All-Star Weekend is just around the corner, and Magic fans could probably use a little bit of a break from the all too frequent lows of the season.
Unfortunately for Orlando, the All-Star festivities aren’t exactly brimming with Magic players so far. With guard Arron Afflalo snubbed from the Eastern Conference All-Star roster, rookie Victor Oladipo currently stands as the only member of the franchise with an invitation to New Orleans. Oladipo will participate in the Rising Stars Challenge, a showcase for rookies and sophomores that should be a lot more fun than it traditionally is.
Since he’s there, though, here’s a suggestion for the powers that be: Put Victor Oladipo in the Slam Dunk Contest.
There should essentially be two criteria for inclusion in the dunk contest. The first is the ability to rattle rims from the top of the backboard to the bottom of the stanchion.
Oladipo’s got that covered and then some. In the first four months of his NBA career, he’s managed to throw down some of the best dunks of the year. Among his leaping lightning strikes, his steal and 360 in the open court against Brooklyn is the most well-known in a Magic uniform:
And Oladipo’s repertoire goes deep. He flashed his dunk contest credentials in transition:
And in traffic, where no mortal defender can keep Oladipo from inflicting pain on the iron:
The evidence is clear: in terms of content and ability, Oladipo is more than qualified for the Slam Dunk Contest.
But there are a lot of players with the chops to bring a crowd to their feet with their dunking prowess. Being able to participate in the competition isn’t enough. In order to shine at All-Star Weekend, a player must want to take part in the events.
And Oladipo has made it clear, time and time again and to anyone who asks, that he wants to be in the Slam Dunk Contest. He said it back in the first week of November, when his body was fresh and he’d not yet been through the grind of the regular season. And he reiterated it recently when asked by reporters.
It’s a pertinent facet of the discussion, especially since All-Stars John Wall and Damian Lillard have reportedly been invited to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. Wall seems likely to skip the event due to a nagging injury or two. We don’t yet know whether or not Lillard will accept.
But a player who has to mull the invitation over probably won’t put on the same type of show as a player with his eye on the event from the beginning. Lillard would be a fine contestant. Oladipo, given his open desire, would simply be better. If you don’t believe me, ask defending Slam Dunk Contest champion Terrence Ross. When asked who he’d like to see as challengers to his crown, Ross didn’t hesitate in selecting Oladipo.
Of course, the format will likely factor into whether or not Oladipo makes the cut. Last year, the Slam Dunk Contest was open to six contestants, with three coming from each conference. Assuming the same holds true this year, and Ross is invited back, that leaves Oladipo competing for one of two spots with his fellow Eastern Conference comrades.
He should be a lock, though he doesn’t seem to be. No one else has Oladipo’s combination of ferocious dunks and inclination to unleash them with the spotlight shining its brightest. If the Slam Dunk Contest wants to be the spectacle it deserves to be, it needs Victor Oladipo.
In continuation of the Orlando Magic’s 25th anniversary season-long celebration the team will honor former Magic General Manager John Gabriel, former Magic forward and current television color analyst Jeff Turner and former Magic guard Sam Vincent at the Magic’s February 7 matchup vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, tip-off set for 7 p.m. The night will feature a center court presentation with all three at the end of the first quarter. Vincent will join FOX Sports Florida’s broadcasts including Magic Live pregame show with hosts Paul Kennedy and Nick Anderson and Gabriel will join broadcasters David Steele and Jeff Turner for a portion of the game broadcast. They will also be featured on Magic Drive Time radio show with host Dante Marchitelli on AM 740 ‘The Game,’ schedule as follows: Jeff Turner on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m.; John Gabriel, Friday, Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m.; and Sam Vincent on Friday, Feb. 7 at halftime on AM 580. In addition, all three will be available to the media at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7 in the Amway Center interview room.
“Legends Nights” is an on-going program which will honor former players/legends throughout the Magic’s Silver Season. Past honorees include Tracy McGrady, Nick Anderson, Pat Williams, Jimmy Hewitt, Dennis Scott, Pat Garrity, Horace Grant and Bo Outlaw. In addition to the Magic’s “Legends Nights,” the 2013-14 season will feature the Silver Ticket Sweepstakes and Scratch Off Promotion, special appearances, game entertainment and other events throughout the season.
A 12-year NBA veteran, Turner played in 612 NBA regular season games during his career with New Jersey and Orlando. As a member of the Magic’s inaugural team, he spent seven seasons (411 games-176 starts) with the Magic from 1989-1996. He ranks on the Magic’s all-time career list in games played (tied for eighth). While with the Magic, he averaged 6.5 ppg. and 3.6 rpg., helping them reach the 1995 NBA Finals. Turner currently serves as the Magic’s television color analyst.
Vincent was a member of the Magic’s inaugural squad. A seven plus year NBA veteran, he played in 396 NBA regular season games during his career with Boston, Seattle, Chicago and Orlando. Vincent spent three seasons (151 games – 80 starts) with the Magic from 1989-1992, finishing his NBA career with Orlando in 1992. While with the Magic, he averaged 10.1 ppg., 4.6 apg., and 2.7 rpg. in 23.3 mpg.
Gabriel joined the Magic in 1989 during its inaugural season. While with the Magic, he served in various capacities including director of player personnel, director of scouting, assistant coach, vice president of basketball operations/player personnel and general manager. Gabriel was responsible for building the Magic roster that went to the 1995 NBA Finals, when the organization had only been in existence in the NBA for six years. Also under his tenure, Orlando posted 11 consecutive seasons with a .500-plus record from 1991-2002, while making eight postseason appearances. Gabriel was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 1999-2000.
Tasked with trying to score on one of the NBA’s premier defenders (Paul George), Afflalo made it look incredibly easy in the first half. He scored 18 points on 11 shots, capping off an excellent shooting display by making a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter. But Afflalo went cold after halftime, missing his last seven shots to finish with just 20 points.
Nikola Vucevic 8-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -2
Vucevic played 30-plus minutes for the first time since coming back from a concussion, with the Magic ramping up his minutes game-by-game. He churned out another double-double, his 19th of the regular season (in 32 games), and held his own against Roy Hibbert — at least offensively. But Vucevic has a ways to go on defense before he can consider himself Hibbert’s equal.
For a player that likes to chuck up a lot of shots, it’s unusual to look at the box score and see that Harris had less than 10 field goal attempts in a game. Part of it was due to the natural flow of the game. Part of it was due to Harris being hounded by the hyperactive Lance Stephenson.
Starting at point guard in place of the injured Jameer Nelson (knee), Oladipo tried his best to run the Magic’s offense as effectively as his mentor but failed. Ironically enough, it wasn’t Oladipo’s passing that was the problem, but rather his shooting. Oladipo couldn’t connect on any of his midrange jump shots whenever Orlando ran pick-and-rolls for him, which hurt the team offensively.
The Pacers can thank their second unit (Watson-Stephenson-Granger-Scola-Mahinmi) for winning them this game. Indiana’s reserves sparked an 18-1 run, spanning from the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter, that turned a close game into a blowout. Granger was the ringleader, leading the Pacers in scoring with 16 points off the bench and — more importantly — looking healthy.
It’s hard to credit Afflalo’s All-Star snub for all of his performance against the Bucks. But Afflalo acknowledged after the game that not being named an All-Star “created a new level of passion and a new level of hunger.” Those new heights led to Afflalo scoring 17 points in the first half, helping stake the Magic to a lead of 20-plus points in the first 24 minutes.
Nikola Vucevic 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | +5
A blowout victory can make for a generous grader. And make no mistake — though the final margin of victory was just 11 points, Milwaukee only made it that close by outscoring the Magic by 13 in fourth quarter garbage time. But Vucevic gets an “A” independent of grade inflation. In his second game back from a concussion, he looked like his normal, Vucci Mane self.
Harris didn’t have the prettiest box score, shooting a hair under 39 percent from the field. But he was also on the floor when the Magic went on the run that essentially put this game out of reach — again, in the first half! His decision-making in the second half, when the game was already decided, was liberal at times, but he got into a rhythm in the fourth quarter.
Victor Oladipo 5-10 FG | 4-5 FT | 5 REB | 7 AST | 15 PTS | +2
Jameer Nelson left the game at the end of the first quarter with a sore left knee, and he did not return. In his absence, Oladipo showed his much improved game as the primary initiator of the offense. He was the common thread in the Magic’s dominant victory in the battle of the teams with the two worst records in the NBA.
I know, I know. A “C” seems like an awfully weird grade for a team that got destroyed by the Magic. And in a vacuum, Milwaukee would have gotten a big ol’ F. But at this point, the Bucks aren’t exactly looking to win games. Besides, any team that has Giannis Antetokounmpo automatically gets a letter-grade bump from their baseline performance. That’s just the rule.
Arron Afflalo, their best and most consistent player this season, was snubbed tonight when the reserves were announced for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16 at New Orleans Arena.
The Eastern Conference reserves are Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan, Roy Hibbert, Joe Johnson, Paul Millsap, Joakim Noah.
The reserves were selected through a vote of league head coaches. Each coach was required to vote for seven players within his conference: two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for someone from his own team.