ORLANDO, Fla. — As the highest draft pick playing in this week’s NBA Summer League, as the top selection of the host Magic, all eyes were on former Arizona forward Aaron Gordon on Saturday afternoon.
And in that context, it was a disappointing debut for Gordon, who had seven points and four turnovers but helped Orlando to an 83-77 win against the Philadelphia 76ers at Amway Center.
“There’s a lot of basketball to be played,” said Gordon, 18, the fourth overall pick in last month’s draft after one season with the Wildcats. “If you get down on yourself, if you let it compound, you’re not going to be happy. I’m just happy to be playing.”
Gordon, 6 feet 9 inches and 225 pounds, went 3 for 11 from the field, but had five rebounds and a block, and his coaches ascribed much of his day to the transition of a young player in a new system surrounded by new teammates.
“That was their first sniff of NBA game speed,” said Magic assistant Wes Unseld Jr., who is serving as the team’s summer league coach. “That’s summer league game speed, but it’s probably more than they’re used to, still something they have to get accustomed to. … (He) had some first-game jitters.”
For Gordon, it was his first game in more than three months, since another 3-for-11 effort, scoring eight points in an NCAA tournament regional final loss to Wisconsin in his final game for Arizona.
Magic second-year guard Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, said he made a point to tell Gordon to slow down, to not over accelerate himself in a first week of play that will require some adjustment. Gordon, wearing No. 00 for the Magic, said his timing is still coming along.
“It’s just reading the pace, playing at my own pace,” said Gordon, who next plays Monday afternoon against Houston. “I want to play faster, but sometimes the game doesn’t need to be played faster. Sometimes you do need to slow down.”
Orlando has a strong, young nucleus in place this summer, with Gordon and fellow lottery pick Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette joining Oladipo, as well as second-round pick Roy Devyn Marble, a shooting guard from Iowa. Perhaps only Oladipo can understand the pressure on a high first-rounder to shine immediately.
“It’s not going to come overnight,” he said. “They have to take their time. It was their first time playing, a lot of jitters. The game slowed down for me, and it’ll slow down for them.”
Payton, like Gordon, had four turnovers and scored only two points, but those mistakes had the benefit of coming in a victory. Gordon already has an understanding of the length of an NBA season, the importance of not dwelling on a single game and the opportunity for constant improvement between now and the end of his rookie year next spring.
“There’s 82 games in a season, 10 preseason games, and more because we want to go to the playoffs, plus there’s more summer league games,” he said. “Then next year, there’s 82 more games.”