The Magic were missing more than Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Arron Afflalo, their best backcourt player, and Nik Vucevic, their best frontcourt player, were also not in the game during the second overtime against the New York Knicks Friday night.
Good thing Victor Oladipo showed up, fashionably late, the rookie leaving another spectacular imprint so fabulously early.
There were a lot of heroes in the Magic’s double overtime win against the Knicks, as Oladipo noted, but Oladipo was the driving force in comeback from a 14-point deficit.
On a night when the Magic honored Penny Hardaway, Oladipo looked dynamic himself: 30 points, 14 assists, nine rebounds, three steals and just three turnovers in nearly 50 minutes.
And to think that he had just five points on 2-of-6 shooting after the first half, having no real impact on the game.
I come off as an old-timer yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but I’ve seen them all come through here the past 25 years. Penny. Shaq. Nick. T-Mac. Dwight.
This Oladipo kid has a chance to be right there with them.
“I feel I haven’t scratched the surface of how good I can be,” Oladipo said, not sounding cocky, but matter-of-factly. “I want to be one of the greatest to ever play this game.”
The Magic need a star. This town needs a star.
You are seeing one develop before your eyes.
The Magic don’t want to toot his horn too loudly. They want to protect the team concept after going through the Dwightmare, preferring not to feature one player. But Oladipo’s talent will emerge and shine through even as the clubs attempts to tamp down the expectations of greatness he’ll create.
Oladipo has a ways to go, no question.
He’ll still have off nights, forgettable games. He isn’t a good shooter by any stretch yet. He still is indecisive with the ball.
But he has a star quality to him. Vic is the “it” guy.
Oladipo is relentless, as the Knicks saw as he drove and dunked over them. Through turnovers and bad plays, he never gets discouraged – rare for a rookie.
“He has the capability of being a great player in this league,” Jameer Nelson said of Oladipo. “He has a motor, and a lot of people don’t have the same motor that he has. By that, I mean he just keeps coming, keeps coming at you at both ends of the court.”
Davis was no longer with the team, having been bought out of his contract, leaving the Magic short one veteran. In the second OT, the Magic lost Afflalo (sprained ankle), their leading scorer, and then center Nik Vucevic (fouled out).
Oladipo took over. He scored eight points in the five-minute period, including a highlight-reel dunk with 30 seconds left. He was fouled and made the free throw to put the Magic ahead 125-121.
“No question, I’ve come a long way,” Oladipo said. “Just as a person, not just as a player. I’ve been in so many situations. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Every game I can control one thing: that’s what I bring in my energy at both ends of the floor and just play hard no matter what.”
The Magic have a star in the making. And he’s just scratching the surface.