Orlando Magic men Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo are done with their stints in Las Vegas. The two 22-year-old players has very successful weeks helping Team USA prepare for the FIBA World Cup. Both men were able to reflect on their outstanding learning and practice experiences before embarking once more on their separate preparations for the upcoming Magic season. All quotes produced are courtesy of OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton.
“Being around these guys, who are some of the best players in all of the world, and seeing how focused and serious they are in everything that they do, that’s something that I can learn from,’’ Oladipo admitted. “Every drill, every practice, every scrimmage these guys are locked in and pushing each other. That’s the way I want us to be with the Magic next season – pushing each other so hard to make ourselves better individually and as a team.’’
“No question, that’s everyone’s dream when they grow up. I’ve always wanted to be a part of USA Basketball and I look forward to the opportunity to play for my country one day,’’ Oladipo said. “But my focus is to just keep getting better and put our Magic team in a position to win more games next season. And if I keep getting better maybe someday I can reach that (Olympic) goal.’’
“To be on this Select Team and to be a part of this whole USA Basketball scene it shows me that I’m not far from where I need to be as a player even though I still have a lot of growth to make,’’ said Harris, a three-year pro who only recently turned 22 years old. “To learn from Mr. (Jerry) Colangelo, Mike Krzyzewski, Coach (Tom Thibodeau) and Monty Williams – they are all people that I have learned things from. You can never stop learning. I take it all as a big-time learning experience, but at the same time it’s quite surreal for me.’’
“The respect of being chosen here shows my hard work and professionalism is not taken for granted,’’ an emotional Harris said. “For me as a basketball player, it’s about continuing to get better and continuing to grow. The biggest thing for me is winning and helping my (Magic) team to win.”
Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose continued to give out more high praise for Oladipo.
“I didn’t know he could play like that, man,” Rose said. “He’s ballin’ out here. I think he caught my attention a little bit, but like I said, all the other players they did, too. But he caught my eye a little bit.’
The actual 19-man Team USA roster as well as Mason Plumlee will be playing a blue-white USA Basketball Scrimmage in front of a packed Thomas & Mack Center crowd in Vegas on Friday as ESPN will have the live broadcast of the event at 9 p.m. EST. Tickets for the game are only $10.
Following the Las Vegas camp, selected team finalists will have a 12-day break before heading to Chicago for training Aug. 14-15 and an exhibition against Brazil at the United Center on August 16th. The American squad will continue its preparations Aug. 18-22 in New York, and play a pair of exhibition games at Madison Square Garden, Aug. 20 against the Dominican Republic, and August 22nd against Puerto Rico. Team USA will complete its exhibition tour in Gran Canaria, Spain. Training Aug. 24-25, the U.S. will close out the tour on August 26th facing Slovenia. Conducting a basketball clinic for youth on Aug. 27 in Dakar, Senegal, the USA team will complete its training for the FIBA World Cup Aug. 28-29 in Bilbao, Spain, the site of its World Cup preliminary round play.
USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo knows a thing or two about putting together a gold medal winning international squad. The former owner of the Phoenix Suns is the architect that has helped put together the rosters that have won gold in Beijing (2008), Turkey (2010), and London (2012). Expectations for winning the World Cup in Spain are similar. Mr. Colangelo has been very pleased with how Orlando Magic players Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris have performed this week. All quotes are courtesy of OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton.
“I was complimenting him on his effort and his play and I just love that motor. I was also thanking him for being here and telling him that I really like his game,’’ said Colangelo, the architect of the 2008 and 2012 teams that won Olympic gold. “Victor’s done extremely well. I tell him, `We’ll definitely be watching him.’’’
“Tobias is another one who has really surprised me,’’ Colangelo said. “I have not seen much of him personally and he’s been very impressive here. I want to see more of him.’’
Day 3 saw the Select Team have their photoshoot. Unfortunately, NBA TV didn’t cover the Wednesday’s activities. Oladipo had plenty of opportunities after practice to throw down some dunks. Victor and Tobias at minimum have learned a lot about themselves, their star competitors, and it all benefits the Magic franchise and its fans.
The French men’s national basketball team won the European Championship last year, but they won’t be favorites in this year’s FIBA World Cup that begins in Spain on August 30th. The reason? The absences of both Tony Parker and Joakim Noah. New Orlando Magic acquisition Evan Fournier barely missed out on making that EuroBasket winning team last year. That’s not a worry this summer. No Parker means that Coach Vincent Collet will have to depend on guys like Nando De Colo, Antoine Diot, Thomas Huertel, and the 21-year-old Fournier to handle the ball.
Wednesday began what the French Basketball Federation is calling the ‘Blue-White Tour’ by playing the first of several exhibition contests in France. The federation has done an outstanding job of following the team’s preparation and have posted part 1 of their tour coverage. It’s in French, but you see a lot of Fournier as well as teammates such as Nicolas Batum, former Magic man Mickael Pietrus‘ brother Florent Pietrus, and Rudy Gobert.
Bleu Blanc Tour – La Série – Épisode 1 by FFBB
So back to today’s first tour match in Rouen against Belgium. Belgium isn’t exactly a basketball power so this first contest was a nice way for this French side to ease into competition. Evan Fournier did not play in the 79-57 victory over Belgium. He was seen on the bench in street clothes. It’s unknown as to why Evan sat out the contest, but France definitely could have used the 6′ 7″ offensive threat as the team struggled to score for the first 26 minutes of the 40-minute game.
2nd half starting with France only up 36-33 on Belgium. Here’s Evan Fournier in his French polo. pic.twitter.com/tVhzqMAeuc
— Adam Papageorgiou (@adamosgp) July 30, 2014
The French side next have a full week to practice and gear up for a 3-day, 3-game stint that runs from August 8th through the 10th in Pau, France. Opponents will be Croatia, Greece, and Serbia. All strong challengers. I would anticipate seeing Evan actually on the court in these contests.
The odds are not in their favor to make Team USA’s final FIBA World Cup roster, but that won’t stop Orlando Magic players Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris from forcing Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff into making those cuts as difficult as possible. NBA TV was able to broadcast the national team’s full Tuesday practice live from Las Vegas, and that allowed us to sneak a peek at some impressive highlights from Tobias and Victor.
Below you’ll find more highlights and analysis for Victor and Tobias.
The Orlando Magic were on the hunt for another point guard but once they signed veteran Luke Ridnour, it looked like their search was over.
That clearly wasn’t the case.
According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, the Magic have agreed to a deal with free agent point guard Peyton Siva, who was waived by the Detroit Pistons two weeks ago.
Peyton Siva has agreed to terms with the Orlando Magic, a source told Yahoo Sports.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 29, 2014
Siva helped lead the Louisville Cardinals to the 2013 National Title and then was drafted with the 56th-overall pick in the second round of the draft. Siva averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 assists in 9.3 minutes per game. He shot 31.6% from the field while appearing in 24 games.
Siva played with the Pistons in the Orlando Pro Summer League earlier this month. He had an impressive first two games before he injured his hamstring, but after the Pistons signed veteran point guard D.J. Augustin, they cut ties with Siva – they simply didn’t have the space to keep him.
The Magic now have 16 players on their roster so it is likely one or two of Magic’s current players don’t make into the regular season and could wind up playing for their new D-League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks.
UPDATE: Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel reports Siva’s contract is non-guaranteed and he will report to Erie following the season.
Peyton Siva will be brought to Magic camp on a non-guaranteed contract. Magic then will send him to Erie of the D-League.
— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) July 29, 2014
This is clearly the kind of player the Magic had in mind when they entered into their agreement with Erie. In fact, Siva is actually a more talented player than they likely initially thought they’d have in Erie.
Orlando Magic wing player Maurice Harkless will not be playing for Puerto Rico in the FIBA World Cup that takes places in Spain beginning on August 30th, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Robbins communicated with Harkless’ agent, Happy Walters, and below is a quote from Walters on why his client won’t be playing for Puerto Rico:
“He is 100 percent focused on getting better every day. He felt that although representing Puerto Rico would be an invaluable experience, it was not realistic to think that he could work on his game within a team atmosphere the way he could by staying here.”
During the 2013-14 Magic season, Harkless averaged 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 24.4 minutes per contest. It’s safe to say that Maurice’s responsibilities with the Puerto Rican squad would have risen significantly from what he’s accustomed to in Orlando. Practicing and developing stronger chemistry with Magic teammates is fantastic, but you can’t replace the experience of taking part in international competition. It’s a different brand of basketball, something that teaches you lessons you won’t learn in any other environment. Hopefully it’s not something Maurice regrets in the future. This upcoming season is indeed crucial in determining what the 21-year-old’s future with the franchise will look like.
The Puerto Rican Basketball Federation is confused to say the least in regards to Harkless’ absence. Back in January, Harkless met with Puerto Rican team officials. Maurice from then on was assumed to be a lock to join the roster during the NBA offseason.
The Basketball Federation’s President, Carlos Beltran, was interviewed by PrimeraHora.com on Monday and he doesn’t hide the Puerto Rican team’s frustrations. In the article, Beltran explains how they made a final ditch effort at getting Harkless to agree to join the Puerto Rican team. Beltran says they contacted Harkess’ agent on Monday, but obviously to no avail with Tuesday’s news that Harkless won’t be playing.
The first true sign of distress apparently came a few months ago. Harkless was supposed to fly out to Puerto Rico on May 26th in what was to be a trip that would have lasted a few days. The 6′ 9″ New York Native ended up not going as he declined the reserved plane tickets. Communication between the two parties dropped off significantly since then and the relationship hasn’t repaired itself. Here’s a translated Beltran quote that almost alleges possible Magic team involvement:
“I honestly do not know what happened. Everything was going great and now Harkless canceled the trip and everything is complicated. Since then everything has been more difficult. We do not know if the pressure of the Orlando Magic team or the people around him, but communication has not flowed as before. Was a little frustrating, “Beltran said.
It’s not an accusation that the Magic got involved, but clearly Beltran wants answers from someone. This wouldn’t be the first time that a player was allegedly kept away from fulfilling national team duties. The San Antonio Spurs are currently preventing Manu Ginobili from making the trip to Spain in late August and play for Argentina. Ginobili is coming off another NBA title but is also healing from injury. There have been numerous similar situations over the years in which a player’s club/team has held back or discouraged their paid player from participating in national team duty. It’s been an ongoing tug of war affair for decades. Every owner, coach, player, has a different viewpoint on this issue, and there are appropriate arguments for either side. Hopefully we will see Harkless participating in international competition one day.
Monday marked the first time that both Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris got to wear a Team USA jersey. Although both Orlando Magic players are only on the USA Select team, that didn’t stop them from cherishing the moment. An opportunity to represent your country by practicing and interacting with some of the best ballers on the planet. All quotes and videos are courtesy of OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton. Here’s an interview of Tobias as well as one of Victor following the conclusion of Day 1.
“No question about it, this will always be special for me,’’ Oladipo said of his first session with Team USA. “Being able to be a part of something bigger than yourself, it’s always a great story. I’m looking forward to the rest of this week and I’m keeping my focus on getting better.’’
Added Harris: “It was definitely a great experience being in this type of organization and with these types of players. I’m just taking advantage of it.’’
Tobias and Victor will have a few more days to make an impression as they’ll continue to help prepare Team USA in Las Vegas. There is a small chance that one of these Magic men could make the Team USA final 12-man roster that will be heading to Spain for the FIBA World Cup in late August, but it’s highly unlikely. Being on the Select squad is an important stepping stone in Tobias and Victor eventually playing in a tournament for Team USA. At minimum, this experience is building even more chemistry between two of Orlando’s most promising players.
“It’s fun having him out here. He works hard just like me. For him to get recognized, it just shows how hard he works,’’ Oladipo said of Harris. “This is only going to better us and build our chemistry for the season. We just have to continue to keep growing as players and people.’’
“I used to watch this on TV when I was younger, so to be out here and in it now, it’s kind of surreal and humbling,’’ Oladipo said. “I’m just flying around and playing D. I’m trying to help my team and get those guys ready for the World Games. So I’m just going to keep playing hard and getting better.’’
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) July 28, 2014
The Orlando Magic basketball team are the not the only ones making roster changes this summer. The Magic Dancers are getting set to complete their squad cuts as they have to go from 30 women down to twenty. Magic fans have the opportunity to see the final audition live this Thursday July 31st at the Disney Atrium inside Amway Center from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The dancers will show off their last routines in front of a panel of judges. Victor Oladipo will be the special guest host. The audition will be streamed live online at OrlandoMagic.com as well.
The finalists worked hard 2day! Boot camp day 1 complete. Panel interviews begin in morn followed by boot camp day 2 pic.twitter.com/dNiWLtSPEe
— Magic Dancers (@MagicDancers) July 28, 2014
If you would like to attend the event that will conclude with the introduction of the new 2014-2015 Magic Dancers presented by Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, click here to claim and download your ticket(s). The ticket also grants shoppers 20% off at the Orlando Magic Team Shop. A great chance to stock up on new gear and apparel.
There is currently an online voting page on the Orlando Magic’s official website where you can vote for which Magic Dancer(s) you want to see make the squad. There doesn’t appear to be a limit at all on how many women you can vote for or the amount of times you can vote. So for those individuals who care strongly about the dance team, this is your best opportunity to voice your opinion. Polls will remain open until the last dance routine.
The Orlando Summer League breakdowns and analysis for Magic rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton have already been done, but what about comparing the #4 and #10 selections with other first round selections? Before examining other performances, it was of the common basketball media’s opinion that Elfrid impressed while Aaron left a lot to be desired.
Aaron notched 7.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 1.2 apg on 35.0 FG% and 47.8 FT%. Elfrid averaged 9.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 7.0 apg, and 1.4 spg on 59.3 FG% with 4 turnovers per contest. But what do those statistics really mean when stacking up the 15-highest selected Draft prospects? Let’s take a look.
Red means ‘worst’ and green means ‘best’ in regards to the statistical categories. We can see that both Elfrid’s 7.0 assists per game and his 59.3 FG% were superior to all of his competitors listed. It does need to be said that Elfrid’s 27 field goal attempts were the least out of the bunch. So the 20-year-old is an efficient shooter and a pass-first guard. The 4 turnovers per contest are not a big worry when Elfrid is dishing constantly and keeping defenses honest. Embrace change, Magic fans, this is fun.
Along with the Magic men, Boston’s Marcus Smart was the only other player on that chart who played in Orlando while everyone else participated in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League. Smart shot a gawdy 29.4 FG%. Chicago’s Tyler Ennis was the worst at 21.9 FG%. Denver’s combo guard Gary Harris scored the most of the group at 18.6 ppg. However, Gary was hot one game and freezing cold the next as he balanced out to a subpar 32.1 FG%. His 2.6 blocks per game are a nice balance buffer though.
Then there’s Dante Exum. The Aussie I begged Orlando to take, but was passed up in favor of Aaron Gordon. Utah’s experiment of playing Dante at shooting guard with Trey Burke having the on-the-ball role didn’t translate well. Dante shot 30.8 FG% and still coughed up 3 turnovers per game. Smart, Ennis, Harris, and Exum. All guards who can handle the ball, all guys Magic GM Rob Hennigan could have preferred over Elfrid but obviously didn’t. That trade with Philly to move up to grab Payton is looking decent so far.
The top two picks – Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker – averaged about fifteen and a half points and shot in the low-40s. Similar steals, similar free throw shooting, similar terrible 3-point shooting. There were some stark differences. Parker rebounded at a much better rate while Wiggins was more active defensively and protected the ball. Jabari’s 5 turnovers per game are inexcusable.
Aaron Gordon’s 35.0 FG% doesn’t look so awful when there are five other guys with lower percentages. Especially when the Arizona Wildcat was 0-for-10 from 3-point range, a shot we knew he’d struggle with but one he’s going to have to improve if he wants to see extra court minutes. Considering he was selected to be a defensive machine, the 18-year-old not recording a single steal in 5 games is perplexing though.
Julius Randle may eventually be a steal for the Lakers, but he didn’t prove it in Vegas. His stat lines were very Brandon Bass-like. Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott – both would have been valuable perimeter additions for the Magic – should have Kings and Bulls fans thrilled with their potent shooting abilities. Zach LaVine, Adreian Payne, and T.J. Warren all appear to be serviceable at a minimum.
Remember how many ‘experts’ rated Noah Vonleh over both Randle and Gordon? Well, the Indiana Hoosier shot 28.4 FG%. At least Vonleh rebounded well, but Noah couldn’t avoid foul trouble and appeared very lost and confused for large stints on both ends of the floor.
Summer League historically is just the beginning for these guys. A great or awful showing doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll always be. Andre Drummond was horrendous in his first Summer League. Can’t say too many bad things about Detroit’s big man now. Victor Oladipo had similar early Summer League jitters as Elfrid did, but both improved on a daily basis when dealing with guard pressure and are accustomed to handling a press. Michael Carter-Williams couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean last summer, but he improved enough to take home Rookie of the Year. Kevin Durant couldn’t shoot or rebound back in 2007, yet he went on to win ROY as well.
My point being that all professional athletes can hone their craft when given enough time and the proper guidance to tweak what needs to be fixed. It’s all about the player’s work ethic and ability to adjust that can determine whether or not a Summer League’s worth of statistics means anything or not. Whatever we’ve seen out of Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and even Devyn Marble is no where near the final product of what they can be in the future.
The Canadian senior national basketball team defeated Georgia (the country, not the state) 83-66 on the final day of the Pokal Adecco exhibition tournament in Slovenia. Orlando Magic big man Andrew Nicholson ended up coming off the bench as Head Coach Jay Triano preferred to go with Kelly Olynyk and Dwight Powell in the frontcourt. That didn’t prevent ‘Drew from having his best game in Slovenia as the 24-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario tallied 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists in 19 minutes. Only Brady Heslip had more points with fourteen. The victory concludes Canada’s 3-game mini-tourney with a 2-1 record.
Former Magic player Zaza Pachulia finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds for Georgia as he was plagued by foul trouble for the entire contest. Andrew poured in nine points in the third period as his back-to-back 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the quarter pushed his team’s advantage up from seven to 11 points. Over the course of the 3 games in Slovenia, Andrew averaged 10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 1.0 apg on 9-of-15 (60%) on 2-pointers and 2-of-8 from 3-point range. Both 3-point makes obviously occurring today.
Canada is done competing in Slovenia, but will stay in the country for several more days to rest up and practice before heading to Zlavoski Grad, Croatia. There they’ll continue their European tour by taking on the Croatian national team twice on August 1st and 2nd.