Elfrid Payton settles in after shaky beginning in first summer start for Magic
JUL 07, 2014 8:49p ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the first possession of his first start at point guard for the team that acquired his draft rights less than two weeks ago, Elfrid Payton committed a turnover that led to an easy basket.
After a less-than-auspicious debut Saturday with the Orlando Magic in the Orlando Pro Summer League, this was not the beginning Payton had in mind.
But things got better for him. A lot better.
Given the opportunity to start because Victor Oladipo was given Monday off, the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft wound up leading the Magic in scoring, rebounds, assists and minutes played -- but not turnovers -- in an 87-69 victory over a Houston Rockets team comprised almost entirely of free agents.
"We want him to get as much exposure now as possible," Magic assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. said of the 20-year-old from Louisiana-Lafayette. "I thought he played beautiful. He's got to learn to control the tempo a little better when teams try to speed us up. But overall, he handled the pressure and got us organized and got decent looks."
While there were still some jitters on Payton's part, there were fewer instances of him being harassed by double-teams out near the 3-point arc. The basket the Rockets got off his turnover in the opening seconds was their only field goal in almost five minutes as the Magic jumped out to a double-digit lead before the end of the first 10-minute quarter.
"Actually I started out with three quick turnovers," he said. "But I was able to settle in and limit that the rest of the game."
Payton turned the ball over just once the rest of the way. He also a perfect 5 of 5 from the floor, including a putback of a 3-point airball by Kim English to beat the buzzer at the end of the second quarter, and had nine assists and eight rebounds to go with his 12 points.
Four Magic players scored in double figures, while fellow draft picks Aaron Gordon and Devyn Marble chipped in with nine points apiece.
"You can't be worried about the one game," Gordon said of Payton's performance Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. "It was his first game. It's not like he played terrible. He just didn't score the ball. He's going to be a great player. He's a good player right now. He knows how to play the game of basketball. So you never count Elfrid Payton out."
Payton, who averaged 19.3 points a game as a junior for the Ragin' Cajuns, was at his best when he was able to penetrate. He threw up a lob in the first quarter that resulted in a dunk by center Dewayne Dedmon, and his drive and dunk put the Magic up by 19 in the second quarter.
"I was just coming out and trying to be more aggressive," he said. "That's something I think that separates me, and I need to do a better job of doing it."
With Oladipo cheering on his teammates from the bench, the Magic held the Rockets to less than 33 percent shooting. Dedmon, who was on the team that finished last season, had two of the Magic's four blocks and led them in steals with three.
"As well as we did, I know that I missed a couple assignments," Payton said. "But that is something we look to do -- put pressure on teams and force chaos."
Gordon had nine points and six rebounds by halftime. He continued to look comfortable putting the ball on the floor and knocked down a 20-foot jump shot which was nothing but net. But after making only 42.2 percent of his free throws in his one year at Arizona, he missed four of his five attempts against the Rockets.
Unseld is aware both Payton and Gordon are works in progress.
"It's going to be a while," he said. "But I'd love to see them work through it now so come this fall, they'll feel comfortable in their roles."
Free-agent guard Seth Curry, the brother of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, was paired with Payton for a sizeable portion of the fourth quarter. Curry finished with 10 points in 17 minutes, including two of the three 3-pointers made by the Magic.
The Magic return to action Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by the Miami Heat's game with the Detroit Pistons.