This was supposed to be the perfect place for Daniel Orton.
Yet in his first season with the Thunder last year, the former Bishop McGuinness standout couldn't get off the bench. He appeared in 13 games, three fewer than he experienced the year before in Orlando. He played 104 total minutes.
“Interesting,” Orton labeled year one in Thunder land, his third in the NBA.
Now, as he begins his fourth season with Saturday's preseason opener from Istanbul, Turkey, Orton can only hope this go-round will be different.
“I feel like opportunity is the main thing in my career … not having the opportunity and not having the chance,” Orton said.
Out of 230 regular-season games in his first three years, Orton has played in only 29. A knee injury he sustained while playing in the NBA D-League as a rookie forced him to miss all 82 games in 2010-11 and postponed his debut with the Magic.
He's played just 291 minutes since, the equivalent of about 12 games for starting center Kendrick Perkins.
“So many instances in my life I've been given chances, like in high school and college,” Orton said. “I just feel I haven't been given that chance yet in the pros. Just kinda waiting for my moment.”
Orton has done all he can think of to be prepared whenever it comes. He remained in Oklahoma City for much of the summer, dragging himself to the gym, determined to fine-tune his game.
“It wasn't a very eventful summer,” he says. “But a lot of hard work went into it.”
That commitment to consistency is one of the things Orton says he's learned through his trying three seasons. Asked where he's grown most, Orton says maturity.
“Understanding that I can't always do things my way,” he said. “I have to buckle down and listen and go through the process.”
The process, slow as it may be, could be starting to pay off.
After a solid 2012-13 season in the D-League — where he averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots for the Tulsa 66ers — Orton strung together an impressive performance at the Orlando Pro Summer League in July. Before sustaining a mild concussion, Orton posted averages of 12 points, five rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots in three games. He averaged just 16.7 minutes.