We were still stuck in the id phase of development when Magic Johnson was leading LA’s Showtime Lakers at the Old Forum under coach Pat Riley. That doesn’t mean we didn’t beg our parents for VHS tapes of him when we hit the ego stage of sentience. We remembered a pass from one of those old tapes when we saw Magic rookie Elfrid Payton bounce a pretty dime while sitting on his butt during Orlando’s win over Flamenco in preseason play last night.
We don’t have to tell you, but the 6-3, 170-pound Payton isn’t the 6-9 Magic Johnson, who came out of Michigan State as the No. 1 pick in the 1980 draft and immediately took the league by storm. In fact, we’re the same height as Payton and we outweigh him by 10 pounds. No writer should ever match up that closely to the body dimensions of an NBA player (he’s in much better shape, though).
Regardless, the Magic traded Croatian Dario Saric for Payton on draft night, after the Sixers drafted Payton out of Louisiana-Lafayette with the No. 10 overall pick.
Payton struggled while slotted as a starter Wednesday night, following the strained MCL of second-year guard Victor Oladipo. He was 2-of-5 from the floor — the only Magic starter to shoot under 50 percent — and turned the ball over six times while only dishing five dimes in over 30 minutes of action.
Despite all those negatives, his heads-up play during a scramble under the hoop, brought back vestiges of those old Magic Johnson highlight tapes.
These days everything’s on YouTube, including the NBA’s Magic Johnson montage showcasing his top 10 assist. We knew when it was first released we’d probably recognize every single one of his 50-foot bounce passes and no-look drop-offs to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We weren’t surprised we could recall almost every pocket-pass to Big Game James Worthy and the mesmerizing speed and handle of the Magic man.
Most of all, though, we knew his Magic-al bounce pass for a Kurt Rambis dunk — while Magic was sitting down on the court — would be at the top, or near the top, of the NBA’s list. It was No. 1.
Payton performed a similar feat yesterday when there was a scramble for the ball underneath Flamenco’s basket. Payton corralled the ball and spotted an open Tobias Harris swooping towards the basket from the perimeter. Elfrid’s ensuing assist has become an instant classic for us simply because it reminded us of Magic.
If Payton can become even half of what Magic was, then you might be looking at Orlando’s starting point guard of the future. He’s still got a long, long way to go, though.
What do you think?
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