DALLAS — Victor Oladipo demonstrated what Orlando Magic executives and coaches love about him during a 20-second span Saturday night.
Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried poked the ball away from him midway through the second quarter, drove halfway down the court and unleashed a powerful right-handed dunk as Oladipo fouled him. A highlight-reel play for Faried. Two blunders by Oladipo.
Oladipo could've spent the Magic's ensuing offensive possession pouting, but he didn't. As teammate Glen Davis set a pick for him to go right, Oladipo drove left, straight down the middle of the lane. Faried stood in front of the basket and confronted him head-on. Oladipo went right at the much bigger Faried, absorbed contact and scored on a short floater. Faried fell flat on his back.
"I just wanted to move on to the next play," Oladipo explained later. "In basketball, things like that are going to happen. I'm not shooting well right now. I'm not playing well right now. But I've just got to keep playing, man. I've just got to keep playing because there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
The entire sequence — specifically, how Oladipo followed a careless play with a superb, gritty play — exemplifies his attitude. He keeps fighting, even when the Magic trail by double digits, even with his team mired in what now is a seven-game losing streak.
"He's done it time and time again as far as playing on and playing on to the next play," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He'll continue to be better where the ball isn't taken away from him initially. That's where we want to get to. But we'll keep putting him in positions [to challenge him], and he'll grow from this."
The Magic had options with the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Center Nerlens Noel has the potential to be a gifted shot-blocker. Swingman Ben McLemore might become a superb scorer.
Instead, team executives couldn't resist Oladipo because of his work ethic and toughness.
Oladipo will enter Monday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks averaging 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game.
As his turnover totals indicate, he has plenty to work on, especially as he continues to learn to play point guard.
But his statistics don't reflect his intangibles.
Consider one telling sequence during the Magic's 110-94 loss last week to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the game slipping away, Oladipo threw a pass that Portland's Nicolas Batum intercepted.
Batum and Damian Lillard sprinted ahead on a two-on-one fastbreak with only Oladipo between them and the basket. Batum had the ball at the 3-point line, and Oladipo squared his shoulders toward Batum, who then sent a bounce pass ahead to Lillard.
Lillard elevated for a right-handed dunk attempt, but Oladipo shifted laterally and blocked the ball with his right hand.
The Magic own a 10-27 record, but Oladipo said his freshman year at Indiana University helped prepare him for this rebuilding project.
During his freshman season, the Hoosiers suffered through separate losing streaks of six games and nine games and finished with a 12-20 record.
Indiana improved the next two seasons, reaching the Sweet Sixteen each time.
"I really don't like losing," Oladipo said. "I don't think anybody does.
"You can never accept it, because we want the best for this franchise. We want the best for this team, and that's winning. To do that, you've just got to keep getting better. We've got to go out there and we've got to continue to keep playing hard and never quit. We have to have a never quit attitude."
That's Oladipo's attitude.
Faried and Lillard know that firsthand.
email@example.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun