Although the Orlando Magic had very little in the All-Star Weekend festivities, it was still nice to see two players out there participating. Although neither Arron Afflalo or Victor Oladipo were a part of the main event, representing the team at the marquee event will have been positive for the team. As a result, we’ll take a brief look at their exploits, and what to expect as the season comes into it’s final stretch before the playoffs begin.
Although Afflalo only participated in the 3-point contest, it was still nice to see him get some recognition as an outside shooter on the night. He didn’t win, or even get out of his conference for that matter, but his score of 15 wasn’t terrible either. For those who watch Afflalo play regularly, you will know that he is far more than just a sharpshooter. That aspect of his game has come along nicely, but really he is a solid two-way player. Yes, he is having a career year in terms of points and assists, but on the defensive end, where he doesn’t nearly get enough credit, his ability to get stops and make it difficult for opposing players has become invaluable to this young team. So while his brief All-Star cameo was nice, it only highlighted what has become an extra dimension to this game. The run out would have done him good. Oladipo meanwhile, looked right at home in these glitzy surroundings. With NBATV and TNT taking fans behind the scenes, it was clear from the footage shown that the rookie was really enjoying his surroundings in New Orleans and making the most of his time there. He also had some nice moments in the Rising Stars Challenge, his range being shown off perfectly with a picturesque 3 during the game, too. He never got a chance to really establish himself in the game with others like Dion Waiters, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Anthony Davis making the highlight plays, but just being there would have meant a lot to the former Indiana player. Indeed, with Portland’s Damian Lillard saying that making the All-Star team had given him a newfound belief that he had truly arrived in the NBA, perhaps Oladipo taking part in two competitions, the other being the Skills Challenge, will help him to believe that he really belongs in this league.
Going forward, it is about these two taking their experiences from here and translating that to improved play for their team. Look, taking part in a 3-point contest as Afflalo did is hardly going to amount to anything in the regular season, but you would like to think that being a part of the festivities gives players a buzz and some extra motivation to play hard and make the All-Star Game proper next time around. In Afflalo’s case, perhaps it gave him a chance to show the more casual fan that he too deserves a little more respect for what he can do with a ball from downtown. The weekend may rub off more on Oladipo however, who has looked like somebody who feeds off his confidence in the first half of this season. During his poor stretches on the floor, and he has had them, Oladipo has been the culprit of too many turnovers and at times poor shot selection. When he gets it going however, he gets into a rhythm quickly and efficiently. The hope now is that this weekend will have served as a full time confidence booster for him going forward. Seeing players like Lillard, Kyrie Irving and John Wall, who are all in the league themselves less than five years, will have allowed him to see up close just what it takes to be a star in this league.
As a whole, All-Star Weekend was a great celebration of all that is good about the game, dunk contest aside. For the Orlando Magic specifically, it represented a chance to get a couple of days rest in as this team gears up for the unofficial second half of the season. The two players who did represent the team performed to a decent standard and will be hoping to guide the Magic in the right direction going forward. It was a nice distraction, as down the road there lies far more losses and trying times. There also is the small matter of the NBA Draft, a night in which Orlando will likely be picking early in a draft class that the experts say is as good as there has been in a decade. But that is still a ways down the road. Over the weekend the Orlando Magic had their fun in the Big Easy, but that is about as fun and easy as it will get until the season ends.