SAN ANTONIO — Rookie Victor Oladipo will miss his second consecutive game and will be held out when the Orlando Magic face the San Antonio Spurs tonight.
The stated reason continues to be a sore left ankle.
“He’s played 60 games, somewhere around there for us, or 62 games, and I think if you took a look at the top-five picks in the draft, I’m quite sure he led in games played,” coach Jacque Vaughn said after the Magic completed their gameday shootaround moments ago at AT&T Center.
“I think three weeks ago I said I was going to be judicious in his approach. I want to keep him healthy. What I don’t want to do is turn a little ache and pain into something serious. So the philosophy hasn’t changed since we’ve been here. We’re going to be cautious and get guys back on the floor when we feel that they’re OK to get back on the floor.”
Oladipo had played in the Magic’s first 62 games of the season. Several other rookies — Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, Charlotte’s Cody Zeller, New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. and Sacramento’s Ben McLemore — also have played 62 games.
But Oladipo is averaging 32.0 minutes per game, the second-highest average among rookies. His playing time has dwarfed the playing time that Adams, Zeller, Hardaway Jr. and McLemore have received.
Still, as recently as Sunday night, Oladipo said he was hoping to play in all 82 of the Magic’s regular-season games.
Oladipo said moments ago that his ankle is still a little sore.
“It’s getting there, so I’m day-by-day,” Oladipo said.
Oladipo said he hadn’t missed a game because of an injury since he cracked a bone in one of his ankles as a high-school freshman.
He said injuries happen.
“It’s what happens when you play a lot of games and it’s your first time doing it,” Oladipo said. “It just happens in the game of basketball. I’m just taking it day-by-day, and I can’t wait to get back out there and help my team out.”
To be sure, since Rob Hennigan became the Magic’s general manager and Vaughn became the coach prior to the 2012-13 season, the Magic have employed an extreme level of caution when players were suffering from relatively minor injuries.
Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo, for example, were held out of games last season and have been held out of games this season when they almost certainly were able to play.
The extra caution does help players get over injuries, but it also exposes the team to charges that it’s tanking and trying to preserve its chances for the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery on May 20.
In the final month and a half of the regular season, there is no way that the Milwaukee Bucks (12-49) and Philadelphia 76ers (15-46) will be dislodged from having the two worst records in the league.
But for the Magic, a team that wants to build its roster primarily through the draft, there is a real danger in the weeks ahead.
The Magic will enter their game tonight with a 19-44 record.
Given the improved way the Magic have played lately, especially at home, there is a real possibility that the Magic will finish the season with a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers (21-42), Utah Jazz (21-41), Boston Celtics (21-41) and Sacramento Kings (22-40).
The Magic have one game remaining against the Lakers and one game remaining against the Jazz, with both games on the road.
Orlando finished last season with the league’s worst record, 20-62. That gave them a 25.0 percent chance of winning the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, and they wound up with the second overall pick.
The Magic used that pick to select Oladipo, and that choice has been heralded as a wise choice. Oladipo and Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams are the leading candidates to win the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Tonight, Nelson will return from a two-game absence. Team officials attributed Nelson’s absence from last Sunday’s game to a sore calf and his absence from Wednesday night’s game to an illness.
“I’ll just go out there and leave it out there on the court,” Nelson said.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, CT Now