As we’ve mentioned on here a little bit this past week, Daniel Orton has been getting a some more attention, and more minutes, in the NBA, where he’s filled in a couple games for Glen “Big Baby” Davis. He’s averaged 13.7 minutes in his last ten games, and has shot over 53% in the same span. Also interesting, Orton averages 10.7 minutes in wins, and 6.6 minutes in losses. Hard to establish a cause-and-effect there, as it could just be that Daniel is put in toward the end of already-won games to glean some garbage minutes, but it still struck me as interesting. And with Dwight Howard saying he could be out for the season, Orton is in a position to really prove that he made the right decision to leave Kentucky when he did.
But while we’re talking about that 2010 draft, it’s only fair to mention that Orton is without question the least-missed “Draft Cat.” Mention him to people around Lexington, and they make a face like they just ate a Good ‘n Plenty thinking it was actual candy and not something terrible. He left a pretty bad taste in our mouths. I don’t think anyone actively roots against him, and if you do, please find a stairwell somewhere and jump down it. There’s no need for overt disdain; he was one of us. However, I won’t tell you that you need to root for him, either. Daniel was, at best, a polarizing player during his Kentucky tenure, infamously eschewing his second semester to train in preparation for the draft. That caused the team’s APR to drop, and almost made us look like UConn, who had post-season bans levied against them for just such a shortcoming. But Daniel wasn’t all bad, if you remember.
Recall that he signed with UK pre-Calipari. That’s hard to imagine, right? In hindsight, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to play for Billy Gillispie. He was the highest-ranked recruit that ever signed under BCG (not counting Patrick Patterson, who was mostly recruited by Tubby), and he wanted to come here when there was very little reason to. We went to the NIT his senior year of high school, for crying out loud. So why did he pick us? Maybe for the same reason Shabazz picked UCLA: he wanted to return a prestigious program to prominence.
And that’s pretty admirable, right? He stuck with us in the beginning when times were tough, and then when Cal came, and we had success, he made some mistakes and bolted a little too early. You’ll never hear me say that the way he handled the situation was prudent, or in good judgment, but I also think it’s unfair to remember him only by how he left. Personally, I remember him most for dropping the F-bomb on live television (clearly, NSFW). I remember how excited I was when he signed; after all, this kid was the first in one of the best recruiting classes ever. There’s something to be said for that.
But the question now is this: with a couple years removed from his departure, and with a little bit of hope for his NBA future, is it time for us to start rooting for Daniel Orton again? Or is it best to just forget that he played here, and, while not rooting against him, largely ignore his present career? I think it’s time to look at his eloping with the NBA as water under the bridge. If you don’t want to root for him, I think that’s perfectly fair, and I won’t tell you to change your mind. But I’ve personally decided that it’s time to start watching a couple Orlando games, and really hoping that Daniel gets that break he’s been looking for since he left. I think he deserves it.
“Now I know that you have truly forgiven me, because forgetting is forgiving.”