Last week, the NBA hosted it’s annual “Rookie Transition Program (RTP),” which gives rookies a handful of information on an array of topics that could be very important to their longterm success in the league, and life after basketball. Amongst others, current and former players meet with the league’s newest additions in an attempt to ease the learning curve going forward.
For Magic rookie Aaron Gordon, the experience was a great one. During the event, Gordon took some time to sit down with Dime Magazine’s Jack Winter to talk about an array of topics including the RTP, if there was a certain presentation that had stuck with him the most, and of course, some basketball on the court.
Gordon, who was the fourth pick in June’s draft, struggled in his debut with the Magic during Orlando Summer League. However, it was clear that despite struggles, Gordon was never going to get down on himself. He’s the youngest player in the league who is very raw, but the sky is the limit for the combo forward from Arizona.
In his sit down with Dime, raved about the RTP, saying he thought it was “an excellent program.” He continued on to say, “I believe that it’s really progressing and I can tell from some of the current and former players that are here talking to us that that’s the case. There’s a lot of great life advice here. It’s long – it’s 13 hours out of your day – but every hour there’s stuff for us to learn at and get better at as young players.”
For Gordon, every day is about getting better — be that in the gym, or off the court — which is undoubtedly one of the things that turned general manager Rob Hennigan towards the freak athlete. Shortly after being drafted, Gordon had a conference call with media in Orlando, and one of the first things he said was he was ready to get with coach Jacque Vaughn and get a play book so he could start working. His dedication to the game, along with being a high energy, hard working player and all-around good person is why he’s in Orlando.
Continuing his discussion with the former Arizona Wildcat, Winter asked Gordon that made an especially big impact on the rookie, to which he said:
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Chris Herren’s was really cool. I’ve seen the 30 For 30 on ESPN, but to see him in person and see how passionate he is, and hear him talk about everything he’s been through has just been a huge, huge motivation for me to stay away from things like that, you know? He had everything going for him and was almost homeless by the end of his bad experiences. Him and Jason Williams – J-Will went through some stuff, too. I just think those are two perfect examples of wrong decisions that really affect your life.”
As someone who prides himself on the defensive end, it’s not surprising that the 6-foot-9 athletic freak would say that he was looking forward to defending the most. Winter asked what Gordon would bring to the Magic this season, and he said this:
“A little bit of everything. I believe that I’m a 6-9 playmaker, so whether that’s getting an offensive rebound and bringing it down myself, being able to knock down a periodical three-pointers and mid-range jumpers, and getting to the rim I just want to be aggressive. I think I’ll be able to do a lot of things. But what I’m most looking forward to is defending. I want to be able to defend the greatest players in the world and see how I stack up. So every single night I’m gonna give it my all because I don’t want to be the one on SportsCenter getting blasted for 30 points, you know?”
Having someone who is, as Hennigan put it, a “hard nosed dude” who wants to work and play defense is huge for a young team. Gordon prides himself on that end, and while he can contribute in a handful of different ways, his defense will be the biggest right off the bat.
He also talked to Winter about having to adjust to the NBA speed, which is something that he talked about a couple of times over the course of Orlando Summer League. “In high school if you see something, your instincts will allow you to do it a second or two late. In college, your instinct has to be right on time. And in the NBA, your instinct has to be a second early. That’s pretty much the main difference.”
He has the tools to become a dominant player on the court, while also being an important member in the locker room and community. This past week at the RTP is just another instance that shows how smart and mature he is for an 18-year-old. He’s the type of guy that the Magic want, and with the pieces they have in place, they could just turn some heads this season.