, he changed his body in the offseason and he’s worked to become a significantly better 3-point shooter off the bounce this season.

``I’m so, so, so happy for Victor. He’s worked so hard and he’s so talented and skilled and he really deserves this,’’ Magic forward Aaron Gordon said of Oladipo, who played quite well in his first two games against Orlando this season. ``He’s back in his comfort zone in Indiana and I’m so proud that everything worked out for him. I miss playing with him, for sure.’’

`IT’S JUST US’: In an attempt to build team chemistry and open communication among the squad, Magic players started a group chat via text message just before the season-opener back in October.

The chat had an undisclosed name at the start of the season, but the name has since been changed to `It’s Just Us’ and it doesn’t include the Magic coaches. Often, the group chat is used for light-hearted comedy and inspiration, but it also came in handy recently as a means of keeping injured players Nikola Vucevic (fractured left hand) and Terrence Ross (sprained knee) feeling a part of the team.

``I can’t tell you what it was called before `It’s Just Us,’ but guys send funny pictures on there and we make fun of each other and it’s just a fun thing for us to bond (over) when we’re not together,’’ Magic guard D.J. Augustin said. ``We’re not always together and when we’re not, we send each other motivational things or funny things to keep guys up. To be in the same group chat together, it’s like we’re together all the time.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic have benefitted of late from having some extra off days of rest and they will get another break before playing again on Tuesday.

Orlando was scheduled to depart following Saturday’s game for Houston, where it will have two days to prepare for Tuesday’s game against the Rockets. The Magic will take Sunday off and practice on Monday.

The Magic lost 116-98 to Houston on Jan. 3 even though MVP candidate James Harden didn’t play because of a hamstring strain. That night, Gerald Green scored 27 points off the bench.

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