Daniel Orton, in a rare shot of the Orlando big man without warmups (Getty Images)
Common wisdom tells you that all NBA participants, whether they're on the end of a bench or starting for the All-Star team, were go-to players at some point in their career. That they dominated in grade and high school before moving on to mostly starring roles in college or overseas. It's the NBA, and that spot on the end of the bench, that humbles. Orlando Magic center Daniel Orton is turning that old adage upside down.
On Monday night Orton will start for the Orlando Magic, and though the clearly talented Orton has been in the NBA since 2010 and played a big role in the Kentucky Wildcat frontcourt during his lone season in college, this will be Orton's first start (excluding two brief D-League turns in the initial lineups) since he was a high school senior. Considered a project both by Kentucky and by the Magic, Orton just hasn't gotten the opening run in back of DeMarcus Cousins at UK, and Dwight Howard in Orlando.
That figures to change, though, on Monday. With Howard possibly out for the rest of the regular season and Glen Davis (who has thrived in Howard's absence, playing at undersized center, averaging 18.7 points and 11.4 rebounds before leaving Sunday night's win over the Cavaliers early) out with a knee injury, Orton will take to the starting stage in a weird turnaround you typically don't see from NBA players. Fox's Paul Kennedy was the first to report the news.
This comes on the heels of an impressive performance from Orton in Davis' relief against Cleveland on Sunday, when he came through with 11 points, four rebounds, five steals and three blocks in 29 minutes. No turnovers, either, which is pretty rare for a big man that just hasn't played a whole heck of a lot since high school. Remember, even Orton's D-League turns were hampered by injuries, and he missed all of 2010-11, so despite being drafted while LeBron James was still a Cleveland Cavalier, he's about as green as they come.
His Magic teammates, who have watched him battle knee injuries since Orlando selected him 29th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, celebrated Orton's coming-out party. Davis doused him with a bucket of water, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Orton also earned praise on Twitter from Quentin Richardson, J.J. Redick, and Justin Harper.
Ah, Twitter-praise. Twitter being the thing that very few of us were on the last time Orton started for his Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma.
Novelty aside, and celebrations over, the Magic need Orton to keep up the solid play. It's a long shot for the Philadelphia 76ers to make up the 3.5 games that separates the Magic and 76ers, but you wouldn't put it past Philly to make a run and give themselves a chance to avoid playing the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Orton's start comes against Philadelphia on Monday, a team that is going to go small and fast around a creaky Magic outfit, with the wily Elton Brand matching wits with Orton in the pivot.
That is to say, this isn't high school, Daniel. And you're not going up against Tristan Thompson (as was the case on Sunday) any more.
Let's see how the 21-year-old, with 29 of his 74 career NBA minutes coming in Sunday night's performance, adapts.
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