By John Denton
Oct. 20, 2017
BROOKLYN – For weeks, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon reveled in the fact that he finally came into training camp and the regular season fully healthy and able to unleash his rare combination of skill and will on the rest of the NBA.
Sadly, Gordon’s injury-free run lasted less than half of the first game of the season.
Gordon sprained his ankle late in the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat and the lingering soreness from that injury knocked him out of Friday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. Gordon, 22, arrived at the Barclays Center early to get treatment on his ankle, but he cut a pregame workout session short because of pain in the back of his foot and ankle.
“Going out there and not being able to give my all to my team would be holding us back,’’ Gordon said prior to tipoff on Friday. “Other guys will step up and they will hold it down. I’ve just got to be patient and be healthy and make sure I feel good when I’m out there.’’
Gordon’s absence meant a special moment for two Magic rookies. Jonathan Isaac, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft, got his first pro start in his second NBA game on Friday at power forward. Also, Orlando’s second-round pick, Wes Iwundu, was put onto the active roster to replace Gordon.
Gordon said he injured his ankle with 1:55 to play in the first half when he was hit by Miami center Hassan Whiteside on a hard drive to the rim. Referees reviewed the play for a possible flagrant foul, but it remained a common foul. The hit, however, had quite an effect on Gordon, who made just four of 13 shots. He finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals, but he said he was shell of himself physically because of the pain he was feeling in his ankle.
“A lot (of pain) clearly. I wasn’t aggressive and passive and wasn’t running as fast as I could. Adrenaline was carrying me through,’’ said Gordon, Orlando’s leading scorer in the preseason. “That’s not how I want to be all season, so I’ll take tonight (off) and see how I’m feeling (Saturday in Cleveland).’’
Gordon missed time early in each of his first three seasons because of a broken foot, a broken jaw and a severe ankle sprain. He had high hopes of a breakout season following an injury-free offseason and exhibition season. Now, his time will have to wait until Saturday at the earliest to show his stuff again.
“I was just really excited (about being injury-free) and I’ve been going 100 miles per hour,’’ said Gordon, who will test his ankle again prior to Saturday’s game in Cleveland. “Obviously, this irks me, but it’s just about having patience.’’
ROOKIE RIBBING: The way Magic center Bismack Biyombo assessed the situation, when Isaac got the scare of his young NBA career on Wednesday night, it was his duty as a veteran to teach the impressionable, 20-year-old rookie a lesson.
Now, thanks again to Biyombo, a downright hilarious incident from Isaac’s NBA debut has gone viral.
Excited to play his first NBA game on Wednesday night, Isaac mistakenly forgot to put his No. 1 Magic jersey on under his hooded warmup jacket. Magic Director of Team Operations Rodney “Sid’’ Powell noticed Isaac’s jersey hanging in his dressing stall during a routine sweep of the locker room prior to tipoff. Powell brought the jersey to the Magic’s bench as the game was about to tip off, but Biyombo convinced him to hold onto it until the excitable rookie realized that he was sans jersey. Midway through the first quarter, Biyombo asked Isaac to check for his jersey and after a second or two he handed it to the panicked rookie – all of which was caught a video that Biyombo posted on his Instagram account.
On the video Biyombo could be heard joking, “my boy (Isaac) nervous. It’s all good. Hang in there. We’ve got you.’’
On Friday, prior to Orlando’s game in Brooklyn against the Nets, Biyombo said he briefly considered letting Isaac rip off his warmup jacket to go into the game and realize on his own that he wasn’t wearing his jersey. Instead, Biyombo said he couldn’t risk that for the good of the team.
“I wanted to let him go (to the scorer’s table), but I was afraid we’d get a technical foul or a delay of game (warning) and then a second one would be a tech,’’ said a laughing Biyombo of Isaac, who had four points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in his pro debut. “We just wanted to teach him a lesson.’’
TOUGH TALK: Frank Vogel and Brad Stevens first got to know one another years ago on an Indianapolis playground as their children played together. At that time, Vogel was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers and Stevens was coaching at cross-town Butler University and the two lived in the same area of Indianapolis, Ind.
Now that Stevens is in the NBA as head coach of the Boston Celtics, he still leans on Vogel from time to time for advice. Their talk on Thursday, however, was under not-so-happy terms.
Stevens sought out the advice of Vogel after Celtics standout forward Gordon Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle following a gruesome fall in Tuesday’s first NBA game of the season. Vogel went through a similar incident on Aug. 1, 2014 when his superstar player at the time, Paul George, suffered a similarly stomach-turning compound fracture in his lower leg after colliding with the basket stanchion.
“Brad and I are friends and we talk about everything all of the time, really,’’ Vogel said. “I was glad to share my experiences on Paul with Brad so that he can help Gordon and have an idea of what he’s getting into.’’
George missed most of that 2014-15 season, returning only for six games near the conclusion. By the next season, he was back playing in 81 games and at an all-star level. Vogel said he told Stevens of the need to be extremely patient with Hayward as his leg heals from the devastating injury.
UP NEXT: Orlando will be playing its first of 15 back-to-backs on Saturday when it faces LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Cavs will be in a similar situation as they played in Milwaukee on Friday night.
As if the prospect of playing twice in as many nights wasn’t already daunting enough, the Magic have dropped 17 games in a row to the Cavaliers. That’s the NBA’s longest active losing streak between two teams.
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