ORLANDO, Fla. — Romero Osby doesn’t have to look far this week at the Orlando Pro Summer League to see that players chosen in the middle to later portions of the second round of the NBA draft can stick around months later when the regular season begins.
Two of his Orlando Magic teammates, Kyle O’Quinn and Doron Lamb, are proof of that. So are Kim English and Khris Middleton of the Detroit Pistons.
He can even refer to the first round of this year’s playoffs, when Andrew Goudelock made the best of a horrible and dysfunctional situation enveloping the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers.
So the 6-foot-8 forward out of Oklahoma, who became a more efficient scorer during his two years after transferring from Mississippi State, knows the odds aren’t astronomically long. And to him, the secret isn’t much of a secret at all.
“Just play hard. The rest of that stuff is going to come,” Osby said. “It’s the NBA. You’ve got the best trainers, the best coaches in the world. So you’re going to continue to get better as a basketball player if you work hard. But if you bring a consistent effort every day, that talk on defense, the energy from your teammates — that’s being in their shoes, and that’s something you can’t teach. So I want to bring those intangibles. All the skills and all that other stuff, being bigger and stronger, will come with hard work.”
With Tobias Harris likely to be held out the entire week as a precautionary measure after banging a knee in practice, Osby has been getting the vast majority of minutes off the bench whenever Maurice Harkless or Andrew Nicholson needs a breather. He lacks Harris’ shooting range, but his athleticism around the basket is comparable. That was evident Sunday in the Magic’s win over the Boston Celtics when Osby had 18 points, three offensive rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Things didn’t come as smoothly to him Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game the Magic led most of the way before losing 79-78. Osby pulled down six rebounds in 18 minutes but was only 1 of 7 from the floor, with his basket coming on a dunk off an assist from Lamb, and picked up five fouls.
“He made a name for himself yesterday a little bit,” assistant coach James Borrego said. “I think people took notice of that. I loved his effort again today. He brought it again. The shots just didn’t go down, for whatever reasons. He could have been a little tired, but I liked his effort.”
Osby came to the Magic with a fraction of the attention given to first-round pick Victor Oladipo but has wasted no time ingratiating himself to the rookies and second-year players from a year ago.
“Tobias has been great. Mo’s been great. K.O.’s been great,” he said. “All of those guys — I don’t want to leave anyone out — have been trying to help me and everybody else who’s new to the team to learn the ropes.”
“As a second-round pick, that’s what you have to do,” said O’Quinn, who has a total of 20 rebounds in the Magic’s first two games. “You have to go out there and put your neck out there for guys and be one of the hardest workers on the court.”
Osby will try to continue showing a knack for taking charges and diving after loose balls Tuesday against a Miami Heat squad that, aside from first-round pick James Ennis, is devoid of recognizable names.
“When you have stuff like that going on, it just brings a different type of effort,” he said. “Everybody wants to pick up their effort. Everybody’s clapping. The coaches are excited. You’re excited. And you’re ready for the next play.”
Except for Osby and free-agent guard Rodney McGruder, the Magic went almost exclusively with their starters on the second day of league action. All five played at least 29 of a possible 40 minutes. DeQuan Jones, who played his way into a roster spot a year ago but is now an unrestricted free agent, got in for a minute and 36 seconds in the first quarter and that was it.
Borrego expects to give Harkless, Nicholson and company more rest in upcoming games
“We don’t want to get them injured,” he said. “But they’re young. This is a great experience for them. I’ll try not to wear them out too much.”