The Orlando Magic gave a shot to some new players hungry for an opportunity as the Orlando Pro Summer League begins to wind down.
Kalin Lucas has been around this block several times before.
The 28-year-old point guard last played for the Erie BayHawks but has been to Greece to play for Olympiacos and Turkey to play for Banvit and Ankara Kolejilier. He has seen a lot of different basketball courts chasing the NBA dream and putting in his work.
The Orlando Magic, in need of a third point guard, likely had him in to give him another shot at achieving that dream. And Lucas played well.
But the attention, as it sometimes does in Summer League, went elsewhere. To the shiny new toy.
Derrick Walton Jr., a rookie from Lucas’ college’s in-state rival, quickly stole the spotlight. Fans began salivating over Walton’s passing and driving ability. He took over a lot of the scoring load. The buzz around Summer League quickly became about Walton and his chances to make the Magic’s training camp roster.
Walton supplanted Lucas as the starting point guard for the team’s third game against the Dallas Mavericks with Lucas sitting out the entire game.
Lucas did his work though. He is the veteran who has waited his turn on several occasions. And with 18 players on the Magic’s roster and several players beginning to jump ship and prepare for the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Lucas and some of the others would get their chance.
And like everyone else, when they got their opportunity they had to make the most of it. Lucas certainly has done so when the Magic have played him.
He led the Orlando Magic to an 84-73 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday at the Amway Center. Lucas scored 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting, adding seven assists to his tally. He showed off all that veteran poise that might give some pause to anyone ready to anoint any of his teammates (Walton scored nine points on 3-for-7 shooting including 2 for 3 from beyond the arc).
Every opportunity brings with it the chance to shine and get noticed. And the veteran point guard served notice Wednesday.
“I just wanted to go out there and compete at a high level,” Lucas told Orlando Magic Daily. “It’s really not nothing new. It’s something I did in college at Michigan State under coach [Tom] Izzo. He was really confident with me to give me the ball and let me run the team.”
That confidence has been evident throughout his career. But it has not been enough to help him stick in the NBA. He has played in only six minutes as a NBA player in 2015 with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has bounced between leagues overseas and the D-League since then.
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This week has been a strong week for Lucas, something he proved again in Wednesday’s victory. Lucas is averaging team-high 14.0 points per game while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor and a 51.4 percent effective field goal percentage. He has posted 12 assists in three appearances.
Lucas may not have the efficiency or youth Walton does, but he has produced for the Summer League team too. He has merited a look and closer examination.
With so many roster players clamoring for attention in Summer League, it has been tough to give some of these other players like Lucas a solid look. Wednesday provided that chance to look a little closer at these players.
Hassan Martin got his first meaningful playing time of Summer League Wednesday, scoring 12 points and seven rebounds. The undersized center showed some of his flaws — his lack of size made it tough for him to finish around the rim — but he also showed he can bring energy with his ability to challenge shots at the rim.
Before Wednesday, Matt Costello proved to be a heady defender and offensive contributor. He supplanted Stephen Zimmerman in the starting lineup before the team cut Zimmerman. Costello has a penchant for fouling — 16 fouls in three games — but did some good things getting himself in a position to block shots and recovering after getting beat.
He left the team before Wednesday’s game to prepare for the Vegas Summer League.
Tyler Harvey stepped in for his first meaningful minutes of the Summer League. he scored six points and made two of his four 3-pointers in about 5.5 minutes of play Wednesday. He showed better patience waiting for his shot and, unlike last summer where he struggled, made his open looks.
Then there was center Przemek Karnowski.
With the Magic short on big men, the team picked up Karnowski off the Charlotte Hornets’ Summer League team. They took him through an hour-long crash course of the team’s playbook and were pleasantly surprised to see him pick things up perfectly. He rewarded the Magic with 14 points and five rebounds on 7-for-12 shooting. His size at 7-foot-1, 300 pounds is hard to miss.
His size at 7-foot-1, 300 pounds is hard to miss. But he got his first extended run — 25.5 minutes Wednesday — after playing in just more than 12 minutes earlier in the week.
Now is the time for several players to get their first big opportunities.
“We’re just trying to make sure a few guys got an opportunity that haven’t had a chance until today,” coach Chad Forcier said. “We tried to get some guys in there who hadn’t been out in the games yet. The mission is the same for everybody. We told everybody from the start of camp we wanted to play harder than our opponent for more than they do. We want to get smarter as the week goes on. And we want to play the game together on both ends of the court. It doesn’t matter who you are, as soon as you get in the game, those are our expectations.”
The Magic found a performance Wednesday that their coach could be proud of. Orlando took control of the game behind Lucas’ strong first-quarter performance. He scored or assisted on 19 of the team’s 23 points in the first quarter.
Orlando as a team shot 47.1 percent from the floor and 9 for 21 from beyond the arc, racking up 21 assists on 33 field goal makes. The Magic held the Knicks to 37.1 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers for 28 points.
It was a complete game. After the Knicks tied the score at 50-50 in the third quarter, the team rattled off a run and put the game away.
Several unexpected players had a hand in doing so with the opportunity they were given. Harvey hit a few big shots. Stalwarts Marcus Georges-Hunt and Derrick Walton Jr. contributed. Wesley Iwundu had his moments to shine too.
Lucas led the charge. Maybe making the Magic’s point guard question a little bit muddier. Or perhaps showcasing just what he can do as he seeks to regain an opportunity in the NBA somewhere.