Denton: Celtics Coach Praises Oladipo

By John Denton
Jan. 19, 2014

ORLANDO – Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens became quite familiar with Victor Oladipo when the guard was playing for Indiana University and Stevens was coaching in college at nearby Butler.

So when the Orlando Magic selected Oladipo with the No. 2 overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft, Stevens knew that Orlando had just secured a cornerstone piece of their franchise for years to come.

Stevens was so bullish on Oladipo’s potential that he had this to say about the rookie guard prior to Sunday night’s game: ``When you talk about guys in the draft, there are guys who are sure things and to me he was a sure thing because you knew he was going to give it everything that he had, his work ethic is off the charts and he’s got an extra gear that a lot of guys don’t have.’’

Stevens got to see Oladipo improve all three years he was in college when he progressed from a backup to an All-American guard by his senior season. So when Stevens popped in the video of Orlando’s game against Chicago on Wednesday night, he wasn’t one bit shocked to see that Oladipo had scored a career-best 35 points while also handing out eight assists. Stevens is of the opinion that Oladipo is just going to keep getting better and better for years to come.

``He’s outstanding,’’ Stevens said. ``He just has a huge upside. He’s playing even more comfortably in high pick-and-roll and they are playing him more in that. He’s going to have games like he did the other night when he had (35) points.’’

LOW TOPS TO HIGH TOPS: Throughout much of his basketball life, Magic forward Tobias Harris has been an exception to the rule when it came to the style of basketball shoes that he wore. While practically everyone wears high tops, Harris always preferred low-top sneakers because of the freedom they allowed his feet and ankles.

All of that changed on Oct. 20 when Harris suffered a high ankle sprain – an injury that was as devastating as any he had ever suffered in basketball, he said. That injury cost Harris seven weeks of this season and he said he’s still playing through pain from times to time now.

Because of the ankle injury, Harris has switched from low-top shoes to high tops in hopes of getting more support around his ankle. He said making the switch has been an adjustment.

``There are some positives with the low-cuts, but because it was a high ankle sprain that I suffered they want more support on the top of the ankle,’’ Harris said. ``It’s been an adjustment. I’ve been wearing low-tops since I was in the 11th grade. It’s an adjustment, but I’m not complaining about it.’’

PICK-AND-ROLL POSSIBILITIES: When Magic coach Jacque Vaughn was game-planning on how to stop opposing teams he realized the ones that gave Orlando the most problems were the teams that had multiple pick-and-roll options on the floor.

Injuries primarily necessitated Orlando going to a three-guard lineup with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Oladipo, but once Orlando got that lineup in place Vaughn made the switch to a more pick-and-roll heavy offense. Against Chicago, Orlando used Nelson and Oladipo in dozens of pick-and-roll sets – many of them resulting in layups for the Magic.

``When we go into a game, some of the difficult things for us to guard is the multiple individuals can have the basketball in their hands and initiate the offense and get into pick-and-roll,’’ Vaughn said. ``So why not try to create that advantage for ourselves?’’

Vaughn said he’s been pleased with Oladipo’s development as a pick-and-roll player, but he still has a lot of room for growth. Vaughn said that Oladipo simply needs more repetitions in those sets to become better at it.

``That’s a process that will continue to develop. He’s more comfortable now that he was when he got here. But he’s a long ways away from being a premier pick-and-roll player,’’ Vaughn said. ``At the end of the day, being able to read pick-and-roll coverages is about being in those scenarios. It’s about being able to simulate come teams keep you on one side, some teams blitz you with double teams and some teams go underneath the screen. So being able to read those situations without thinking and being instinctive when he happens is important.’’