Magic’s Victor Oladipo: ‘I really didn’t want to go to Cleveland’ in draft
Kevin Durant graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in April, declaring that he was “tired of being second” after going No. 2 in the 2007 draft, finishing as the MVP runner-up to LeBron James, and falling in the 2012 Finals to the Heat. Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, suffers no such silver medal fatigue, at least not yet.
On Thursday, the highly-touted rookie guard reportedly told Magic fans that being passed over by the Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick was just fine by him. OrlandoPinstripedPost.com reports Oladipo’s comments and the surrounding context.
At an exclusive event for Orlando Magic season ticket-holders, the Indiana product said, “I really didn’t want to go to Cleveland.” The Cavaliers used the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to select UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, leaving Oladipo available for Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan to select with the second pick. The Magic’s official Twitter account posted the remark, but has since taken it down.
Oladipo, 21, wasted no time issuing an apology to Cavaliers fans who took his statement as disrespectful to their city and/or team.
“Sorry to all the Cavs [fans] if I offended them in [any way] making the comment I made,” Oladipo wrote on Twitter. “I didn’t mean it the way you all took it.”
Hanging over Oladipo’s words, of course, is James’ 2010 departure from Ohio to Florida. Does Oladipo’s statement strike the same chord if he was selected by the Bobcats, or the Suns, or the Pelicans? Probably not. This one-line — initially published in a manner that lacked a full context — wasn’t harsh enough to provoke the pitchfork treatment, but the basketball world should cut Cavaliers’ fans a little bit of slack. That type of shot, even if unintentional, hits close to home. Attention athletes living and working in Florida: There’s just no need to bring Ohio into a comparative analysis of your hypothetical happiness.
That said, no one should be surprised that Oladipo found the Magic a more amenable destination than the Cavaliers. The sentiment likely has less to do with state taxes, or curses, or weather, and more to do with the fact that Orlando offered him the keys to the car. Meanwhile, Cleveland was offering him, in theory, a spot in the backseat behind incumbents Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, a pair of talented 21-year-old guards who require hefty minutes to continue their own development.
Players entering the NBA at the top of the draft order know full well that they have three years to make an impression before it’s time to start talking rookie contract extensions, lucrative deals that can be worth tens of millions of dollars. Spending even one of those years in a reserve role, or as a square peg in a round hole, can change the framework of that first negotiation. What if your new team envisions your ceiling as a super-sub? Well, you’ll be in for some turbulence sooner or later, just ask James Harden.
Of course, there are dozens of factors that make up the “right fit” for any individual player, but opportunity and touches are always near the very top of the list, especially for ultra-competitive guys looking to launch long-term, highly-successful careers. There’s no way around it: playing time and a featured role are simply the key ingredients that lead to both stardom and the riches that come with it. If summer league was any indication, Oladipo looks plenty comfortable and pleased running his own show.
As the youthful face of a franchise looking to make a good first impression, while speaking directly to his organization’s customers no less, Oladipo deserves a little leeway for laying it on thick. It’s impossible for all 30 NBA teams to possess the “best fans in the world,” but that won’t stop players on all 30 teams from doling out that compliment to their respective denizens. Oladipo’s remarks fall in that same general category. As long as he lets sleeping dogs lie, he should get a pass here. He didn’t need to immediately provide a clarification and apology, but the fact that he did pushes this episode into the “much ado about nothing” category.
Now, if he starts cracking comic sans jokes about Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert or he brings up the river fire, that will be a different story.