Oladipo Makes Return; Fournier Showing Resilience
By John Denton
Nov. 18, 2015
ORLANDO – After getting advice from several teammates, doctors and trainers about the long-term severity of concussions, Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo vowed that he would be patient in coming back and he wouldn’t play again until he was fully cleared to do so.
That final clearance came on Wednesday afternoon – nearly one week after Oladipo sustained a concussion following a blow to the head – allowing him to return to the starting lineup with his Magic teammates. Per the NBA’s concussion protocol, Oladipo’s clearance came via a NBA-appointed neurologist.
Upon first being diagnosed with a concussion last Wednesday, Oladipo suffered from headaches and sensitivity to light. But those symptoms slowly subsided. And over the last three days he passed a variety of tests (stationary bike, treadmill, agility drills, non-contact basketball work and shootaround on Wednesday morning) without exhibiting any concussion-like symptoms.
``I’m for the (NBA’s) concussion protocol, but (Oladipo) was out for such a small amount of time that obviously this wasn’t a major concussion,’’ Magic coach Scott Skiles said. ``He passed the protocol quickly and he’s back quickly, but I don’t know how he’s going to react to being out there for the first time. But he’s totally cleared and we’ll start him and monitor him and see what he does.’’
SUPPORT FOR MCHALE: Like many coaches around the NBA, Skiles questioned the reasoning behind the Houston Rockets’ firing of coach Kevin McHale just 11 games into this season. After all, McHale helped the Rockets reach the Western Conference Finals last season and he signed a lucrative contract extension over the summer.
However, the Rockets have been a mess most of this season, getting routed several times and losing to the likes of Denver (twice), Brooklyn and Boston.
Former Magic center Dwight Howard has been in and out of the lineup for the Rockets, while GM Daryl Morey’s addition of point guard Ty Lawson following an offseason trade has had a negative effect on ball-dominant shooting guard James Harden.
``It’s part of our job and it’s the bad part of our job,’’ Skiles said of coaches being fired in the middle of a season. ``It’s hard for me to understand how somebody can be a great coach one year and then all of a sudden people say he loses the locker room the next year. Well, if you lost the locker room, then somebody changed the team. Who changed the team? (Morey) did and why isn’t that person held accountable?
``As coaches, we don’t have any power at all. We don’t have a union; we have an association,’’ Skiles added. ``So there’s nothing that can be done. Rightly so, we should be based on production and I get production. That part of it I see.’’
FOURNIER’S TOUGHNESS: As if he didn’t already have enough stress on his mind what with all of the horrifying terrorist activity back in his native France, Magic guard Evan Fournier was hit hard by a fever and a cold at the start of this week.
But Fournier said it should have never been in doubt whether or not he would play on Wednesday night.
Fournier is in the midst of a career season, posting career highs in scoring (18.8), rebounds (4.3), assists (2.9) and steals (1.2). He also ranks second in the NBA in minutes per game (38) and according to the NBA’s Player Tracking data, he has run farther (14,923.2 feet) and more miles (2.8 miles) than any player in the NBA.
Skiles said that in addition to Fournier being one of the Magic’s physically toughest players, he also has as much mental toughness as anyone – words that Fournier loved hearing.
``First of all, coach (Skiles) saying that means a lot to me because he was a tough player,’’ Fournier said of Skiles, who played four of his 10 NBA seasons in Orlando from 1989-94. ``It’s just the way that I am. I just played basketball this way. … If we had to play two days ago I don’t think I’d be able to play (because of his illness), but if I can play I can play and I’ll give my best. But if I have a bad ankle or a bad knee and I can’t play, I’m not going to be stupid. But if I can play, I’ll play.’’
A.G. AT FOUR AND THREE: Much like how point guards are expected to know the assignments of every player on the floor, Aaron Gordon has some added responsibility as it refers to the game plan because of his versatility.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Gordon has been used at both power forward and small forward this season because of his rare blend of strength and lateral quickness. Because of his positional versatility, Gordon often doesn’t know from night to night – or even quarter to quarter – who he will be guarding in a game. And in games like Wednesday night’s, one second Gordon could be checking star forward Andrew Wiggins and another second he’s matched up against the 6-foot-11 Kevin Garnett.
``I just have to be prepared,’’ said Gordon, who came into Wednesday averaging 1.0 blocks and 0.73 steals a game to go along with his 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds a night. ``Defensively, I have to know people do and what defensive calls and schemes we’re going to be in throughout the game. It just keeps me focused.’’
Gordon had success guarding Wiggins last season when both were rookies and part of the reason was that he had previous experience checking the reigning Rookie of the Year.
``We played Andrew Wiggins’ team at the Peach Jam (of the Nike Invitational AAU National Championship) and we were the first West Coast team to ever win it,’’ Gordon said. ``He’s very quick and a very talented basketball player, but I’m always looking forward to play guys like that.’’