By John DentonDec. 29, 2014
MIAMI – Victor Oladipo and Dwyane Wade have been acquaintances since the former was in high school and the latter was a first-time NBA champion, and that friendship has only grown stronger through the years because they played for the same coach in college.
So it was only natural last summer, as Oladipo was coming off his first NBA season and preparing for the second with the Orlando Magic that he sought out the advice of Wade – a three-time champion and a 10-time all-star – with the Miami Heat. The two were a part of a large group of NBA players who convened at Indiana University for offseason workouts and Oladipo and Wade spent time together watching game footage and going through skills and conditioning drills.
``Most of it was just about us helping each other and working on our games,’’ Oladipo said of the sessions in Bloomington, Ind., where they drilled with coach Tom Crean – Oladipo’s coach at IU and Wade’s coach at Marquette. ``That experience of getting to talk to him was huge for me because it helped me with my confidence and my mindset.’’
Wade is able to offer some helpful perspective to Oladipo because their playing styles and versatility have mirrored one another. Wade was a star shooting guard in college, was drafted to play point guard and eventually moved back to the shooting guard position. Similarly, Oladipo was an All-American shooting guard in college, dabbled in point guard some each of the past two seasons and is back at shooting guard now with Elfrid Payton starting alongside of him.
Wade said that his time spent at point guard early in his career helped make him a better shooting guard – something he thinks will also benefit Oladipo.
``It did help my ability to make plays,’’ Wade said of his early days as a point guard. ``As a shooting guard, we get the tag of being a `scorer,’ and that’s what we all love, but you have that responsibility to put the ball on the floor and get others involved. (Playing point guard) will help Victor out tremendously.’’
Now that Oladipo is starting at shooting guard that means he will go head-to-head against Wade, something that Oladipo called an ``honor and a blessing.’’ Oladipo said he’s lucky to have the help of a superstar the quality of Wade, whom he called ``one of the greatest to ever play this game when it’s all said and done.’’
``Anything I can do to help him, I’ll do,’’ Wade said of assisting Oladipo. ``I can say that he was well-coached by Coach Crean. Knowing that we have similar styled games and he’s an attacker like me. Not only working out together, but we could see certain things just by talking to each other. He watched a lot of film with me and I’m sure he learned a lot. Whatever I can help with, I’ll do it.’’
NIK FOR ALL-STAR: When the most recent voting results for NBA All-Star Game were released it revealed Magic center Nikola Vucevic sitting at 12th among frontcourt players with 33,296 votes. Vucevic, who leads the NBA in double-doubles with 18, admitted that he was ``surprised’’ in a good way with how many people had voted for him.
If Vucevic – who came into Monday’s game averaging 18.1 points and 11.6 rebounds – is to make his first all-star game he will almost assuredly have to be a pick of the Eastern Conference coaches. At least one coach – Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – is one board with the 7-footer being an all-star because of his consistently stellar play against the Heat.
``Certainly against us,’’ Spoelstra said of Vucevic’s candidacy as an all-star. ``He’s not just a good young player anymore; he’s very good basketball player. And he does a lot of things to help his team win. Not just the low-post scoring, but he’s a great offensive rebounder, a great finisher and he has some of the best hands in traffic in this league. And he can also shoot it from the outside.’’
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said that the all-star candidacies for Vucevic and Tobias Harris will very likely come down to how many games Orlando can win between now and mid-February. If the Magic can make a move up the standings with a series of victories, Vaughn thinks his two steadiest players should both be considered.
``I just think overall your game should impact winning,’’ Vaughn said. ``At the conclusion (of all-star balloting) if their stats impact us winning, then they should be considered.’’
PAYTON’S PLACE: One of the most overlooked aspects of Orlando’s victory in Charlotte on Saturday night was rookie point guard Elfrid Payton playing 35 minutes without a turnover. It was the third time this season that Payton had a game without a turnover – but the other two instances were games where he played just 6 and 16 minutes.
This time around, Payton was active and aggressive all night, scoring 11 points, handing out eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds – all while not giving the ball away once. His play set the tone for a Magic team that set a season low for turnovers in a game (six) and a half (one).
Vaughn said that he’s tried to convince the rookie that just playing solid basketball is good enough and he doesn’t have to hit a ``home run’’ with no-look passes and lobs with a high degree of difficulty.
``It’s about understanding that solid is fine,’’ Vaughn said. ``I think you saw some of the possessions from the other night of him being able to get where he wants to on the floor and not settle. It was pretty impressive for a young guy.’’
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.