The Orlando Magic convened Thursday morning at Amway Center to prepare for their forthcoming back-to-back set, which features a visit to the Charlotte Hornets and a home date against the Miami Heat. Here are the stories that emerged in advance of those two Southeast Division showdowns.
Oladipo working to find his rhythm
Magic guard Victor Oladipo missed all of training camp with a sprained MCL in his left knee, which injury would have been enough of a setback. But as he rehabilitated, he caught an elbow in the face from Dewayne Dedmon, which resulted in a fractured bone in his face and set the Indiana product back even more. Oladipo has since returned to Orlando's lineup--wearing a clear protective facemask, naturally--but he's still not completely himself.
"When I first came back I knew it would be a little tough, trying to get my rhythm back and everything," said Oladipo, with his mask fastened around his left thigh. "I still learned a lot, still improved, from watching and stuff like that. [I] just have to be patient."
Even with just four games under his belt, Oladipo can feel that rhythm returning to him. "Slowly but surely," he said. "I've been out for a long time. I missed all of preseason, the first couple of weeks of the regular season, I missed two days of training camp, so it's a lot of basketball [to miss].
"Everybody's rusty when they first come back, so I'm just gonna continue to keep playing."
Oladipo is averaging 12.3 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game and shooting 34.8 percent from the floor. Once he finds that elusive rhythm, he should return to, or even exceed, the form which made him the Rookie of the Year runner-up in the 2013/14 campaign.
O'Quinn itching to play
Magic big man Kyle O'Quinn picked up the sport relatively late, not participating in organized basketball until high school, so he's not accustomed to missing prolonged stretches of time due to injury. That's the ordeal he faces now: since stepping on a New Orleans Pelicans player's foot in the team's first game of the season, he's missed Orlando's past 13 games due to sprained ankle.
"You're on the outside looking in," said O'Quinn of being unable to play, "but it's for a good purpose. But we'll get through this."
And indeed O'Quinn and the Magic are almost through it: O'Quinn participated in Wednesday's practice and was a go for Thursday as well. He said he enjoyed "going through reps" with teammates Dedmon, Nik Vučević, and Tobias Harris Wednesday. He's ready to be part of the team again, maybe even putting it "over the edge" so it can win some games.
"You just wanna be out there," he said. "Whatever the outcome is, you always wanna be a part of it."
Sitting out has lent O'Quinn some perspective. "You appreciate the time you're out there, because you just never know [when it could end]," said the Norfolk State product. "I mean, I stepped on somebody's foot. How uncommon is that? To be out that long for stepping on somebody's foot. People step on your foot at the mall."
Odds and ends
- The Magic wore sleeved practice jerseys Thursday in order to prepare for wearing sleeved jerseys when the games count. Orlando will début its silver, sleeved "Pride" uniform on Wednesday, November 26th, against the Golden State Warriors. According to a pocket schedule the Magic released, they'll wear the sleeved jerseys for 12 home games, including Wednesday's, in the 2014/15 season.
- Oladipo said he's "getting used to" playing with the mask. He "occasionally" has to remove it to wipe sweat off, but other than that the only trouble he encounters comes when someone hits him in the face. "If someone hits it and it, like, moves, I gotta adjust it while the play is going on," he said. "It's kinda tough."
- To warm up his players for Thursday's practice, assistant coach James Borrego had his team divide itself into six small groups--one for each basket on the practice floor--and shoot free throws. The players had to make five consecutive foul shots before rotating clockwise to the next hoop, where they again had to sink five freebies. The circuit continued apace for the remaining time practice was open to the media.