– As a general rule, Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel doesn’t like discussing the lineup or rotation moves that he is contemplating. However, Vogel had zero hesitancy in pointing out on Wednesday that he is eagerly anticipating the day when he can promote prized rookie forward Jonathan Isaac into a more prominent role in the Magic’s regular rotation.
Because Isaac’s specialty is suffocating defense – something Orlando has lacked most of the season – the 6-foot-11, 222-pound rookie’s future is almost certain to be in the Magic’s starting lineup. The stumbling block keeping Vogel from making such a move now is the minutes’ restriction placed on Isaac while he works his way back into shape following a lengthy layoff.
The only question now, it seems, is where Isaac will be used as a starter? He opened the second half of Monday’s game in Utah as a small forward in place of Jonathon Simmons, and the rookie’s defensive versatility opens up plenty of options at power forward, shooting guard and even some center in certain small-ball lineups.
``We’ve got to figure out where he fits in terms of offensive organization alongside of Aaron Gordon or with Mario Hezonja and sliding (Isaac) over to (small forward) some,’’ Vogel said. ``Defensively, it doesn’t matter what position he plays because he impacts the game right now. He’s defending like he’s our best – or one of our best – defenders as a rookie. He’s pretty special, so I’m definitely (looking to grow Isaac’s role).
``I’m a coach who has felt like we’ve struggled to have enough defensive firepower over the last two years,’’ Vogel added. ``So it’s definitely tempting to get him out there as much as possible.’’
In his first three games back following an ankle issue that knocked him out for three months, Isaac had 10 rebounds, six blocked shots, three steals and two dozen shots either altered or contested. The offensive end is still very much a work in progress, but Vogel said that can be overlooked with Isaac defending as he has thus far.
``I think he understands that it’s going to take a little time to get his rhythm and timing offensively, but his defense is where he’s making his money right now and where he’s helping the team. He’s making good basketball plays – I’d rather see him go 0-for-two or 0-for-four than two-for-12 where he’s out there trying to force things. One of his gifts is that he plays within himself on the offensive end. I think that’s great and I don’t really want him to change that.’’
ON THE BALL (SITUATION):
Because he missed a major chunk of the season with a knee injury, highly publicized guard Lonzo Ball faced the Magic for the first time on Wednesday night.
Ball, the No. 2 pick in last June’s NBA Draft, came into the NBA with loads of hype and fanfare because of his outspoken father, LaVar, and his unorthodox jump shot. Several NBA players have admitted going extra hard at the Lakers’ rookie guard this season in an attempt to shut up the brash talk of his father on national media outlets.
Magic guard Jonathon Simmons said on Wednesday that Ball has actually earned his respect because of how he has mostly kept quiet and let his play do his talking for him. Ball, who came into Wednesday’s game averaging 10.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists, has two triple-doubles and 11 double-doubles in his first NBA season.
``He’s a humble kid. That’s all I’ve really noticed,’’ Simmons said of the Lakers rookie. ``He’s not too distracted by the outside and what his dad’s got going on.’’
Vogel considers himself to be something of an amateur movie buff and he’s not only seen but has memorized many of the all-time classic movies from the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s. Maybe it’s only fitting, then, that one of his favorite memories from a game in Los Angeles involved legendary actor – and long-time Lakers’ fan – Jack Nicholson.
``This was before replay and (former Lakers legend) Kobe (Bryant) hit what we thought was a game-winner when we were up one and he hit a game-winner with two seconds left – like he always does,’’ said Vogel, who was an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics at the time. ``We in-bounded it to Antoine Walker and he hit a three from about the `L’ (of Lakers) at the midcourt logo. They’re trying to figure out if it’s good or not and Jack just looks over (at the Celtics’ bench) and says, `Was it good? Or wasn’t it good? Who knows!’ And then he just walked away as only Jack Nicholson can do.’’
The Magic’s stop in Los Angeles on Wednesday to play the Lakers was the first of trips to the City of Angels on this lengthy road trip. And Orlando’s next stop in L.A. will be somewhat memorable because of a milestone that the Staples Center will hit.
The Magic face the Clippers at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, but earlier in the day (1 p.m.) the NHL’s L.A. Kings will host the St. Louis Blues. It will be the 200th time in the 18-year history of the multi-purpose facility in downtown Los Angeles. There have been at least four doubleheaders at the facility every year since 1999.
It takes approximately two hours and a 40-person crew to change over the Staples Center from hockey to basketball. There have been 83 basketball-to-basketball doubleheaders, 71 hockey-to-basketball changeovers and 43 basketball-to-hockey conversions through the years.
Orlando’s five-game, 10-day road trip moves onto Sacramento on Thursday prior to the Magic/Kings game on Friday night. Within hours of that game ending, Orlando will return to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Saturday.
The Magic suffered one of their most disappointing losses of the season on Jan. 23 when Sacramento rallied in the season half to win. The Kings won that night thanks to a career-best 32-point effort from reserve point guard Garrett Temple.
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