The Orlando Magic officially welcomed several new players to the team this week – Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins via the draft, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Von Wafer through a trade with the Boston Celtics and Daniel Orton, who is essentially a rookie after missing the entire season last year due to his knee injury.
Davis is clearly the most experienced and vocal of the group, so it should be an easy adjustment for him. As for the rest of the newcomers, it’s going to take some time to get acclimated with the system and in the cases of Harper and Liggins, to life as a professional in general.
“The two rookies, they’re adjusting to life in the NBA,” Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “Things moving fast and everything else. I think they’ve done a good job.”
“They’re smart guys, they’re hard-working guys. They’re doing a good job,” Van Gundy added.
Harper spent the NBA lockout playing for SIG Strasbourg of the French league. That may give him a leg up on some of the other rookies around the league.
“The court is obviously bigger than it is over there in Europe,” Harper told reporters. “The spacing makes you have to play a lot more help defense and really just be in tune on the defensive side of the ball. I think going over there helped me learn some key concepts that will help me over here.”
“I know its going to be a lot more intense, the speed of the game is going to be a lot quicker,” Harper explained.
Harper is going to be playing against competition that he’s never seen before, but because he’s such a good fit for Orlando’s offense the way its currently constructed, the transition won’t be as difficult. Harper is cut from the Rashard Lewis mold – he’s a four man that can knock down shots from beyond the arc.
“I think this is a great situation for me, just being able to showcase my ability to stretch the floor, just being a pick-and-pop guy,” Harper told ESPN Florida. “I think in this system, I’ll be able to showcase that.
Orton Feels “Great”
Daniel Orton, Orlando’s first round pick in the 2010 NBA draft, has yet to see the floor in the NBA. He spent most of last season nursing an injured knee. He had a brief stint in the D-League, but re-injured his knee during that time. Orton is now able to complete practices and told reporters this is the best he’s felt since entering college in 2009.
“It (his knee) feels good,” Orton told reporters. “I can jump off of it with no pain.”
Orton is currently one of only five big men on Orlando’s roster (Howard, Davis, Anderson and Harper are the others). Early on in camp, Orton couldn’t leave the floor because Davis had yet to suit while Wafer had to clear up some issues with FIBA before their acquisitions became official. That’s fine with Orton, who knows he needs reps.
“I’ve got a lot to prove,” Orton explained. “Everybody’s going to say you have something to prove to them, but mainly (I have something to prove to) my teammates, so they can trust me.”
“I’m just hoping everything works out for me, I just want to get that chance.”
Wafer Excited For The Opportunity
Von Wafer returned to the NBA in 2010 after spending a season in Europe. He played in 58 games, making two starts for the Boston Celtics last season. He averaged just 3.2 points in 9.5 minutes per game.
He was excited to be a part of a Magic team that seemingly had a need for a shooting guard with only J.J. Redick and rookie DeAndre Liggins in camp. Since the trade, the Magic have re-signed incumbent starter Jason Richardson, but that hasn’t changed Wafer’s attitude.
“I’m just glad to be here – it’s a top tier organization,” Wafer told ESPN Florida.
Despite a difficult season in Boston that included a reported fight with Delonte West, Wafer thinks his experience with the Celtics was a good one for one big reason.
“Last year, playing with the Celtics with Ray Allen mentoring me, I just want to show everybody what he taught me – what I’ve learned and who I’ve become,”Wafer told ESPN Florida.
“I’m anxious, excited, I can’t sleep.”
Wafer’s play in camp has drawn rave reviews from coaches teammates thus far.
Whether or not any of these new faces, outside of Davis, can actually earn consistent playing time is up for debate.
“It’s awfully early to really start judging people,” Van Gundy said. “Everybody gets better once they get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”