By John Denton Jan. 28, 2014
AUBURN HILLS, Mich – When USA Basketball released its 2014-16 Men’s National Team roster last week, Orlando Magic rookie Victor Oladipo looked over the roster with great curiosity and marveled at the talent included.
Oladipo, 21, is hopeful that by the time that the 2020 Olympics come around, he’ll be in a prime position to be selected for the team and play for his country.
Oladipo said that playing for Team USA has been a lifelong dream and said that he would be honored to wear the red, white and blue. But to nab that honor, Oladipo said he has to make big-time improvements to his game to be in consideration.
``Isn’t that every little kid’s dream? For me to be a part of that team, it would be a blessing,’’ Oladipo said. ``That’s something that I have added to my goals list and I want to keep working and getting better. And hopefully that’s a dream that comes true.’’
At this early stage in his career, Oladipo could be selected into the USA Basketball System as part of a team that practices against the primary squad to get it ready for international competition. Oladipo, the No. 2 pick in last June’s NBA Draft, would be appealing to the selection committee because of his ability to play both guard spots and his athleticism.
Oladipo has shown great improvement of late during an already impressive rookie season. Over the last three games prior to Tuesday in Detroit, Oladipo had made 19 of 39 shots, while averaging 19 points, 7.3 rebounds and three steals a game. For the season, Oladipo is second among all NBA rookies in scoring (13.9 ppg.), first in field goal percentage (41.5 percent), fourth in rebounding (4.5 rpg.) and second in steals (1.6 spg.) and minutes per game (32.1 mpg.).
``I’m just basically shooting with confidence and shooting the shots that are good ones,’’ Oladipo said. ``Some days it’s going to go in and some days it won’t go in. But hopefully someday things will click for me and I can make my jumpers consistently. Right now, it’s about just playing hard and my time will come.’’
LINEUP CHANGE: The Magic have been an undersized team for much of the past three weeks as starting center Nikola Vucevic has been out while recovering from a concussion. That injury has forced Orlando to move power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis at center, move small forward Tobias Harris to power forward and start a three-guard lineup of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Oladipo.
In a move to give the Magic more size, rebounding and toughness on the inside, Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn inserted veteran power forward/center Jason Maxiell into Tuesday’s starting lineup. The chance had more to do with the Magic’s need for size than it did with Maxiell returning to the city where he spent the first seven years of his NBA career.
Maxiell has been in and out of the Magic rotation all season while playing 30 games. He started the first 10 games of the season before being moved into a reserve role when Davis and Harris returned from injuries. He’s had 15 Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision designations this season.
``He gives us a veteran presence in our locker room and on the floor,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’s a guy that has the ability to defend multiple positions of NBA guys and that’s one of the main reasons that he will be on the floor tonight.’’
With Maxiell in the starting lineup, Orlando moved Oladipo back into a reserve role. Including Tuesday’s game, Oladipo has now started 27 games and come off the bench 19 times. In his 27 games as a starter, Oladipo has played 36.4 minutes per game and has averaged 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. As a reserve, he’ splaying just 25.7 minutes a night while averaging 11.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Asked before the game if Maxiell making an emotional return to face the team that drafted him and he spent seven seasons playing for might spark a breakout performance, Vaughn said: ``If that happens, then I’m all for it.’’