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For A.J. Slaughter, it was a statement game with a capital “S.”
After getting the opportunity to start, and play the majority of minutes at point guard, for the Orlando Magic’s NBA Pro Summer League team last Friday, the former Shelby County High School star and Western Kentucky University standout hoopster, wanted to make the most of it.
Slaughter sure tried to. He scored a game-high 25 points while also recording game-bests in assists (nine) and steals (seven) in Orlando’s 102-83 loss to the Boston Celtics in the summer league’s seventh-place game.
“Yes I wanted to make a statement,” Slaughter, who also had five turnovers and three rebounds in 35 minutes and 27 seconds of action, said earlier this week. “I wanted to show I could score and create for others. Given the minutes, I think I'm a very productive player, so I just wanted them to see that.”
Slaughter didn’t see the court much in the Magic’s first four games (he even got a DNP – did not play – in one of those) while playing behind Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall selection in the recent NBA Draft and the team’s apparent point-guard-in-training, and former University of Kentucky shooter Doron Lamb, who also saw some minutes at the point before banging his knee in Orlando’s third game.
Slaughter, though, got his chance to prove himself against the Celtics late last week. He came out firing and creating. Although he missed his first three shots he had one of the highlight plays of the first period when he got into the lane then dropped off a sweet behind-the-back dish to DeQuan Jones for a dunk.
Slaughter was at his best in the second half, when he scored 18 points and dished out five assists. His running jumper near the midway point of the third period was the beginning of a torrid shooting stretch for Slaughter, who hit 8 of his final 12 shots.
His step-back, “ankle-breaking” move that led to a jumper over Boston’s Jayson Granger with 7:47 to play not only pulled the Magic, who trailed by as many as 29 points, to 12 down, but it also caught the attention of NBA-TV announcers Kendall Gill and Rick Kamla.
“That’s the one thing, Rick, that you don’t ever want to happen, especially on TV, somebody to break your ankles,” Gill said.
Slaughter finished the game 10-for-22 from the field, including 2-of-8 from 3-point range, and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
“I think I did really well,” he said. “[I] had some great practices and played well in the minutes that I got during the games.”
Although that game certainly didn’t hurt Slaughter, his chances of making the Magic likely took a big hit Tuesday when Orlando reached “an agreement in principle,” according to the Orlando Sentinel, with free-agent point guard Ronnie Price.
“The signing of Ronnie Price, although not finalized, severely reduces A.J.'s chances of making the team,” Josh Robbins, who covers the Magic for the Sentinel, told me Thursday afternoon. “The Magic now have a logjam of sorts of players who can play point guard: Jameer Nelson, Doron Lamb, E’Twan Moore and Victor Oladipo. Because of all that depth, I don’t think the chances are very good of A.J. receiving a training-camp invite. But it’s possible.”
Even if he doesn’t get an invitation to training camp, though, Slaughter certainly made a statement last Friday that he can compete at the NBA-level.