By John Denton
Oct. 27, 2017
ORLANDO – It’s not uncommon for NBA players to get dozens, if not hundreds, of congratulatory calls, text messages and tweets after having a career-best performance, and that was the case last week when Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic pumped in 41 points.
Magic teammate Aaron Gordon matched Vucevic on Tuesday with 41 points of his own, making them the first players in franchise history to score at least 40 points in a game in the same season since Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway did it in 1995-96.
Gordon, 22, was certainly happy that family, friends and fans recognized a performance in which he made 14 of 18 shots and all five of his 3-point shots. That final three came with 36 seconds remaining and it put the Magic into the lead for their third victory of the young season.
Gordon said that in addition to thanking those who reached out to him to offer congratulations, he replied with a promise that certainly had to raise some eyebrows.
“Over social media and people texting me, it was nice having them reach out to me because it was like my first really big game or whatever,’’ Gordon said. “But I was talking to (Magic assistant coach) Jay (Hernandez) and we said, `It’s nice that they texted me after that one, but get used it, basically.’ And now they’ve got to text me every time that I have a big game.’’
Gordon averaged just 9.7 points per game over his first three seasons, but he laid the foundation for what very well could be a breakout season in the exhibition season when he poured in 18.4 points a night in limited minutes. He said that his confidence is at an all-time high because he’s healthy and his game is where he wants it to be following a long summer of intensive work. That confidence allows him to feel like there’s nothing he can’t do on the basketball court.
“I definitely shot the ball well (on Tuesday), but regardless of the statistics and regardless of the numbers that I shot (in the past), I’m going to continue to shoot my shots when I feel that I’m open and in rhythm,’’ said Gordon, who noted that the last time he scored 40 points in a game was in the Nor-Cal Clash High School All-Star Game. “Whatever happens after that, it’s out of my control. I’m just going to take what I know that I can do.’’
SIMMONS SIZZLING: To the surprise of many around the NBA, playoff standout Jonathon Simmons became a free agent back in July when the San Antonio Spurs renounced their rights to him, making him free to sign with any team that he wanted. The Magic jumped into action and quickly signed the gritty guard away from the Spurs and he’s been a standout in the first four games of the season while averaging 13.3 points and 2.5 rebounds a game.
After a stretch of playoff games in which he filled in admirably for the injured Kawhi Leonard, Simmons let it be known to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich that he was seeking a much larger role where he could play major minutes, if not eventually move into the starting lineup, this season. In Orlando, Simmons has found that role and happiness as well.
“It’s definitely everything that I wanted and hoped for,’’ Simmons said of his time in Orlando. “I’m glad that made the decision to be here.’’
Simmons is happy that he was able to keep a good relationship with Popovich, who has always been something of a mentor to the 28-year-old guard/forward. Popovich had Simmons back in his office for a pregame chat before the Magic and Spurs played on Oct. 10 and, as usual, he was handing out advice.
“He’s strictly about business and he doesn’t take (junk) from anybody, as you can see. He’s a great guy, he loves everybody and he wants them to be the best that he can be,’’ Simmons said. “It was very cool to sit down with him (earlier in the month) and have a little chat with him about my life. He’s always asking me about my finances and asking me, `Do you have a finances guy yet? If not, call me and tell me.’ That’s what most of the conversations are like – about me making sure that I’m saving my money.’’
CHAMPION OF THE COMMUNITY: RP Funding, an inaugural founding partner of the Lakeland Magic of the G League, has become the official mortgage lending partner of the Magic after forming a Champions of the Community partnership with Orlando’s NBA franchise.
RP Funding is a direct mortgage lender who is dedicated to helping Central Florida residents become homeowners. RP Funding joins Walt Disney World, Florida Hospital, PepsiCo., Harris and FanDuel as Champions of the Community partners.
“Lakeland was the tip of the spear and the opportunity was there to do that for my hometown and support the building where I graduated high school in, but this is their big brand. This is the Orlando Magic and it just made sense to extend the partnership and it’s exciting to see,’’ said Palmer, who was presented a framed Magic jersey on Friday by CEO Alex Martins. “I’m proud to be the official mortgage lender of the Magic.
“This started as a dream and my COO (Ingrid) and I were at a game in the playoffs, maybe six years ago now, and I said, `One day RP Funding is going to be in here and we’re going to be sitting courtside,’’ Palmer added. “We achieved the courtside thing a little sooner and now to finally have the sponsorship, it’s been a seven-year dream coming together and it’s fantastic.’’
The community-minded partnership between the Magic and RP Funding will include continued support of those most in need throughout the Central Florida community. Last season, RP Funding hosted a sleepover at the Amway Center for underserved youth. Those children were also given the opportunity to attend a Magic game, meet Magic players, shoot hoops on the court and watch a movie on the video board high above the parquet floor. RP Funding hopes to build off that success with more philanthropic events in conjunction with the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.
UP NEXT: Home for much of the past week, the Magic will now head out of town for their first extended road trip of the season. Orlando faces Dwight Howard and the Hornets in Charlotte on Sunday and then plays the Pelicans in New Orleans on Sunday. Following a day off on Monday, the Magic wrap up their three-game trip in Memphis on Tuesday.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.