Daniel Orton is in prime position to see significant playing time for the Orlando Magic as their roster stands currently with he and Dwight Howard as the teams’ only two centers, and Howard the center of much trade speculation. After being drafted late in the 1st round last year, he didn’t play in any games because he was recovering from knee surgery for most of the season. Orlando Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said he only participated in two practices the whole year.
Orton has played well in practice thus far. “He’s very smart,” Van Gundy said. The coach also noted that Orton “has shed some weight” during the lockout. “This is the best I’ve felt since going into college,” Orton said. He does however struggle at times to defend Dwight Howard, one of the NBA’s elite centers, during practices. “In the last seven or eight minutes, he was hanging on for dear life,” Van Gundy said of Orton’s performance in Orlando’s most recent practice. One has to think practicing against arguably the NBA’s best center will only speed up the development of Orton. It also helps that hall-of-fame center Patrick Ewing is his position coach:
As for the left knee which Orton had to have surgery on in high school and after he left UK, he says it has felt great and isn’t bothering him lie it used to. “I can jump off it with no pain. It feels really good,” said Orton. Though he only played for one year at UK and in limited minutes, it was a joy to watch him play, especially on the defensive end, such as when he had three blocks in one offensive possession against Florida. He constantly showed flashes of being a future NBA All-Defensive player with his shot-blocking ability, and now he can fine-tune his craft even more by learning from Howard, who finished fourth in the NBA in blocks per game last year.
Orton isn’t the only former Cat looking to make his mark in Orlando this year. DeAndre Liggins will be fighting for his life as a second round draft choice to make the Orlando opening day roster. Thus far, he too has caught the eye of Van Gundy, who had this to say about Liggins:
“DeAndre Liggins is a very tough, very competitive dude. He’s going to go out and defend and work. He’s got a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I figured that out quick watching him. He’s going to compete.”