Ayton vs. Bamba Has Potential to Become Great Rivalry

Magic center will use Monday's game as extra fuel and motivation
by John Denton

LAS VEGAS – In the 18 days since the NBA Draft wrapped up, Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba has used one visual in particular – that of Deandre Ayton shaking the hand of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as the No. 1 pick – as motivation to drive him to improve.

Now, following a lopsided loss on Monday to Ayton and the Phoenix Suns in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, Bamba has some new material to use as fuel for his fire.

Ayton, the top overall pick, easily won the center showdown against Bamba, the No. 6 pick, when he scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the Suns’ 71-53 defeat of the sluggish Magic at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Bamba finished with four points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and five fouls in nearly 23 minutes of work. Too often, the 7-foot, 225-pound Bamba got pinned behind the 7-foot-1, 250-pound Ayton and the Phoenix big man made him pay. Ayton drilled six of 10 shots, five of six free throws and corralled five offensive rebounds.

Coming into the night, Bamba’s teams held a 4-0 record over Ayton’s teams in high school and AAU. And in the lead-up to Monday’s showdown, Bamba playfully retorted that ``it’s about to be five (wins).’’ However, Ayton had the last laughs – both during and after the game.

``We were shaking hands (after tonight’s game) and (Bamba) was like, `You finally got one!’ And I’m like, `Yep, I finally got one. Especially when it matters,’’ Ayton said boastfully.

Undoubtedly, Bamba will store this memory away, use it as motivation in his pursuit of improvement and be better prepared the next time the Magic (2-1) faces the Suns (3-0) – which could come later this week when the Summer League moves into a tournament format. Even after Monday’s loss, the Magic’s young big man said he will continue to keep Ayton on his mind – just as he has since last month’s NBA Draft.

``I had a lot of motivation going into this and I mentioned that I’m going to try to keep that mindset of a guy like (Golden State forward) Draymond Green (who was picked behind 34 other players in the 2012 NBA Draft),’’ Bamba said. ``(Ayton) walking across the stage and being picked No. 1 is still my screen saver (on his laptop) to this day. And I mean it – it’s motivation that’s going to carry over to the court. It’s a great matchup every time that we play against each of us and it really brings out the intensity in both of us.’’

Orlando was playing its second game in as many nights and for a third time in four nights. The squad practiced five times in the three nights before opening play in the summer league on Friday. With fatigue being a distinct possibility, the Magic shot just 30.9 percent from the floor and made only three of 20 3-point shots. The Magic opened the game just four of 13 with 11 points in the first quarter and they never got untracked after that.

``It was just the offensive part. A little bit of it was fatigue and we got away from how we played in the first two games with drive-and-kick, multiple pick-and-rolls and multiple dribble handoffs,’’ Magic coach Pat Delany said. ``Obviously (the Suns) were up into us and took us totally out of rhythm. And I’ve got to do a better job helping our guys to execute against that type of stuff.’’

Jonathan Isaac was the only Magic player to reach double figures, notching 10 points despite making just two of nine field goal attempts. Isaiah Briscoe, who recently signed a free-agent deal with the Magic, left the game after just three minutes because of a shin bruise.

``I think they got the best of us. We didn’t come focused in that first quarter and that set us back for the whole game,’’ said Isaac, who added six rebounds, two blocks and a steal. ``As we tried to fight back, it just wasn’t enough.’’

As for Bamba, he had a couple of nice moments early in the game – both times involving Phoenix forward Josh Jackson. Not long after swatting Jackson’s layup attempt off the backboard, Bamba realized he had the wing switched onto him in the post. Bamba demanded the ball, analyzed the situation and spun baseline for an easy jump shot.

His only other field goal was a put-back jam off a Magic miss. One potential area of concern: Bamba has yet to attempt a free throw in three Summer League games.

Defensively, Bamba said he must do his defensive work earlier – as in before the opposing big man catches the ball – when facing a heavier player such as Ayton. He said he’ll use Monday’s performance as a teaching tool and more motivation.

``Some of (his game plan) was to let (Ayton catch the ball in the paint) and he was able to get around me,’’ Bamba said. ``A lot of it was, when he catches it, I didn’t really think that he had a plan. He caught it, took a dribble and kind of froze one or two times. But it’s definitely a lesson. There are guys who are way bigger than me and I’ve got get around him, fight and do the early work.’’

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