Aaron Gordon to Appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and ESPN's The Jump

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By John Denton

March 8, 2016

LOS ANGELES – On Monday, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon celebrated a homecoming of sorts by playing 45 minutes from where he grew up and starring in front of 25 family members and friends.

On Wednesday, Gordon will take advantage of his team’s off day in Los Angeles and take part in a media circuit that will announce himself as a rising young player to the rest of the basketball world.

Gordon, who electrified basketball fans with his creativity and explosiveness in last month’s Slam Dunk Contest at the NBA All-Star Game weekend, is scheduled to film tapings of ``The Ellen DeGeneres Show’’ and ESPN’s ``The Jump’’ on Wednesday.

``It’s awesome to get to do things like this. I’m super excited and super grateful,’’ Gordon said Tuesday night. ``Ellen is a super human being and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited about what’s in store for me (on Wednesday) and what’s to come. … Basketball is still the most important to me because I love the sport so much. The media attention, it’s nice too, but it wasn’t my ultimate goal to be on national television shows.’’

Gordon, 20, was a runner-up finisher in the Dunk Contest, but many thought the second-year Magic player eclipsed eventual champion Zach LaVine by nailing two jaw-dropping dunks that had never been pulled off in a contest before. With the Magic mascot, Stuff, spinning on a hover board, Gordon timed his jump perfect, cupped the ball with one hand and dunked with authority. Then, with the crowd fully on his side, Gordon completely hurdled the 7-foot mascot – appearing to sit in midair – before dunking the ball back over his head.

For Gordon, the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the dunk contest was a key in his visibility, but he’s actually been blossoming as a player for several weeks.

In 21 starts, Gordon has averaged 11.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals a game. Of late, he’s scored 15-or-more points six times and he’s snagged at least 10 rebounds 11 times, including a stretch in February where he did it in six straight games.

On Monday, the San Jose, Calif., native lived out a childhood dream by playing in Oakland’s Oracle Arena. With 25 friends and family members watching from a midcourt suite, Gordon scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Magic’s 119-113 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Afterward, Gordon admitted that the return to the Bay Arena was an especially emotional night for him.

``I got to play in front of a lot of my old friends and it was an awesome feeling,’’ Gordon said. ``I almost got a little sentimental when they were singing the National Anthem because it was like me reminiscing about how far I’ve come in 20 years.’’

KOBE OUT AGAIN: As it turns out, March 12, 2013 will go down as the last game that Kobe Bryant ever played against the Magic.

For the second time this season and the sixth time over the past three seasons, Bryant missed a game against the Magic. The official diagnosis for Bryant missing the game is a sore right shoulder. He last played on Sunday in L.A.’s stunning defeat of Golden State, scoring 12 points despite making just four of 14 shots.

Magic coach Scott Skiles said he was torn about Bryant not playing on Tuesday night. Skiles’ first head coaching job was in Phoenix and his Suns struggled to beat the Bryant-led Lakers.

``Going all the way back to when I was coaching in Phoenix, he’s tortured me enough. We couldn’t get by them; we couldn’t get by Kobe and Shaq (O’Neal),’’ Skiles said. ``But part of me wishes he could play because, particularly for (Magic rookie) Mario (Hezonja) for him to be able to say that he played against him. I know, for me, in long hindsight, I think about being able to compete against Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) because things like that stick with you. Let alone our other young guys, but it would have been nice to get Mario out there so he could have said that (he faced Bryant). But … down near the end of the game, you don’t want the ball in Kobe’s hands either.’’

Bryant could return on Thursday to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final time.

The future Hall of Famer announced on Nov. 30 that this season – his 20th with the Lakers – will be his last in the NBA and he will be retiring. In 51 games this season, Bryant is averaging 16.7 points a game on 35 percent shooting.

Bryant, 37, won the fourth of his five NBA titles against the Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals. That was Bryant’s first title without center Shaquille O’Neal as a teammate and he has said that it is one of the most important ones for his career because it showed the basketball world that he could lead a team to a title.

In his career against the Magic, Bryant averaged 25 points per game, twice scoring 41 points. In that March 12, 2013 at the Amway Center, Bryant had 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, but he made just four of 14 shots. Later that season, he would tear his Achilles’ tendon and miss the playoffs.

VOOCH STILL AILING: As expected, Magic center Nikola Vucevic missed his second straight game on Tuesday night because of a strained right groin. Vucevic suffered the injury weeks ago and thought he was in the clear following some rest over the break for the NBA All-Star Game, but the pain reemerged and became unbearable during Monday’s morning practice.

Orlando started 7-footer Jason Smith at center in place of Vucevic on Monday and Tuesday. Smith, Orlando’s top reserve all season, had 13 points in his first start on Monday night.

Vucevic, Orlando’s leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots this season, underwent a MRI on Tuesday morning to determine the extent of his injury. Vucevic said that those results weren’t known as of Tuesday night.

``It’s about the same,’’ Vucevic said of the pain in his leg before the Magic faced the Lakers. ``To be honest, I have no idea (when he will return). We’ll see how it reacts to treatment. And we don’t really know what it is yet. I know it’s a strain, but we don’t know severe it is yet, so we have to wait for that. I can’t put a timetable on it before I know more about it.’’