JACKSONVILLE — Butterflies swirled inside Victor Oladipo's stomach as tipoff approached Wednesday night.
He was about to make his NBA preseason debut, and as he stretched at center court before the national anthem, he saw Julius Erving, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and David Thompson sitting in the front row.
You never could've guessed that Oladipo felt nervous or that he's a rookie learning to play point guard.
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It would be a mistake to get too carried away by his performance, but Oladipo was the obvious bright spot for the Magic as they lost their preseason opener to the New Orleans Pelicans 99-95 in front of an announced crowd of 9,274.
Oladipo finished with 10 points, five rebounds, nine assists, four steals and just two turnovers.
"I've just got to carry it over," he said afterward. "The thing about basketball is every night's not going to be like that."
Oladipo, the second overall pick in June's NBA Draft, immediately filled up the stat sheet when he entered the game midway through the first quarter.
Guarded one-on-one by Jrue Holiday, Oladipo drove to his right, stopped at the edge of the paint and sent a perfect bounce pass to Andrew Nicholson for a dunk.
About a minute later, Oladipo stole a pass by Holiday and then dribbled down the court. Oladipo glanced to his right, saw Jason Maxiell wide-open and whipped a pass to Maxiell, who swished a 10-foot jumper.
By the time the first quarter ended, Oladipo had drawn two shooting fouls on drives to the hoop, distributed three assists, made three steals and grabbed two rebounds.
"I think when you watch him, you'll get a sense that he has a real good feel for the game of basketball," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.
"He's going to continue to learn, and he'll continue to be put in situations that he hasn't been put in before, which is good for him. He'll learn from them, and he'll grow from them, but I think guys will enjoy playing with him."
Magic officials expect Oladipo to have some rough moments in the weeks and months ahead. Point guard is the most complex position on the court, and it can rob any player of his confidence.
Oladipo's "Welcome to the NBA" moment arrived quickly.
Late in the second quarter, he launched a 3-pointer from the left wing, only to have 6-foot-10 forward Anthony Davis, the Pelicans' star of the future, sprint in and block the shot.
But Oladipo gathered the loose ball. He drove into the lane and banked the ball in off the backboard just as the shotclock's buzzer sounded.
"I know he probably was a little nervous before the game," Magic forward Tobias Harris said. "But just to get out there and play as well as he did, he brings a lot to us."
Some of the Magic's other young players displayed some new wrinkles to their games.
Nik Vucevic scored on a few improved low-post moves. Nicholson swished a 3-pointer from the right corner. And Maurice Harkless played aggressively on offense, putting the ball on the floor for drives to the hoop.
Late in the fourth quarter, after a timeout with 15 seconds left, Oladipo went to the sidelines in front of Erving to inbound the ball.
Erving told him he had played well.
"Thank you," Oladipo responded.
Afterward, Oladipo smiled when he was asked about what Erving had said.
"That's a blessing," Oladipo said. "He's one of the greats. For all of them to be on the sideline, to be watching, was crazy. It was amazing. It's all God's blessing. For him to say that, it means a lot to me. But it's just the beginning. I've got a lot to learn."
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