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INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo wasn't perfect. He knows that. He expected that. NBA rookies in their pro debuts are rarely basketball Michelangelos.
Imperfection came swiftly for the Orlando Magic guard Tuesday night. Eight seconds into his career, against NBA contender Indiana, he was called for a foul.
“It was like, 'Wait a minute. Settle down,'” he said.
Eventually, the former Indiana University standout did, which is what you'd expect from the overall No. 2 draft pick. He scored 12 points, grabbed three rebounds and totaled two assists in 22 off-the-bench minutes.
He also committed three fouls, turned it over three times and made just 4 of 11 shots.
“I'm learning when to be aggressive, and when I'm being too aggressive,” he said. “I'm learning to pick my spots better."
Oladipo spoke from perspective. He's a millionaire without pretension, carefully packing away his bible in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse locker room before facing the media spotlight.
“It was my first game and it was like -- go, go, go. I have to learn to have a better pace out there. It will take awhile. It doesn't happen overnight. I just got here. It's my first NBA game. It won't all be perfect. It's a process. I have to be patient and keep growing.”
That's true of all the Magic players. The Pacers won 97-87. They shot better, rebounded better and handled the ball better.
There figures to be many nights like this. Orlando won just 22 games last season -- then went 2-6 in the preseason -- for a reason. Rebuilding takes time.
Oladipo is a big part of that.
“This is a tough business,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “If he keeps the drive that he has, the focus that he has … He wants to learn. He'll get better. You see his disposition, his composure to play in a game like this, his ability to run a club, to play off the basketball, to guard most positions. Those are good things.
“This was tough atmosphere for him to be in, close to where his college was. He attacked the rim, got to the free-throw line and made some plays.”
Pacers guard Paul George, who had a game-high 24 points, was impressed.
“He's going to be a great player. I told him after the game to keep working. His team is in really good hands.”
IU coach Tom Crean watched from a front-row seat. He talked to Oladipo before and after the game.
“He said play hard and remember what got me here,” Oladipo said. “Never forget that.”
IU fans didn't forget the former All-America. A large group cheered him during pregame warm-ups and during the game.
“It's amazing to have a fan base like this,” he said before the game. “It's crazy. It's great to see all this red. It's a blessing to be here. To think my first NBA game will be at a place I grew up.
“I've been praying about it, dreaming about it, and now it's actually about to come true.”
Oladipo didn't start. Veteran Jameer Nelson did. That's not surprising. Oladipo is making the transition to point guard, a position he played only occasionally at IU.
“I'm learning every day. I get with the coaches. I listen to Jameer. I'm trying to soak it all in.
“It will be a process. My whole career has been about trying to improve every day.”
Preseason improvement produced averages of 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.63 steals. But those numbers didn't count.
Tuesday night's did.
Oladipo entered the game at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter and the Pacers ahead 17-7. The lead didn't last, and Oladipo was a big reason why. Orlando led 44-40 at halftime before Indiana took charge.
“I would like to have won," he said, "but it was pretty cool."
That's one game down, 81 regular-season games to go, with the next one tonight at Minnesota.
“Victor is no longer a rookie,” Vaughn said. “He has to jump right back into it. We all do.”