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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Magic rookies make debut in NBA Summer League

ORLANDO — The NBA Summer League hosted by the Orlando Magic began Saturday at the Amway Center, officially marking the beginning of the professional careers of Magic lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton.

The seven-day event features 10 NBA teams (Boston, Brooklyn, Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Orlando, Memphis, Miami, Oklahoma City and Philadelphia) with a championship Friday. The teams are comprised of lottery picks preparing for the season and other draftees and unsigned rookie free agents trying to make a NBA roster.

For Gordon and Payton, they walked away from their first NBA game with much to keep in mind as the summer continues.

“All of the college players I never got to play against, I saw a lot of them in the game and a lot of pros in the game and a lot of people trying to make it onto a pro roster,” Gordon said. “It was a really fun game. It was exciting and I will remember it.”

Gordon was taken fourth overall after one season at Arizona, while Payton was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, who took him 10th overall. Payton, who played at Louisiana Lafayette, was acquired by Orlando in exchange for the draft rights to Dario Saric, a future first-round draft pick and a future second-round draft pick.

Saturday against the 76ers, Gordon finished with seven points, five rebounds and a crowd-pleasing blocked shot in which he snatched a would-be layup on its way up, while Payton, who did not start, had two points, team-high five assists and four turnovers in roughly 18 minutes. The Magic won, 83-77.

“I did OK,” Gordon said. “Shots weren’t dropping but I made the right shots. Played good defense, talked on defense and we won. Made some good passes, I’m happy. It felt good being out there.”

Said Payton: “You’ll have bad offensive nights but defense is something you can control. “At the end of the day, that’s what wins championships anyway.”

Gordon was named First Team All-Pac-12 and the 2013-14 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He also was named a third-team All-American by The Sporting News and Honorable Mention by The Associated Press. He was one of six finalists for the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year Award.

Payton played three years at Lafayette and left as the program’s all-time leader in steals.

“I think both guys had some first game jitters,” said Magic Summer League coach Wes Unseld.

‘Defensively, (Payton) was great. He did a nice job late in the game of controlling the tempo and keeping us organized. That was their first sniff of NBA game speed. It’s probably more than they’re used to still something they have to get accustomed to.”

The Magic will be young this upcoming season and have little time to get acquainted by the start of the season with so many new faces. Gone is Jameer Nelson, the 2004 first-round pick who helped the team reach the NBA finals in 2009. The Magic waived Nelson in June, ending his 10-year stint with the team. They also traded away guard Arron Afflalo and have since acquired Willie Green and Evan Fournier.

Now, Victor Oladipo, the Magic’s top pick in last year’s draft and second overall selection in the 2013 draft, is the team “veteran” guiding the youth movement in Orlando.

“I thought they did a good job,” said Oladipo, who led the way with 18 points. “It was their first time playing. They really tried to attack (Payton) a little bit. But like the game slowed down for me, it’ll eventually slow down for them. It’s all a process.”

Said Payton: “It’s going to be a lot of on-job training. You have to adjust on the fly and continue to get better.”

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