Gordon, Fournier Recovering; Both Out vs. Kings
SACRAMENTO – Excited about once again playing in Northern California and 120 miles from his childhood home of San Jose, Aaron Gordon purchased about 35 tickets for friends and family for Friday’s game between his Orlando Magic and the Sacramento Kings.
Gordon, 22, hoped to ``put on a show’’ for those friends and family, but that was before he sustained a concussion on Wednesday that knocked him out of Friday’s game. It is the power forward’s second concussion of the season and his third in the past 23 months.
``The concussion protocol is a black-and-white thing, and if you have X, Y and Z symptoms, you enter the protocol,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``The league is appropriately taking concussions very seriously. It’s unfortunate for us and it’s unfortunate for Aaron, but this is something that is being done the right way by the league.’’
Gordon, Orlando’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, was concussed on Wednesday when his head collided with the shoulder of Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Julius Randle – a play that Gordon said that he doesn’t remember. Gordon not only stayed in that game, but he had the go-ahead basket with five seconds remaining to cap a dazzling 28-point, 14-rebound effort.
It wasn’t until after the game that Gordon started feeling the effects of the concussion. He didn’t practice on Thursday and later in the day the Magic placed him in the NBA’s concussion protocol.
``They’re being extra cautious, and I appreciate that,’’ Gordon said of the Magic. ``They’re caring for me and taking care of me. I thought I was OK, but you’ve got to be safe.’’
Gordon suffered the first concussion of his career in April of 2016 when he was accidentally hit in the left side of his head by then-teammate Jason Smith. Earlier this season, he ran face-first into the shoulder of Denver guard Gary Harris, resulting in a concussion that knocked him out of two games.
Under the guidelines of the NBA’s concussion protocol, Gordon will need to pass a series of increasingly difficult physical tests. Ultimately, he will need to be cleared by an independent, league-appointed physician before being allowed to return to game action. Gordon said he started and passed the first step of the protocol on Friday morning, getting in some light conditioning work without being affected by symptoms.
``I’m not concerned at all,’’ Gordon said when asked about suffering a third concussion. ``Really, I’m going to have more (concussions) in my life. I fully believe that and we’re moving on from that.’’
Gordon said it upset him having to let friends and family set to attend the game know that he wouldn’t be playing. ``If it was up to me, I’d be playing. It’s not up to me,’’ he said. ``They’re taking care of me and I appreciate them for that.’’
FOURNIER ALSO OUT: Gordon wasn’t the only main cog that the Magic were missing on Friday. Evan Fournier, the team’s second-leading scorer on the season at 17.8 points per game, will likely be out for a significant stretch of time because of a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Fournier suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Magic’s loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night. He said that his foot ``stuck’’ on a cut, causing his knee to twice violently. Fournier attempted to stay in the game, running up and down the court on a couple of possessions before asking out because of persistent pain.
Fournier said he was confident all along that the injury was not a serious one. He vowed that the injury will not be one that will end his season prematurely and he hopes to play again in the coming weeks.
``No, no, I don’t think so,’’ Fournier said when asked if the injury could end his season. ``That would be really disappointing to end my season like that. So, no, I don’t think it will.’’
STARTING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ISAAC, HEZONJA: Orlando’s injuries opened up opportunities to start on Friday night for rookie Jonathan Isaac and third-year forward Mario Hezonja. The start was the third of the career for Isaac, who opened up two games in mid-October when Gordon was out of action with an ankle injury.
Isaac, who was playing his fifth game following a long layoff because of issues with his right ankle, had his minutes’ restriction raised to 25 minutes by the Magic’s medical staff. Orlando purposefully limited the 6-foot-11, 222-pound forward’s time on the court early in his return while he worked his way back into shape.
``We still have a restriction on him to around 25 minutes. It’s moving and increasing, but it’s not unlimited yet,’’ Vogel said.
The start was the 17th of the season for Hezonja, who has been in and out of the lineup as the Magic have battled through various injuries all season. Prior to Friday, Hezonja has been much better in his 16 starts (15.7 ppg., 5.7 rpg., 1.8 apg., 49.5 field goal percentage and 38.1 percent from 3-point range in 30.5 minutes per game) than his 42 games off the bench (6.5 ppg., 2.4 rpg., 1.0 apg., 43.1 field goal percentage and 30.8 percent from 3-point range in 16 minutes per game).
UP NEXT: The Magic will be back in Los Angeles on Saturday night to face former Orlando coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Magic spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles and lost to the Lakers at the Staples Center.
The Clippers throttled the Magic 106-95 on Dec. 13. Orlando had an early 12-point lead in that game, but it had no answers for Lou Williams (31 points) in the second half. Jonathon Simmons led the Magic with 20 points and a career-best eight assists that night.
Following Saturday’s game, the Magic will be off to San Antonio. They won’t face the Spurs until Tuesday, wrapping up the five-game, 10-day road trip.
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