Team USA is gearing up for the FIBA World Cup next month, and has been practicing both among themselves and against a second unit brought in to compete against the players on the roster. While that phase of training has ended, the Orlando Magic had two young players who were a part of that second unit in Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris.
Thankfully both appear to have left camp unscathed as well, and it is at this point that we should wish Paul George a speedy recover from the nasty injury he sustained on Friday night. But could the two youngsters have taken far more experience away from working with Team USA than many realize?
It’s no secret that Oladipo in particular will be expected to take on a bigger load for him team next year. With Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo gone, he will be the best backcourt player the team has, as he continues to rise to being the face of the franchise.His rookie year was quite impressive, and he got modest Rookie of the Year consideration, so making a leap next season in theory seems pretty likely. It is the added pressure that comes with that though, being a face of the team and shouldering more responsibilities, that may take longer to master.
So imagine how great it must be for this young guy to have the likes of Derrick Rose and John Wall sitting a few feet away from him during practice. Better again, going up against these guys, and the likes of James Harden and Kevin Durant, can only make him better.
It is this sort of environment really that every young player should strive to be a part of if they can. Indeed, if you look at comments Oladipo made to the Orlando Sentinel, the whole experience would appear to have bee a bit of an eye opener for him, and a positive one at that.
“I think the biggest thing was just the intensity everybody played with. It was amazing, and I could definitely learn from that. Going up against the best in the world every day, for three days straight, was crazy. It definitely helped me realize where I was at and what I need to work on and what I need to get better at It gave me a little bit of confidence as well.” These are the words of a player who realizes he is far from the finished article, but wants to put in a lot of work to change that.
Yes Oladipo isn’t a part of the team this summer, but maybe after being around the team he might want to be in future. This experience has shown him where his game needs to be, and it can only be a positive thing for this growing Orlando Magic team. In some ways it’s like the next step on the road to being a playoff team. A couple of the team’s youngest and brightest going to a USA training camp for a few days. So we can see that in more than one way, this seems to have been an important exercise for both players involved.
Let’s not forget about Harris here either. Since coming to the team from the Milwaukee Bucks, he has continued to improve. As an athletic forward who can work both ends of the floor, expect to see him catch the eye again this season, to the point where some may call it a breakout year for the guy. That won’t all have been as a result of playing for less than a week against the national team, but you can bet that it helped. Looking at it further, taking positives from this experience back to the likes of Aaron Gordon bodes well for the year ahead too.
When you couple Harris and Oladipo together with the fact that the veteran players signed by the team can provide immediate help, it is hard not to feel positive about how this team is preparing for the new season. With Oladipo learning from the best and then going back to Orlando and being shown how to score by the likes of Channing Frye and Willie Green, this is a nice combination for him as a player.
So you see, it’s not just about the players who travel with Team USA to the FIBA World Cup. For everybody involved there is something to take away from the time spent in Las Vegas, and it is about how they use that in the coming season that will tell us what kind of players they are. We’ll have forgotten all about their time with the national team in a few weeks, but the players won’t, and you can bet it will be a part of the reason they improve on and off the basketball court this season.