- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Every year the NBA Summer League kicks into full gear as teams evaluate prospects, new signings and free agents from all over the country. Some NBA stars have been born from summer camps, but many more players have found themselves mired in mediocrity.

Daniel Orton, who heads to the Las Vegas Summer League with the Washington Wizards this weekend, is hoping for the former instead of the latter.

After being drafted by the Orlando Magic 29th overall out of Kentucky in 2010, the 6-foot-10 center has struggled to find a consistent spot on an NBA roster. In addition to stints with the Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers, Orton has spent time with three different NBA Development League teams including the Maine Red Claws, who currently own his rights.

“[It takes] a lot of patience and that’s something that the young guys don’t really have early on,” said Orton. “[It’s] something I definitely didn’t have early on. The patience to wait and see and then you hear everybody say ‘You’re young, you’re young,’ but you don’t want that to be an excuse because it’s only going to last for so long. So you try and get everything going, but I mean [patience] really is a huge factor in what you’re doing.”

Not only has Orton had to be patient with his climb to the NBA, he has also had to spend time on the sidelines with injuries. He was forced to sit out his senior season in high school after tearing his ACL, and in 2010 he suffered a season-ending knee injury in his second game for the New Mexico Thunderbirds. But Orton said injury has not slowed him down and he wants teams to know it should not be a concern.

“[Injury] really hasn’t affected me that much,” said Orton. “It hurt me the first year in New Mexico but ever since then I’ve always been good.”

Expectations have never been overwhelmingly high for Orton, who averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game coming off the bench for the Wildcats in college. But he averaged 11.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 24 games for the Red Claws last season. While those stats won’t transfer to the NBA, they show a marked improvement over previous years.

“He’s just playing basketball right now,” said Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassel. “He’s just trying to get used to how we’re playing in Washington, so once he gets that part down, he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about Daniel. He’ll just go play the game of basketball.

“I think you guys put so much pressure on these guys — ‘They’ve got to perform well.’ No. Just be who you are. I’m not expecting him to come out and score 25 points with 15 rebounds. I would like to see that, but I’m not expecting that.”

If Orton expects to get a legitimate shot at the NBA he will have to exceed expectations, but now that he’s past the lingering knee issues he is ready to prove he can be an asset to a team. It is possible that he will find a spot with a Wizards team that has had limited options with big men in the past and wouldn’t mind adding depth at the center position to their bench.

Though he is still hoping for a chance to play regularly in the NBA, Orton has been burned too many times not to be wary and says he will not be getting his hopes up. His plan is to continue to work hard and hope that it pays off.

“You never really know [when your break will come], you can never really tell,” said Orton. “I mean there’s times when I thought it was coming but it didn’t happen. I’m just leading myself to not have those expectations anymore because you get really upset when they don’t come. If it does come I just hope I can be consistent and play well.”

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