Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo is adapting to practicing with a new mask after suffering a facial injury that has sidelined him. (David Manning / USA Today Sports / October 29, 2014)
After missing the preseason and nine regular-season games because of a sprained knee and a facial fracture, Oladipo returned Friday night to play his first game this season, coming off the bench to score 13 points in 25 minutes.
Vic hadn’t played a regular-season game since April. But his impact was instant as he teamed with rookie Aaron Gordon to give a listless Magic team the jolt of energy they need early in an eventual win against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Now Vaughn – my advice to him is free, of course – should waste no time and start Oladipo at point guard in place of rookie Elfrid Payton until further notice.
It’s an easy call, the right call, and Vaughn should make it tonight when the Magic face the Wizards in Washington, D.C.
Orlando is off to a better start than most expected at 4-6, and will need all the firepower they can muster against the Wizards. Unlike last season and the season before that, when the Magic joined the tanking craze, the club is trying to win games.
Oladipo gives you a better chance at winning games by playing more than Payton.
I asked Vaughn if would start Oladipo at point guard and bring Payton off. The coach wouldn’t crack, as if it’s a matter of national security.
“Not sure…we haven’t decided our rotations yet,” he said.
Oh, come on.
John Wall is waiting in Washington for the Magic, and the Magic need somebody to counter him on the offensive end. Oladipo can play just as good or better defense than Payton. Moreover, he’s a far better scorer at this stage and he can get to the hoop, although nobody gets to the hoop like Wall can.
Wearing a protective mask, Oladipo bull-rushed the basket and was 6-of-8 at the line against the Bucks.“That ability to get downhill himself and also cause the defense to collapse, we need that,” Vaughn said.
As expected, he also was rusty. He missed 7 of 10 shots, but he isn’t a knockdown jump-shooter anyway.
I love the Payton kid and I think he can still be the Magic’s point guard of the future. But he continues to struggle offensively (2 points on 1-of-5 shooting in 22 minutes against the Bucks.) His confidence already fractured, he might be better suited in his rookie transition to come off the bench against second-line players.
In this scenario, Vaughn can keep promising Evan Fournier at shooting guard. Fournier seemed to be keeping the spot warm for Oladipo, a natural shooting guard who also received training at the point last season.
But Fournier has more than earned the job, although I could see him at some point this season playing the Manu Ginobili role off the bench with Vaughn going with the franchise’s Plan A: An Oladipo-Payton backcourt.