Saturday, September 20, 2014

Elfrid Payton's SLAM Q & A

Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

SLAM Magazine staffers were able to meet up with Orlando Magic rookie Elfrid Payton at Chris Paul's 'CP3 Elite Point Guard Camp'. Rodger Bohn was able to interview the 20-year-old. Some topics include Summer League, learning from Chris Paul, being a professional athlete, treating his family, playing with Victor Oladipo, and more.

SLAM: How do you think Summer League went for you?

Elfrid Payton: Summer League was good. I learned a lot getting out there and playing at this level. Summer League is a lot different than a real game, but it’s the closest thing that I have right now. I definitely learned and got better each day.

SLAM: What was it like playing with that much talent?

EP: I had guys who were getting paid to knock down shots and fighting to make the team, so it’s a little bit different because obviously, I didn’t have those guys in college.

SLAM: What have you learned from Chris Paul in your time together?

EP: He said I need to slow down and play at a good pace. He told me a lot of little things to do throughout the season. Keep your body right, eat right, and things like that.

SLAM: If you had to pinpoint one thing in Summer League that you were really taken back by, what would that be?

EP: Just the speed of the game. My first game was such a whirlwind, but after that, I was able to adjust my game and get back playing at my pace.

SLAM: What’s your first summer been like as a pro?

EP: Man, I’m just working. I’m just trying to get as much work in as I can to be as prepared as I can for the season. There’s nothing like playing in an NBA game, but I’m trying to do whatever I can to make it as close to that as possible.

SLAM: Since you signed your contract with the Magic, have you done anything to treat yourself or your family yet?

EP: Not yet, man. I got the condo and then we’re probably about to go back home in a few weeks and look at the housing stuff. We’re probably not going to move, but I’m definitely going to do a little something for them.

SLAM: Only coming out of high school with one DI offer, what kind of advice can you give to players who fall under the radar like you did?

EP: It doesn’t matter where you’re ranked or who is recruiting you. If you put in the work, they will find you. Hard work pays off.

SLAM: How do you feel about playing alongside Victor Oladipo, given that he played some point last year?

EP: I think I can play off of the ball and I know he can play off of the ball if he needs to. I think we’re really going to hurt people defensively. Defense is going to win us games. We can both cause a lot of turnovers and get out in transition.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

VIDEO: Another Tracy McGrady Orlando Magic Highlight Mix

Seems like a lot of Tracy McGrady fans have started creating and re-uploading highlight mixes of their favorite NBA player this offseason. Enjoy this T-MAC mix from his 2000-2004 Orlando days. Audio not appropriate for little kids, but the song is too good not to post. It's Hood Gone Love It by Jay Rock featuring Kendrick Lamar.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

VIDEO: Magic Face Michael Jordan in March 1995

Enjoy a YouTube gem involving the Orlando Magic playing the Bulls in Chicago on March 24, 1995. It's the first home since Michael Jordan came back from his retirement. Orlando won the game 106-99 thanks to MJ only shooting 7-for-23 from the field in what would be a preview of their '95 playoff encounter. Orlando was the best team in the Eastern Conference, yet required a 4th quarter comeback to claim the victory. Shaquille O'Neal led everything with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Horace Grant contributed 19 points and 13 boards. Penny Hardaway added 22 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds while Nick Anderson notched 21 points.

Along with the game action, there's some cool interviews involving Craig Sager chatting with MJ. Then you had Magic Donald Royal, Dennis Scott, Penny Hardaway, Head Coach Brian Hill discussing the return of Jordan.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

HoopsHype's Interview with Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn

Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype recently had a nice interview with Orlando Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn. In the piece that I've posted below, JV discusses his new contract extension, working with GM Rob Hennigan, being in Spain to support Evan Fournier at the FIBA World Cup, the Spurs, rookie Aaron Gordon, and even about Fran Vazquez.

After getting a contract extension, I guess you are feeling very good about the job you've been doing as Orlando Magic's head coach.

Jacque Vaughn: People who are around me – our CEO, our ownership, our general manager – have a great relationship, and that extension just added trust to go forward with this group and keep improving.

Rob Hennigan was introduced as the Magic GM two years ago too. What is it like to work with him?

JV: Yeah, our relationship started back in our San Antonio days when I was a player and he was working in the front office there, so our connection started there. I think overall we have been on the same page on draft picks, people we brought into our locker room, so it's good to go to work and look over in the next office and see a guy that appreciates what you're doing and believes in what you're doing.

You've mentioned the Spurs. There's you, Hennigan, Sam Presti and more and more examples. What's so special about that franchise that helps people prosper in their careers?

JV: That's a testament to the people who run the organization. Starting with Mr. [Peter] Holt, the leadership that he has, GM RC Buford and then coach Pop [Gregg Popovich]. They have good people around him, they trust them, they guide them, push them, drive them and also believe in them. A lot of things that I carry on as a coach are the lessons I learned when I was in San Antonio.

One of the best examples of the good job the Spurs have done all these years is their success finding international talent – Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter...

JV: Yes. There's great basketball not only in the States. The game probably has its best level of competition right now. Basketball is a tremendous game, it brings different people from all parts of social-economic backgrounds, ethnicities. It's a gatherer, a joiner.

And now you're in Granada, Spain, attending the World Cup and watching your new player Evan Fournier.

JV: Yes, that's why I'm here, to support him. Sometimes when you're on a new team, you don't know where you fit in, how you fit in with the new teammates and coaching staff... so it's a little bit of a step for us. Just to show him that we appreciate who he is as an individual and what is going to add to our team.

Have you talked with him?

JV: I'm careful about doing that. I want him to be totally focused on the French National Team and the tournament. He knows I'm here and I plan to catch up with him but the main thing is that I'm here to support him.

What do you expect from Aaron Gordon?

JV: He's a great addition to the culture that we have. We're really about having unselfish guys. He's a defensive-minded guy, who has a great athletic ability. He'll grow on the offensive end of the floor. He's a guy who will come to work every day and that's what we're looking for.

It's been two years of rebuilding now after the Dwight Howard era and five years since Orlando played the Finals against the Lakers. I guess the Magic fans expect a step forward this season.

JV: Overall, our group has been extremely patient and the people of Orlando have been extremely patient and we appreciate that. When we set out on this journey, we talked about it. We wanted a product that was going to be sustainable for a lot of years to come. We got great young guys around us and they are going to get better. This is a team that is going to have four or five of your favorite players. You're not going to have just one favorite player. Good things are ahead for us. We have versatility with this group. I'll be able to play a lot of different lineups and I'm looking forward to that. That's exciting for me as a coach.

Have you given up on the idea of having former lottery pick Fran Vazquez wearing a Magic jersey?

JV: [Laughs] Well, the great thing is that I have a general manager, and he's made trips to Spain before, so I'll let him deal with that side of the business. The players he brings in, I'll coach them.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Victor Oladipo's Q & A with CBS Sports

James Herbert of CBS Sports was able to have a wonderful Q & A session with Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo. Below is their lengthy and recent offseason conversation.

Jameer is gone. Arron's gone. What does this mean for you?
Those are two big players for us that we lost. Two of our top leading scorers. So it definitely means I'm going to have to step up my game and lead the team. It definitely means I'm going to have to take on a leadership role and just try to help my team win, be a huge impact on winning. It's going to be a tough situation to be in, but at the end of the day I wouldn't rather be in any other position. I'm looking forward to every day I'm competing with my teammates and giving us an opportunity to win.
What makes a good leader?
I think what makes a good leader is the ability to not only lead but listen. Listen to what everybody else has to say, their opinions, and then giving yours and coming up with a solution. That's the biggest thing about being a leader, and those are the things I'm trying to acquire and learn.
Do you feel like you're the face of the team now?
I don't know. I mean, feel like I'm a part of a team. I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself … but yes, I do feel like I play a huge significance and then as a leader I have to take that role on.
What was the best moment on the select team?
I think the best moment was just going out there and putting on the jersey. Wearing those three letters across your chest and representing your country. Being able to do that was a blessing and an honor. Going out there and competing against the best in the world, the best in our league, is definitely an honor, too. It was great for me. Great exposure and a great experience as well.
Derrick Rose said in Vegas he thinks you're a great player, he's a fan of your game, he's there for you if you need anything.
Shoot, it's really cool to even know that he was watching me and he watches my game ‘cause I've definitely been watching him ever since I was in college and even younger than that. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does next year. I know he's going to come back stronger and better because I saw flashes of that in USA Basketball.
You were drafted second, you finished second in Rookie of the Year. Are you sick of second place yet?
Man, I'm so sick of it. But at the end of the day, it just makes me work even harder. I'm just going to keep working hard. That No. 2, that second place doesn't last very long.
Jabari Parker said a couple of weeks ago, “There's been a lot of second pick busts. I'm just trying not to be that bust.” You relate?
Man, there's no question [laughs]. Man, there's been a lot of second pick busts. And there's no question I'm not trying to be one of them, and I know he has the same mentality, too. He's a great player and he's gonna have a great career. With me, man, I'm just getting better, man. I'm not paying no attention to being a bust ‘cause I don't plan on being one. I'm just going to continue to keep getting better and keep attacking this game ‘cause like I said before in my rookie year, I'm just trying to be one of the greatest to ever play.
What comes to mind when I say the names Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton?
Two players that we're definitely going to need this year. They're going to have to come in and play a big role for us and they're really good players, man. They defend at a high level and they're talented. Their ceiling is out of this world, so I'm looking forward to playing with them and growing with them as well. It's going to be fun.
Do you get extra pumped when you see your team drafting defensive guys?
Yeah. I mean, that's all I've been about when I was younger. That's all I'm about now. I feel like if you play defense, get enough defense, it creates for your offense. I think the biggest thing is about slowing people down in the league. If you have to defenders who can do that, it's big for your team. So I'm excited.
What was it like to spend time in Bloomington with Cody Zeller, Dwyane Wade and like half of the Miami Heat?
It was huge. It was a great experience for me and definitely me and Cody. Us young players, first-year players, being able to experience that and just experience those guys. They're NBA champions. Numerous rings, too. More than one.
Wade knows that you've been compared to him all the time, right?
Yeah. Oh yeah. He does.
Does he talk trash, give you advice?
He gives me a little bit of advice and everything like that. He definitely does help me. He's always been helping me, ever since I was in college. And he didn't have to, so I've always appreciated that and looked up to him because of that. He's family, basically. It's pretty cool that he's always been helpful even when I was younger, to now. He's just so knowledgeable. He knows so much about the game. It's kind of hard not to listen to him when he speaks.
Do you remember what it was like when you first started talking to him?
I don't even know how to explain it. Growing up watching him, him being one of the greatest to ever play, one of the best in our league, it's just crazy. To be able to have that opportunity to talk to him at such a young age and befriend him at such a young age … it definitely motivated me to work even harder.
Guys always say the season's about staying even-keeled. Is that easier said than done?
It is one of the toughest things, actually, to be able to do that. Especially when you're losing games, man, it's tough. You're losing close games and not-so-close games. It's tough, you're going out and you're playing as hard as you can and you know you're still going to come up short. It's a tough feeling and a tough thing to handle. At the end of the day, you do have to keep an even keel throughout the whole thing ‘cause if you get too high or you get too low, you could eventually break down.
Do you ever stop and go, “Wow, this is amazing?”
Yeah, definitely. Pretty much every day of my life. I've been playing basketball since I was five years old. It's a crazy experience for me to be known as just an NBA player. But it's not even satisfying, I feel like I want so much more from this game. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of how good I can be, so I'm just going to continue to keep working until I reach my goal. Goals.
What is the best moment of last year? What was the worst loss?
I think the best moment was probably my first game ever. Actually, it was at Indiana and all the Indiana people were there — I went to school there. I got a standing ovation when I checked in the game. It was my first ever game in the NBA and it was a crazy experience, one I'll never forget.
All the losses were the worst losses. They're all tough. All of them were the worst. Every loss feels the same. No matter if you lose by two or 20, they're all terrible.
You've been decorating superhero capes, right? How's the morning been?
I'm at the Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion, and we have been giving it up for good[note: that's the slogan]. I think that's the main thing for today. That's pretty much what I'm all about is giving back to the community and giving it up for the kids. And we've been building capes, like you said, and giving it back to the kids at the children's hospital who have cancer so they feel like a superhero for a day.
How does your day progress from here?
I'm about to go to the hospital right now and hang out with the kids with cancer and just go have a good time … and give ‘em the capes and interact with them. I think that's the biggest thing, to just interact with ‘em and give ‘em something that they'll never forget. Being able to put a smile on a kid's face, even for a day, it goes a long way.