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By John DentonNov. 17, 2014
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – A gym rat and the kind of tireless worker who has put himself in position to be a contributor on the Orlando Magic even while being the NBA’s youngest player, Aaron Gordon said on Monday that he now has to find other ways to stay involved in the game.
X-rays on Saturday revealed that Gordon fractured the fifth metatarsal bone of his left foot. The rookie forward travelled with the team from Washington to Detroit and he will be re-evaluated later this week when the team returns to Orlando. Included in that evaluation of Gordon’s foot will a visit to specialist Dr. Robert B. Anderson in Charlotte, N.C.
Gordon, who played in all 11 games this season for the Magic (4-7) off the bench, said that he had been experiencing minor pain in the outside of his foot for some time, but thought that it ``didn’t feel like much at all.’’ He changed the orthotics in his shoe prior to Saturday’s loss in Washington and then went to get a postgame X-ray at the urging of Magic trainers. The X-ray revealed the fracture that will shelve the talented rookie who was the No. 4 pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
``Right now I’m fine, but it will be more during the game when my spirits will be trying to go down or be at the lowest point,’’ said Gordon, who was wearing a walking boot on Monday morning. ``All I can do is be as optimistic as I possibly can be and still try to help my team win.’’
Orlando will be without Gordon tonight when they face the struggling Detroit Pistons (3-7) and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy at 7:30 in snowy Michigan. Not having Gordon – a versatile athlete capable of playing small forward or power forward – will likely mean rotational shifting and possibly more minutes for Maurice Harkless at small forward and Andrew Nicholson at power forward.
For now, though, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said his thoughts have been with helping the teenager keep his injury in perspective.
``It’s tough injury-wise and a tough thing to deal with for a young guy who is learning the league and trying to find his place on the team and in the league,’’ Vaughn said. ``It is a tough position (being injured), but it is part of sports. … That’s what this sport is all about (stepping up to challenge). You act and perform as a team sport, you stay ready all the time and you don’t know when your opportunity is going to come when the situation arises. When it does come, you need to be ready.’’
Gordon averaged 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.55 blocks a game, but where his loss hurts the Magic the most is on defense and with his ability to guard either small forwards or power forwards.
In some ways, Gordon had shadowed Orlando’s Tobias Harris, another player capable of playing multiple positions. Gordon had predominantly backed up Harris, but the two had played together during stretches while sharing the forward positions. Coincidentally, Harris broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot as a high school senior, so he knows what Gordon is in for now as far as his recovery.
``It’s very disappointing and you have to feel for him as a player because he comes in every day with a great attitude and mindset,’’ Harris said. ``So as a team we have to keep him in our prayers. He’s a pretty mentally-strong kid and he’ll be fine to come back from this. It’s just tough to go through an injury like this.’’
Gordon’s finest game as a pro came on Nov. 6 when he scored 17 points – six of them in overtime – and grabbed six rebounds in Orlando’s defeat of Minnesota. He also played a key role in flipping the momentum in Friday’s defeat of Milwaukee by scoring eight points, grabbing three rebounds and handing out three assists.
Known for his off-the-charts athleticism and rare combination of size and speed, Gordon worked tirelessly over the summer to better his shooting. And through the first 11 games of his career, he had made 58.1 percent of his shots from the floor, four of eight 3-pointers and 10 of 15 free throws.
He played well in Saturday’s first half in Washington, converting a thunderous dunk off a feed from fellow rookie Elfrid Payton and connecting on two spinning hook shots in the lane. In 14 minutes of action on Saturday, he finished with six points and three rebounds.
Gordon said his foot hurt after that game, much the way it had of late. But he never thought there was damage to his foot saying, ``It’s been a sore foot and it didn’t feel like much at all. … I had just asked to change my orthotics. It was a little bit painful, but it really wasn’t anything at all.’’
Now, Gordon said he must channel his energy toward his recovery. He said he won’t truly know the extent of his injury until he sees the foot specialist in North Carolina later in the week. Until then, he said he will try to stay engaged with the team as best he can so that he continues learning.
``I just have to figure out how to stay around the game. Maybe I sit in the chair and work on jump hooks,’’ Gordon said. ``I guess it’s a good time to rest and be healthy for the rest of the season.’’