Gordon Misses Fourth Straight Game Due to Concussion
ORLANDO – Orlando Magic power forward Aaron Gordon failed to clear the NBA’s concussion protocol once again on Wednesday, meaning he was out for his fourth straight game.
Gordon, who suffered his second concussion of the season a week ago following a mid-game collision with Los Angeles Lakers’ forward Julius Randle, hoped to be back on the floor this week, but he has twice failed to clear the final hurdle of the NBA’s protocol for head injuries. When that happened, he was forced to miss Tuesday’s game in San Antonio and Wednesday’s game at the Amway Center against the Milwaukee Bucks.
``He feels fine but with the concussion protocol there’s a series of tests that you’ve got to pass to play and he just hasn’t passed it yet,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``They did say he did better than the day before, whatever that means.’’
Dating back to April of 2016, Gordon has now suffered three concussions in a 23-month period of time. The 22-year-old forward doesn’t remember the face-first hit he took to Randle’s shoulder last week. He said he feels physically OK to play, but the concussion-related symptoms that he suffered following last Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles have been concerning for physicians and the Magic.
``The worst thing that can happen to an athlete is to be concussed while being concussed,’’ Vogel said. ``That’s where long-term injury takes place. So, they’re taking every measure to prevent that.’’
Under the NBA’s concussion protocol, players have to pass a series of increasingly difficult tests without showing symptoms. After the completion of those tests, they must be cleared by a NBA-appointed physician before being allowed to return to game action.
Gordon, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1, has had a breakout fourth season for the Magic. He’s averaging career highs in scoring (18.3), rebounds (8.4), assists (2.3) and 3-point accuracy (34.8 percent). He’s led the team in scoring 16 times and he’s recorded double-digit rebounds 15 times this season. He’s had two 40-point performances and four other 30-point nights this season.
RIGHT DIRECTION: Vogel was as disgusted as anyone over the way the Magic competed and responded in Tuesday’s 108-72 loss in San Antonio – a game where they trailed by as much as 26 points in the first half and 42 points in the second half. In addition to the Magic already being out of the playoff chase, they were playing the final game of a five-game trip that stretched across 10 nights.
Vogel was asked on Wednesday how he can go about motivating his team and he responded with a straight-to-the-point type of answer, stressing that he plans to ``strongly reminding them of the importance of what we’re doing, quite frankly, and that we’re going to turn it around.’’
Vogel has said repeatedly that he expected this Magic team to greatly improve on the 29-53 record from last season and compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Orlando seemed headed in that direction after starting 6-2 and later seeming to steady itself at 8-4. However, injuries to several key players (Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic and Gordon) hit just as the Magic entered the most difficult stretch of the season. At one point in November, the Magic played eight of 10 games on the road and it just so happened to coincide with a season-turning nine-game losing streak.
Vogel reiterated prior to Wednesday’s game that he thinks the Magic are on the right path toward getting back into contention. He has pointed to the individual growth made this season by Mario Hezonja, Wes Iwundu, Isaac and Gordon as proof that Orlando has made strides despite the team’s poor record.
``Nobody is happy with where we’re at but building the culture that we want to build takes time,’’ Vogel stressed. ``Changing our front office last (May) sort of hit the re-set button. So, while fans may feel like it’s been five or six years, that we’ve been in this (rebuilding), it begun (anew) last year. We have a lot of room for growth an we’re going in the right direction. Everybody needs to understand that – it’s going to turn around.’’
LENGTH VS. LENGTH: The Magic feel strongly about the defensive abilities of rookie forward Jonathan Isaac and that belief was rammed home on Wednesday night when they put him opposite of Milwaukee Bucks’ star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Isaac, 20, has grown to 6-foot-11 and bulked up from 210 pounds to 222 pounds throughout his rookie season. His long-armed defense made a huge impact on the Magic’s defense early in the season and that unit’s effectiveness promptly fell off when the forward went down with an ankle injury on Nov. 11.
After missing most of a 3 1/2-month stretch with the ankle issue, Isaac returned to the regular rotation on March 2 and he had four blocked shots and three steals in Orlando’s defeats of Detroit and Memphis. Despite playing just 19.2 minutes a game and continuing to be on a minutes’ restriction, Isaac ranks first on the team among players still in the rotation in steals (1.0 spg.) and third in blocked shots (1.09 bpg.).
Milwaukee interim coach Joe Prunty, who has helped Antetokounmpo develop into an All-NBA talent in his fifth NBA season, sees a lot of comparisons between a young Isaac and where ``the Greek Freak’’ was in his first NBA season.
``Long, rangy, capable of hitting the three, usually from the corners and capable of stretching the floor,’’ Prunty said of Isaac. ``It looks like he likes to defend, and he’ll compete on both ends of the floor. That athleticism helps him on the boards. He’s a guy who is learning a lot and the biggest thing is him just being out on the floor.’’
UP NEXT: After playing twice in as many nights and not wrapping up a 10-day road trip until 2:30 a.m. early Wednesday, the Magic will get a much-needed day off on Thursday.
Orlando will be back in action on Friday night when it hosts the injury-ravaged Boston Celtics. That game is the start of a season-long, seven-game home stand that will stretch over 17 days. In the 29-year history of the franchise, the Magic have had one eight-game home stand (7-1 in 1999-00) and two seven-game home stands (5-2 in 2010-11 and 2-5 in 1992-93).
One of the Magic’s best wins of the season came in Boston on Jan. 21 when they dominated the second half of a 103-85 victory. Boston could very well be without standouts Kyrie Irving (sore knee), Marcus Smart (thumb injury), Jaylen Brown (concussion) among others in Friday’s game.
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