With Jameer Nelson, Ronnie Price, Jason Maxiell and Arron Afflalo gone, the Orlando Magic need one of their young players to step up and begin to take on more of a leadership role. During the Orlando Summer League, it became apparent who would be taking that role: soon to be second year guard Victor Oladipo.
Throughout the week, you could hear Oladipo coaching up his young teammates, helping them become more comfortable on both the offensive and defensive ends. Even when he wasn’t playing, Oladipo was one of the loudest players on the Magic’s bench, encouraging his teammates to be aggressive and be ready to make the next play that could help his team win.
From the moment he walked through those doors, the Indiana product was clearly ready to work and grow with the team and do whatever he could to make not only himself, but his teammates better. Following a win against the New York Knicks, Oladipo talked about how he felt as though he had yet to scratch the surface and that he “wanted to become one of the greatest to ever play the game.”
Following his team’s victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in their opening game of Summer League, Oladipo shared the same sentiment. He wants to be one of the greatest to ever play. However, he knows that a lot comes with that, and it certainly seems as though one of those things is leadership.
Through thick and thin last season, Oladipo never let himself get too high or too low. That, along with helping the rookies — Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton most notably — learn to slow down and let the game come to them is something the former Hoosier feels as though he can do well.
Orlando Sentinel scribe Josh Robbins asked Oladipo about how reminiscent it was to how they (Philadelphia) doubled Elfrid (Payton) to the way they attacked him in Summer League, and how long did it take for him to learn to approach something like that. Oladipo had this to say:
“Well, it brought back a lot of memories, definitely. Honestly, it took me a while because in the league, they do it too. But, like I said, it’s all a process, it’s not going to come over night. You know, with me I had to watch film; I had to actually be in that situation, turn the ball over, you know make those mistakes, show I can learn from them. I told E man ‘it’s not going to come overnight.’ I tell him all the time it’s a process. Just don’t get too high, don’t get too low. You’re gonna have good games, you’re gonna have bad games. The hardest thing about it is being consistent through 100 odd games cause trying to make it to the playoffs, also trying to do that, trying to do that. However many games it is, it definitely sometimes when you can get really high, and get really down on yourself. Just got to stay even keel, what I’m trying to get him to do.”
Gordon and Payton both also praised Oladipo following the game for talking to them and telling them they need to just slow down and let the game come to them, something he had to learn last season. By the end of the week, all three looked extremely comfortable on the court, especially playing with each other, and one can only guess Oladipo’s words of advice played a big role in doing so.
It’s clear that Oladipo is ready to grab the bulls by the horn and help newly acquired veterans Channing Frye, Ben Gordon and Willie Green work to help lead a young Magic team looking to take that next step this season. His vocalness on the court, along with willingness to coach and help teammates off the court will bring a balance to the team as well.
Like his fellow young guns, Oladipo still has work to do on the court. He needs to become stronger finishing with his left hand. He has to develop a more consistent jump shot. He needs to be a little tighter while handling the ball and become more comfortable in pick-and-roll situations.
All of this will come to Oladipo as he continues to work, and he’ll continue to grow as a leader as well. But for now, the Magic may have found the leader that they need both on and off the court. Only time will tell, but if he continues on this path, Victor Oladipo might just become one of the greatest to ever play the game.