ORLANDO, Fla. — In the final act of his first NBA preseason, Victor Oladipo drove nearly the length the floor for a layup which enabled the Orlando Magic to tie the score in at a point in a game where they had trailed by as many 14 points.
All right, so it took place just before halftime rather than in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
The fact that the Magic lost 101-82 Friday night to the New Orleans Pelicans wasn’t as important as getting the second overall pick in this year’s draft some meaningful minutes in a starting role at point guard. Getting Oladipo and his teammates through the game without injury might have been an even greater priority.
With Jameer Nelson not playing for the third game in a row because of what coach Jacque Vaughn said was a case of “being judicious with (his) minutes,” Oladipo played 18 out of a possible 24 minutes in the first half while teamed with Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo. He was only 1 of 8 before his driving layup but finished with 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“I think I did a pretty good job of just learning and bouncing back from mistakes,” said Oladipo, one of only four rookies averaging in double figures this preseason. “It’s all a growing process. I’m looking forward to the (regular) season. Everybody’s going to be on another level of basketball, so I’ve got to do the same thing.”
“He barely has his feet wet,” Vaughn said. “There’s a lot that he’s going to see this season. What I really love about him is his demeanor. I think guys really like playing with him. His effort level doesn’t change. It’s a positive thing. Whether he’s making shots or not, getting to the free-throw (line) or not, you see an effort level every night from him that can be contagious.”
While Oladipo’s place on the final 15-man roster was never in doubt, the same couldn’t be said for the Magic’s second-round draft pick, forward Romero Osby. Despite playing the majority of the second half against the Pelicans and finishing with seven points and seven rebounds, Osby was one of four players waived within an hour after the final horn.
“I’ve got a wife and daughter, so I’m just trying to figure out what’s next for us,” Osby said before learning the news. “As a family, hopefully it’s here in Orlando. But if it’s not, I’ll still be grateful for the opportunity.”
Along with Osby, the Magic waived three of the four players they signed days before the start of training camp: guard Manny Harris, forward Kris Joseph and center Mickell Gladness. The fourth member of that group, forward Solomon Jones, survived the round of cuts.
Jones, who had been with five previous NBA teams since being drafted in 2006 by Atlanta and spent part of last season in China, was part of the five-man unit Vaughn brought off the bench to start the second quarter.
With Glen Davis still recovering from foot surgery and Tobias Harris slowed by a sprained left ankle, Jones made the most of his opportunity while the Magic went 2-6 in the preseason. His 15 offensive rebounds were tied for the second-highest total on the team in that category.
“It’s basketball. It’s what I love to do and what I know how to do,” he said. “So there’s no pressure at all.”
Vaughn was non-committal when asked who the Magic’s starting power forward would be when they open the regular season Tuesday night at Indiana. Nicholson, their first-round pick of a year ago, made only his second start of the preseason and had six points but just one rebound.