Ennis Already Fitting in Well in Orlando

New Magic forward waived no-trade clause realizing fresh start would give him more opportunity
by John Denton

ORLANDO – Having been dealt each of the previous two seasons at the NBA trade deadline, forward James Ennis III had a no-trade clause negotiated into his contract signed with the Philadelphia 76ers this past summer to avoid having to change teams yet again.

However, when Ennis III got wind of a potential deal to the injury-ravaged and shorthanded Orlando Magic last week, he jumped at the chance to waive that no-trade clause because of the playing-time opportunities that likely would come in Orlando.

``I waived it because it was time for me be selfish,’’ Ennis III admitted candidly. ``I was unselfish this (past) summer by giving up more money to go back to Philly. And when I stopped playing in Philly, I saw a good opportunity to come here due to the injuries. I’m glad I’m here now.’’

The Magic are also plenty happy that Ennis III is in Orlando because of the toughness, shooting ability and veteran presence that he brings them. They got to see that firsthand on Monday in Ennis’ debut with the Magic when he had several momentum-turning plays in the fourth quarter of a 135-126 defeat of the Atlanta Hawks. He had two dunks, two offensive rebounds and was a plus-six on the scoreboard in his nearly five minutes on the floor in the fourth quarter – one where Orlando rallied to win for just the fourth time this season when trailing after three periods.

``You can see that he’s going to help us,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said of Ennis III. ``We’ve just got to get him up to speed so that we can run more offense when he’s out there. As you can tell, he’s a pro player.’’

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Ennis III, who has a player option in his contract for next season, figures to be a prominent piece for the Magic after the break for the NBA All-Star Game. In time, he even could expand his role and become a full-time starter at the small forward position for a Magic team that is desperate for shooting and stability at that spot following the likely season-ending injuries to Jonathan Isaac (sprained left knee with a bone bruise) and Al-Farouq Aminu (right knee surgery).

The six-year NBA veteran, who has now played for seven NBA teams, is a career 35.5 percent shooter from 3-point range. Prior to his trade to Orlando, Ennis III scored in double digits eight times this season with Philadelphia – including a 20-point effort with three 3-pointers against the New York Knicks in late November.

The idea of bringing Ennis III to Orlando started when Clifford recently had dinner with former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Ennis III played for Van Gundy in Detroit for 27 games (eight starts) late in the 2017-18 season, and obviously the veteran coach liked what he saw while Ennis was averaging 7.5 points and shooting 45.7 percent from the floor. For Van Gundy to give Clifford a glowing recommendation about his play and professionalism meant everything to Ennis III, who is excited about his future in Orlando.

``That means a lot to me, because I was with Stan for his last year in Detroit. He’s a good guy, I wish he was still with Detroit, but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep that job,’’ Ennis III said. ``Just for him say that (high praise), it’s so good for me.’’

A MENTAL AND PHYSICAL BREAK: The break for the NBA All-Star Game couldn’t come at a better time for players, many of whom have been competing in practice and games almost daily since September. And in the case of Magic guard Evan Fournier – who led his native France deep into the FIBA World Cup – he has played basketball almost daily since the middle of last summer.

``This time of the year is hard for everyone,’’ said Fournier, who appeared in his 54thof 55 Magic games on Wednesday night. ``I was watching the Boston-Rockets game last night and there were some guys injured. (Jaylen) Brown was playing with two bad ankles, (Jayson) Tatum was obviously tired. That time of the year – in March, it actually gets worse – but everyone is tired. When you don’t miss games, like some of us like myself and (Terrence Ross), who have only missed one game – it’s hard, but that’s what this league is all about. But this break is much needed.’’

In an attempt to recharge his mind and his body, Fournier and Ross are taking their wives and children on a vacation to the Turks and Caicos over the All-Star break. Together, Fournier and Ross – who have become close friends in recent years – are chartering a plane for their families to get away and relax.

``I just think T-Ross is a genuinely good person, he has no agendas and I just like to be around him, period,’’ Fournier said.

When asked who the better jump-shooter is, Fournier replied: ``Myself. He’s more streaky, though.’’ For the record, Fournier is shooting 46.2 percent overall this season and 40.5 percent from 3-point range, while Ross is shooting 39.1 percent overall and 32.7 percent from 3-point range. Last season, which proved to be a career year for Ross, he shot 38.3 percent from 3-point range and became the first player in NBA history to make at least 200 3-pointers without ever starting a game.

UP NEXT: The Magic will break for NBA All-Star Weekend on Thursday and won’t return to the practice court until the middle of next week. Orlando faces superstar guard Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, Feb. 21 at the Amway Center.

That’s also the night when former Magic guard Darrell Armstrong, an assistant coach/player development coach for the Mavericks since 2009, will be inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. Armstrong was the only player in NBA history to win the Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player awards in the same season, doing so in 1999 while a member of the Magic.

Aaron Gordon will be the Magic’s lone representative at the NBA All-Star Weekend events in Chicago. Gordon will participate in the Slam Dunk contest on Saturday night for what he says will be ``my last dunk contest ever.’’ He was the controversial runner-up in 2016 when he was edged in a ``dunk off’’ by two-time champion Zach LaVine. Gordon said fans often remind him that he should have won that event – something that will serve as motivation as he heads into Saturday’s contest.

``Yeah, that happens a lot,’’ Gordon said of the feedback he often gets from fans who think he should have been crowned the champion in the ‘16 event after he jumped over the Magic mascot, Stuff, for a couple of dunks. ``So, I’m just going to go and make it right now.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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