Magic practice notebook: Victor Oladipo could remain a combo guard

Victor Oladipo - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando's coach said Monday that the rookie may continue to play both guard spots as his career progresses.

The Orlando Magic reconvened at the Amway Center practice court Monday following the All-Star Break, where they prepared for the post-All-Star portion of their schedule. Orlando hits the road for six of its next seven games, beginning Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Here's a look at the stories that developed Monday.

Oladipo's position in flux

The development of Victor Oladipo at point guard remains arguably the biggest ongoing story with the Magic in the second year of their rebuild. They've decided to let the natural two-guard run the offense for long stretches of games in his rookie year, but the most widely held assumption regarding that idea was that he would play the two long-term, and that the team designed to experiment with him at point guard to improve his court vision and ballhandling skills.

However, Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn indicated Monday that Oladipo could continue to shuttle between both guard positions.

"I don't think we're at a position where we're forced to say, 'you're only going to do this in the course of the game.'" Jacque Vaughn on Victor Oladipo

"I think when we talked about what Victor was, we said he was a guard, and I don't think we've changed from that," Vaughn said. "We've seen him bring the ball up at the one position and play off the ball and we've seen some good things both ways. I don't think we're at a position where we're forced to say, 'you're only going to do this in the course of the game.' I don't think as an organization that's where we want to be."

Vaughn said that juggling different offensive and defensive responsibilities from game-to-game, and even within games, is "just part of playing basketball." He also noted that many of the league's best teams--though he did not specify which ones--have ballhandlers at multiple positions.

In January, Oladipo said "it would be nice" if the Magic clarified his position after his rookie year, according to Orlando Sentinel scribe Brian Schmitz. Vaughn's remarks Monday indicate that clarification may not be in the offing.

"We're at a point right now, as an organization, where I don't think we have to decide that [Oladipo's position] right now," said Vaughn. "Going forward, could that change? Yes."

Oladipo is averaging 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, four assists, and 1.6 steals. Those marks rank him second, fourth, second, and first, respectively, on the team.

Seeing stars

Oladipo and Arron Afflalo represented the Magic at All-Star Weekend. The rookie took part in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge, while Afflalo tested his outside marksmanship in the Three-Point Contest. Neither player emerged victorious in any of his respective events--though Oladipo joked that he and Michael Carter-Williams "got cheated" in the Skills Challenge, which competition they lost by one-tenth of a second--but both nonetheless enjoyed their All-Star experience.

"I had a lot of stuff going on, but I enjoyed myself," Oladipo said. He said he found the Rising Stars game "weird" because of the low-intensity nature of the competition, but nonetheless enjoyed it: "All of us were blessed and fortunate to be there. We had a good time with each other."

Among Oladipo's off-court highlights: meeting NBA legend Bill Russell; the comedian Kevin Hart; and former NBA players including Karl Malone and Ron Harper.

Afflalo, now in his seventh season, wasn't as star-struck as his rookie teammate; he joked the two people he was most happy to see in New Orleans were the two Orlando media members who made the trip. Since All-Star Saturday, he has re-watched his fifth-place showing in the Three-Point Contest once and said he was "a little disappointed" in his performance.

"It's obviously a different experience. I don't think practicing more would have helped," he said. "I think just getting that first experience of being in that environment, on that stage, and having to perform in a three-point shootout... one experience is all I need. Next time, I'll be pretty good."

According to Afflalo, the casual nature of All-Star Weekend makes it difficult to become focused and competitive. That environment contrasts sharply with that of a regular NBA game, which he said puts him "in almost a different state of mind."

"Throughout the weekend, you're not in that intense mindset where you really need to be locked in," he said.

Not center stage

For the second straight season, the NBA eliminated the center position from its All-Star ballot. Instead of picking two forwards and one center from each conference, fans instead voted for three frontcourt players. As a result, both the Eastern and Western Conferences started three forwards in Sunday's All-Star Game. The decision to list centers alongside forwards doesn't sit well with Orlando center Nik Vučević.

"The center position is so important to a team, I think it should definitely be out there, and I think there are some very good centers in this league right now that deserve to be part of the All-Star Game," Vučević said, just after acknowledging that he understands the league changed the ballot structure as a way to keep "slow centers" out of the game.

"It's a stereotype that centers are not fun, but if you look at a guy like Dwight [Howard] and DeAndre Jordan, guys who can, like, go and dunk over anybody, that means there are centers that are fun to watch," Vučević said.

Though no true centers started Sunday's game, the coaches from each conferences selected Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert, Howard, and Joakim Noah as reserves. In addition, league commissioner Adam Silver chose Anthony Davis as an injury replacement. Even with those picks, however, only five of the 24 players to take the court Sunday were centers.

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