ORLANDO, Fla. — Daniel Orton was on his way to being the star performer at this week's Orlando Pro Summer League.
Through the first two days, the Thunder center was turning heads and being praised like never before.
That was before he collided with teammate Reggie Jackson. The two bumped heads, and Orton missed the next two games with a mild concussion.
But who knows what the story coming out of summer league would have been had it not been for a fluke injury, had Orton stayed healthy?
Those first two days clearly belonged to Orton.
Fans and media members from all over were gushing about how good Orton looked.
“A monster” was what one person said Orton looked like, using the word as a term of endearment to describe his play.
But no group was more surprised than the locals in the Orlando media — the same people who watched Orton sit the bench for the first two years of his career before his unceremonious exit.
They couldn't believe how well Orton moved, how explosive he had become, how feathery his touch had grown and how aggressive he was around the rim.
“All credit is due to the Thunder, the organization and the staff,” Orton said.
“I'm just putting in work. Every day going to work and working hard.”
In his first two games here, the former Bishop McGuinness standout averaged 12 points and 5.5 rebounds. He went 11-for-16 from the field and blocked three shots in just 36 minutes.
His final chance to put his development on display will be Friday at 11 a.m. Central, when the Thunder plays the Rockets in the championship game. It's unclear if Orton will be cleared to play. He underwent what was expected to be his final medical exam on Thursday, and even though he said he expects to play, the Thunder still could hold him out for precautionary reasons.
It'd be a shame for a player who so many in those first two days had seen come so far.
“With this being his fourth year, he knows it's time to turn the corner,” Jackson said of Orton.
Orton has given himself a head start by working relentlessly. He took a week off immediately after the Thunder's season ended in the second round of the playoffs and then got right back in the gym. He hasn't missed much time since.
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