Oladipo Making Huge Strides
Victor Oladipo can’t believe his first NBA season is already coming to an end. Eighty-two games is a lot, but it flies by during a player’s rookie campaign as they’re adjusting to a new league and lifestyle.
“It’s crazy, seems like yesterday I was in the NCAA Tournament, about to play at home in front of my family and friends in the Sweet 16,” Oladipo told Basketball Insiders. “Now, I’m in the NBA. Time really does fly. We definitely can’t take every day for granted.”
The Orlando Magic guard has had an eventful year. Not only did he face NBA competition for the first time, he had to transition to a new position since the Magic have him spending a lot of time at point guard, a position he had never played prior to this year. Until this year, Oladipo had always been a shooting guard. It’s the position he played growing up and throughout his three-year collegiate career at Indiana. Now, he’s being asked to play the role of floor general for Orlando, starting at point guard in half of the Magic’s games and backing up veteran Jameer Nelson in the other half.
The experiment has had its ups and downs, and it remains to be seen if Orlando will keep Oladipo at point guard moving forward. This season, the 21-year-old has averaged 13.9 points, 4.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 3.2 turnovers. His perimeter defense has been stellar and he has done a great job of getting to the basket, either to score or dump the ball off to a teammate. He must work on protecting the ball, reading defenses and making the right play, but those are areas where a first-time point guard is expected to struggle. It has been a learning process for Oladipo, but he has made huge strides throughout the season and gained confidence as a playmaker.
“He’s improved; I think he feels comfortable with the ball in his hands right now,” Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I think he looks forward to the ball being in his hands and that’s a huge step. To be able to get guys in the right place, that’s a tough thing to do in this league. Telling a guy I’m not coming to you this time and this is what should be done, he’s getting more comfortable at that. I think the true sign is that he wants the ball in his hands. That shows maturation right there.”
“I’ve never played the position before,” Oladipo said. “This is my first time playing it full-time and, if you look at it, I don’t even play it full-time all the time except when Jameer is out. It’s a whole learning process; I’m just going to continue to keep getting better. … [Building confidence] is a huge part of it. The game in general, no matter what position you play, a lot of the game is mental. As your mind goes your body goes, I truly believe that. I just go in there and try to play with confidence.”
Oladipo’s chemistry with his teammates, particularly center Nikola Vucevic – another potential cornerstone for the Magic – has significantly improved since the start of the season.
“You should have seen us, even in practice, pocket passes and pick-and-rolls, we couldn’t read each other for nothing,” Oladipo said of his chemistry with Vucevic early on. “Definitely, [it has improved]. It can even get better as we continue to build the chemistry. Not only with him but with all of these guys, learning their favorite spots on the floor, where they like the ball and just studying film. The more we play together, the more chemistry we build, the better we get.”
Oladipo has played in all but two games this season, starting in 43, while averaging 31.3 minutes per night. Vaughn has been impressed with how Oladipo has held up throughout the year and dealt with Orlando’s 58 losses.
“You give him a lot of credit this year for being able to keep his body in a condition to play, guys just aren’t used to [the schedule],” Vaughn said. “And also for keeping his mind right, having some good days and bad days and fighting through it.
“I think we have taken a smart approach, whether it was the amount of minutes he played or just keeping a close eye on how he is feeling. Our conversations are always pretty honest; I trust him and what he has to say to me. Also, having a feel and seeing on tape and seeing him in the game, you get a feeling, a read on him. But we’re always communicating.”
Oladipo has tried to block out his fatigue, bringing energy and intensity whenever he’s on the floor. This was one of the reasons why Hennigan drafted Oladipo with the second overall pick in the 2013 draft – he felt Oladipo would set a great example for others and help build a winning culture in Orlando. So far, Oladipo hasn’t disappointed the front office; he’s giving maximum effort and expecting the same from others.
“I’m playing hard on both sides of the floor, making fatigue not a factor and not worrying about how tired I [am],” Oladipo said of adjusting to the schedule. “We have to build great habits of playing hard every night. We’re just going to continue to keep getting better. Playing hard is one big thing we need to do, we can live with the outcome if we do that.”
When asked if Oladipo will be Orlando’s point guard long-term, Vaughn won’t say one way or the other. Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has given similar answers when asked if Oladipo will remain at the one. It seems that Oladipo’s position will depend on what other players are added to the team going forward. For example, if Orlando drafts a player like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker this summer, perhaps the Oladipo-at-point-guard experiment continues. If Orlando adds a point guard prospect like Dante Exum or even Tyler Ennis with their additional first-round pick (from the Denver Nuggets), Oladipo would likely move back to shooting guard.
“We’ll continue to address that as an organization as we go forward,” Vaughn said when asked if Oladipo will remain at point guard. “As we add different pieces to our team, that will be an ongoing conversation to our team. Right now, we don’t have to have an answer.”
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Oladipo, but he has a legitimate chance of winning the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year award. It seems that voting will come down to Oladipo and Philadelphia 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Whether he wins the award or not, there’s no question that Oladipo has made huge strides this season.
Bucks Announce Ownership Change
Milwaukee Bucks president and owner Herb Kohl today announced that he has entered into a signed purchase agreement to transfer ownership of the Bucks to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry. Under the terms of the agreement, Edens and Lasry have agreed to buy the team for a total purchase price of approximately $550 million.
Senator Kohl has pledged a $100 million gift for the development of a new arena for the team. In addition to honoring Kohl’s requirement that the team be kept in Milwaukee, the new owners have committed to contribute at least an additional $100 million toward the development of a new arena in the city.
“My priority has always been and will continue to be keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee,” Kohl said. “This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks. Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee.”
“We would like to thank Senator Kohl and his team for their support and cooperation throughout the purchase process,” Edens and Lasry jointly stated. “The Senator has provided the Bucks with nearly 30 years of dedicated stewardship, and we are very excited to join Bucks fans, the city of Milwaukee and the NBA to build the long-term success of this franchise. Having attended various sporting events in Milwaukee and Green Bay over the years, it is easy to see why the greater-Milwaukee area is such a storied sports atmosphere.
“We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee. It is our vision for this franchise to be admired both locally and nationally for its success on the court, the quality of its organization and the loyalty of its fan base. Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. We are as passionate and energized as Bucks fans are about bringing home an NBA championship to Milwaukee.”
The parties will proceed to closing following review and approval by the NBA Board of Governors.
“Today’s announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks,” said Kohl. “Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games. I am confident we will do this.”
“Our leadership of the Milwaukee Bucks will not be limited to the basketball court,” Edens and Lasry said. “We are eager to become active contributors to the greater-Milwaukee community, and plan to establish a presence in the city. Furthermore, we are committed to spending a significant amount of personal resources, including a contribution of at least $100 million, to work alongside the community and Senator Kohl to develop a new state-of-the-art sports venue in Milwaukee. We want to provide fans with the best sports experience imaginable, and we believe a new arena and the development of the surrounding downtown area will immensely benefit the game-day atmosphere as well as the city of Milwaukee. We would like to convey our appreciation to Commissioner Adam Silver and the entire NBA organization. It will be an honor and a privilege to be the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks and a part of the NBA. We look forward to playing an integral and active role in the future success of the Bucks on and off the court, with the organization’s operations and talent as well as through the development of a new arena in Milwaukee. Fear the Deer!”