It was a performance that led some Thunder fans to believe Orton is unquestionably the best center on the roster.
But the reality is Orton might be fourth string.
After serving as the third center behind Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet last season, Orton now has to battle 12th overall pick Steven Adams for time. With the Thunder using a high lottery pick and thus a guaranteed contract on Adams, the odds are stacked against Orton. Additionally, making anybody's team as a fourth center in today's small-ball craze is a challenge within itself.
Orton has seven exhibition games to prove he belongs.
“He's very, very talented,” said Perkins, who following the team's first day of practice last week pulled Orton aside to offer defensive tidbits. “You watch him day in, day out and he works hard. If he gets a shot, he just needs to go out there and do what he needs to do … You never know who's watching. So at the end of the day you got to go out there and perform.”
Said Orton: “Obviously, it's something the coaches just haven't seen what they wanted to see.”
Orton reached out to former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy after he was fired to inquire why he barely got of the bench in Orlando.
“He said, ‘I thought Earl Clark was better,'” Orton recalled. “I said ‘I can't argue with that.' He thought I needed to get better in certain areas, so I'm not going to disagree with him.”
Orton's goal now is to be a better defender. He wants to defend the pick and roll as well as he knocks down jumpers out of it.
After three years, he feels he's finally found the right attitude, approach and self-assurance.
Of course, he still needs that opportunity.
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