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Injury to Left Knee Ends Daniel Orton's NBA D-League Stint

Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post
Bruce Maddox - Orlando Pinstriped Post

The Orlando Magic sent rookie center Daniel Orton to the NBA D-League last week in hopes of letting the 21-year-old prospect get some meaningful playing time while they're on a stretch of road games, but an injury to his left knee--the same one that troubled him in his final two years of high school ball--cut his stay with the New Mexico Thunderbirds short. Now, Orton is back with the team and has undergone an M.R.I. exam, which revealed no serious structural damage. More on the situation from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

"There's probably a little bit of cartilage damage, nothing major," [Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis] Smith said. "We'll have to figure out how we're going to manage it, either through meds or get a little surgery. But I'm not sure. It depends on Daniel."

A team doctor examined Orton on Monday after the MRI.

The rookie center said he will seek a second opinion by the physician in Oklahoma who operated on his knee during his senior year of high school. Orton left open the possibility that he'll have surgery, but he said he would like surgery to be "the very last option."

Orton showed promise in his two games with New Mexico, making the briefness of his stay even more vexing. In 42 minutes, Orton compiled 20 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocked shots while shooting 8-of-18 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the foul line. The knee tweak represents another setback for the former Kentucky Wildcat, who spent most of the summer and training camp strengthening the muscles around that knee while his teammates were able to practice and play in games. He spoke to David Aldridge of for the tail end of Aldridge's "Morning Tip" column this week, and his responses betray frustration:

DA: Is it hard to feel part of this, even though they're winning?

DO: At times, I do feel like I'm not really with the team or something like that. Moreso, the development part, like you said, is going to be within myself, really. So I think they're looking towards me to develop myself, really. But I do get help and guidance from them, really.

The Magic made Orton the 29th pick in this June's NBA Draft, knowing that they didn't need to rely on him to play rotation minutes right away. He's a potential long-term cog in Orlando's machine going forward, but it's tough to see just how he fits, given that he's hardly played competitive ball in the last several months.

Orlando Pinstriped Post first reported that Orton would return to Orlando. We're certainly hoping he can recover in time to contribute sometime this season, if called upon.