Oladipo trying to be patient

INDIANAPOLIS — At one point in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, Victor Oladipo stood just inside the 3-point line at the top of the key with the ball in his hand. He pulled up for a jumper and swished it.
The only problem was that the ball was already dead. He took the shot just to remind himself what it looked like to see the ball go in the hoop.
Before that, the last time he’d hit a jumper was all the way back at the 8:05 mark in the first quarter, when he sank a 12-foot turnaround. His only other field goal was a fast-break dunk in the second quarter. All told, he finished 2-for-11 from the field, 0-for-3 from beyond the 3-point arc as the Indiana Pacers rolled to a 98-73 win over Oladipo’s Orlando Magic in his second game back at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since leaving Indiana for the NBA.
And yet, on the same night, he had one of his best floor games of the season. In just his second consecutive game as the starting point guard filling in for the injured Jameer Nelson (sore left knee) he matched his career high of 11 assists against just four turnovers, taking four steals to cancel out his giveaways.
“I missed a lot of shots that I can make,” Oladipo said. “That I really believe I can make. But I did a great job of balancing today. I think the last game, I didn’t do too great of a job keeping my teammates involved but still being aggressive. I think I did a better job of that today. It’s something that I just need to keep growing and just hit my shots the next game.”
In many ways, it was a game that was a microcosm of Oladipo’s season. His rookie year has provided so many examples of his progress as a basketball player and his considerable potential for long-term NBA success. However, it’s also provided so many others of just how difficult the transition from college to the world’s most renowned basketball league is, especially for a top pick on a rebuilding team.
The former Indiana All-American is handling it as well as anybody, save perhaps for Rookie of the Year favorite Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers. Oladipo entered Monday’s game ranked second to Carter-Williams among the NBA rookies with 13.8 points per game. He was also third among rookies in rebounding (4.4 per game) and assists (3.9). Last year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year also leads his team with 1.6 steals per game and ranks second to Carter-Williams among NBA rookies in that category as well. He has a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge — also known as the Rookie-Sophomore game — at NBA All-Star weekend on Feb. 14 in New Orleans.
But there have been growing pains – lots of them — for Oladipo individually and the Magic collectively.
That the Magic would struggle was to be expected, considering they finished a league-worst 20-62 a season ago and therefore had the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery. They are on pace to improve on that, but not by much. The Milwaukee Bucks are the only team in the NBA with a worse record than the Magic’s 13-37 mark.
Oladipo remembers what rebuilding was like with Indiana and he thought he might be able to call back on the experiences he had as a freshman on a 12-20 team. He said that’s helped somewhat, but after playing on back-to-back Sweet 16 teams and winning a Big Ten title, playing for a bottom feeder isn’t easy to deal with.
“Losing is just not fun,” Oladipo said Monday evening before his Magic were effectively toyed with by the team with the NBA’s best record. “You know what I mean. It’s just not fun. Everybody just beating up on us, really. Losing tough games or getting blown out. It’s just not fun.”
And the adjustments Oladipo has had to make to his game haven’t been easy either.
He already had to go through one transformation to become the player he was at Indiana, having arrived with little in the way of a jump shot or a handle before turning himself into a 59.9 percent field goal shooter and a 44.1 percent 3-point shooter by his junior year.
This season, he’s been asked to shoot more, but he’s shooting at a worse clip. He’s made 40.3 percent of his shots (237-for-588) and 29.3 percent of his 3-pointers (44-for-150). He’s had a number of nights like Monday when he just couldn’t get anything to go down.
“The pull-ups were open today,” Oladipo said. “I can hit those. They just weren’t falling today. A lot of them went in and out. Some of them were right there. Some of them were in and out and came out. But I’m just going to keep shooting with confidence.”
The addition of point guard to his responsibilities hasn’t been easy for him either. Though he’s mostly played off the ball with Nelson on the floor, he’s moved to point when Nelson has been out of the game and when he’s been injured. It was a totally foreign position to him his whole life, especially at Indiana when he had point guards Jordan Hulls, Verdell Jones and Yogi Ferrell as teammates.
“I’ve never played the position a day in my life,” Oladipo said. “Now, I’m trying to learn it. The reason why people are so good at it is they’ve done it all their lives. I’m trying to figure it out. I’m trying to make adjustments to my game to being able to facilitate, get everybody involved but at the same time still stay aggressive. It’s something that a lot of people could do. But I’m all for the challenge. Nothing in my life has been easy, so why make it easier now?”
Oladipo’s coaches like that attitude, though, and see that he’s growing into it. For all of his shooting issues, the assists Monday were a positive step.
“His ability to see the floor tonight was pretty good with the 11 assists,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Now, we’ll couple that with being able to make shots with the same time, and getting the shots that he wants, not that the defense wants him to take.”
Oladipo sees himself getting better as well, and he also said he believes in the Magic, who have the fifth youngest roster in the NBA and have been mostly successful in their brief history as a franchise. They have been to the playoffs 14 times in the last 20 years.
“Me, I want it all now,” Oladipo said. “I just want results, results, but results don’t come overnight. It’s a process. I’m just trying to be patient. That’s a good word. Patient.”

2 comments

  1. Victor Oladipo is a basketball player that it is easy to love. What a great person and representative for Indiana University! Be patient, be aggressive, and be full of FUN Victor!

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