ORLANDO, Fla. — Fist bumps and a few talking-tos was what the Orlando Magic coaching staff first tried to keep Daniel Orton calm.
But when frustration grew into near fisticuffs, there was nothing more the Magic could do to save their 29th overall pick.
Orton was ejected in his professional debut on the opening day of the 2010 AirTran Airways Pro Summer League on Monday afternoon. His dismissal was the final nail in what was a nightmarish beginning to his career.
Orton, the former Bishop McGuinness High standout, was whistled for three offensive fouls in his first 3 1/2 minutes. He struggled with his shooting touch. And for a player projected to be an interior defender, he provided little resistance at the rim.
Orton's night ended after a small scuffle with Indiana forward Josh McRoberts resulted in both players being ejected when referees ruled each guy threw a punch. Orton's final stat line: three points on 1-for-8 shooting from the field, while going 1-for-4 from the foul line along with three rebounds, two blocks, five fouls and four turnovers.
"It's not the best way to (start) it off, but I didn't have a great start at all," Orton said. "I really didn't get started. I couldn't get anything going for myself."
Orton's first two fouls were the result of illegal screens on set pick-and-roll plays. He then picked up his third for too much contact while running to his spot on the low block.
Magic assistant coach Bob Beyer instructed and consoled Orton from the sideline after each foul. Following a ill-advised baseline fadeaway, Magic summer league coach Patrick Ewing encouraged Orton with a fist bump during the next stoppage in play.
"I thought he did a pretty good job for the most part," Ewing said. "It's a learning curve for him. He still has to learn how to play NBA defense, learn how to help. I thought a few times he missed helps. But then on offense, he did a pretty good job of stepping in, ducking in. But the when he gets it he just has to be big and finish it."
Orton admitted he entered last week's session of two-a-days out of shape and didn't have his usual legs Monday. It was his first dose of reality in the big leagues, where one bad day could lead to negative perceptions. And on Monday, Orton's performance allowed whispers of whether he should have declared for the draft following one year at Kentucky to spread throughout the gym. One rival Eastern Conference scout labeled Orton "very immature" and "emotional" as he watched the rookie walk off the floor following the near scuffle with McRoberts.
Orton, though, said he has no regrets.
"I thought about it up until the exact day that I had to leave," Orton said. "But after that I couldn't worry about it anymore. What's done is done."
"It's a lifelong dream fulfilled. I'm glad to be here finally. Being in the NBA is just a relief. You put in a lot of hard work your whole life pretty much. And it's just a dream come true."
As for slipping to 29th, coming within two selections of failing to secure a guaranteed NBA contract, Orton said he has used his draft position as motivation. And looking back on his debut, Orton knows he tried too hard to silence his critics.
"Coach (Stan Van) Gundy came in and said, 'You're trying to work too hard. You're trying to rush and trying to prove yourself when you really don't have to.' And that kind of just made me feel relieved.
"A lot of people say I need time to develop. And I'm not going to lie about that, I do need time to develop. But I don't think it's going to take as much time as people think it will. I hope not to tell you the truth. I know I've put in a lot of hard work and a lot of time. So hopefully I can get quicker (production) than most people think."