Victor Oladipo grew up in the shadow of Verizon Center, but showed no interest in playing for the Washington Wizards heading into the 2013 NBA Draft. Considering the Wizards already had John Wall and Bradley Beal, that stance, while in the neighborhood of professional impoliteness, was understandable. It also may have been the equivalent of breaking a mirror as a black cat crossed your path on a Friday the 13th.
Since being drafted by the Orlando Magic, Oladipo has now faced his hometown team 11 times, including the New Year's Day matchup in Chinatown. His side is 0-11.
The Wizards improved to 3-0 over the Magic this season by conjuring up a 103-91 win.
Oladipo led Orlando with 20 points while adding five assists and four steals, but the Magic faded over the final eight minutes as the Wizards closed the game with a 25-11 run.
The wing guard and DeMatha product added his thoughts on the series after the loss.
“We just got to do a better job, man. We just got to realize they've been punking us, really, honestly," said Oladipo, who has played in nine of the 11 losses. "Until we get tired of them punking us, we're never gonna beat them so we just need to do a better job."
Orlando's last win in the series occurred at home on March 29, 2013. Since then, yikes.
Four months later, the Magic selected Oladipo with the second overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Wizards held the next pick.
The Magic nearly ended the skid in the 2015 season opener, but John Wall hit the go-ahead layup with 12.7 seconds left as the Wizards won 88-87. Washington also triumphed 108-99 in Chinatown on Nov. 14.
Sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 19-14 record, the perennial NBA lottery team is on track for a playoff berth in the first year under coach Scott Skiles. Solving the Wizards clearly requires more work.
"This isn't just this season," Skiles said of the losing streak. "I don't know. I don't know if guys are intimidated by them. I have no idea."
Wall, who had 24 points and 13 assists in the latest win, couldn't provide any specific reason for the head-to-head domination.
"I don't know," the point guard said. "I think we do a great job moving the ball. ...We got the looks we wanted and we gave ourselves a chance to win."
Washington often got the looks it wanted because Orlando couldn't keep up with the Wizards' movement of any kind.
Recalling what he saw from the game film during halftime, Skiles said, "The transition clips were embarrassing. ...They were sprinting. We were jogging."
Other than woes against the Wizards, the Magic appear headed in the right direction with the youthful core of Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Nik Vucevic. In between the last two meetings with Washington, Orlando went 14-7.
The Wizards (15-16) are three games back and 11th in the standings. They also apparently have the right plan against Oladipo and company.
"They're aggressive, they deny us, they make us work but that just means we got to cut even harder and play even harder," Oladipo said. "We can't fold. Until we do that, we're never going to beat them. So we just need to do a better job. Not only them but around the league people are going to start playing us like that so we got to be ready for that. We got to be ready for guys to push up on us and push us around and try to push us around. We got to fight back. We just need to do a better job of that.”
Oladipo and the Magic have one more chance this season of breaking the losing spell. The series finale is set for Jan. 9 in Orlando.
Back in 2013, pre-draft reports had Oladipo passing on working out at Verizon Center for the Wizards. They could stop by DeMatha for a closer look at the Upper Marlboro native. Seeing as Washington was building with Wall and Beal, drafting the Indiana University standout would have been a bit of an outside the box move despite Oladipo's athleticism and potential.
Ultimately, it didn't matter as the Magic scooped him up while the Wizards selected Otto Porter.
It doesn't seem to matter what Orlando does in this series. Based on his postgame demeanor, losing to his hometown over and over and over again matters to Oladipo, as it should.
Whether some form of karma or bad luck plays a role in the losing streak, who knows. At least the Magic know flipping the calendar year didn't help.