Aaron Gordon Comes Off Bench vs. Mavs for Violating Team Rules

By John Denton
Jan. 9, 2018

DALLAS – Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, the team’s leading scorer and its steadiest player all season, was moved into a reserve role on Tuesday as a disciplinary measure for a violation of team rules.

Prior to Tuesday, Gordon had started each of the 31 games that he had played in this season. Head coach Frank Vogel planned to use Gordon off the bench against the Dallas Mavericks.

Gordon’s punishment is expected to last just one game and he most likely will be back in the starting five on Wednesday when the Magic face the Bucks in Milwaukee. On Tuesday in Dallas, Mario Hezonja opened the game at power forward alongside of point guard Elfrid Payton, small forward Evan Fournier, shooting guard Jonathon Simmons and center Bismack Biyombo.

In addition to averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game and improving dramatically with his overall shooting (48.4 percent) and 3-point accuracy (39 percent), Gordon has had 10 20-point games, four 30-point games and two 40-point games. He had 39 points against Miami two weeks ago and 30 on Saturday when the Magic fell 131-127 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gordon, 22, will be a restricted free agent in July after he and the Magic did not reach an agreement on a contract extension last summer. The Magic will have the right to match any offer sheet that Gordon receives from another team.

PROLIFERATION OF THREES: Never before in NBA history have teams relied so heavily on the 3-point shot than this season, and the Magic have gotten to see that in waves of late.

Tuesday’s game in Dallas meant the Magic would be facing a fifth straight team that ranks near the top of the NBA in 3-point makes a game.

The Mavericks rank fourth in the NBA in makes per game (11.8) and fifth in the league in attempts per night (29.5). In the past two weeks, the Magic have faced Miami (sixth in 3-point makes and sixth in 3-point attempts), Brooklyn (third in makes and second in attempts), Houston (first in makes and first in attempts) and Cleveland (second in makes and third in attempts). Cleveland (15), Houston (15), Brooklyn (nine) and Miami (12) combined to make 51 3-pointers, while the Magic made 38 shots from beyond the arc in those games. For the season, Orlando ranks 13th in the NBA in 3-point attempts a game (29.5) and 16th in makes (10.4).

``What is this – five or six straight teams that are in the top five or six in 3-point makes,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``So it’s stretches you out and you’ve got to guard them. We’ve had enough practice the last four games.’’

Vogel said that because teams are so eager to shoot the 3-pointer that he’s had to re-think the way he teaches defense. Whereas he used to insist on his team packing the paint and protecting the rim, the thinking on that has had to be adjusted to a certain extent.

``Teams would prefer to hit us with a weak-side shooter than get to the rim,’’ Vogel said. ``You still have to take away the layup and protect the paint first, but getting to the second-side shooter is still important.’’

INJURY UPDATES: Simmons, who missed the last game-and-a-half because of back spasms, was available to play on Tuesday night after going through the team’s morning practice and clearing final hurdles prior to tipoff.

Two of Orlando’s other primary rotation players, Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac, are on the road trip with the team and are doing what they can to making progress toward their returns.

Vucevic, Orlando’s leading rebounder a sixth straight season, fractured a bone in his left hand on Dec. 23 and needed a surgery that is expected to keep him out until February. Even though he is wearing a cast over much of his left arm, Vucevic did several conditioning exercises on Tuesday morning to try and keep his conditioning up.

``He’s going to keep working to try to stay in the best shape that he can so that when the hand heals up, he’s ready to go,’’ Vogel said. ``It’s impossible (to stay in basketball shape). He’s just got to do the best that he can with it. The harder he works on the cardio, the quicker his (conditioning) will come back.’’

Isaac, the No. 6 pick from last June’s NBA Draft, has played just 15 games this season because of ankle stiffness and pain lingering from a sprain he suffered on Nov. 11. Orlando announced on Dec. 30 that it was placing the 20-year-old Isaac in a rehabilitation and conditioning program and his return would be based on how his ankle responds. Vogel said he is working to find ways to keep the talented rookie involved so that his development continues even as he is missing games.

``He’s doing a little bit of stationary stuff on the court, but for the most part it’s all with the strength and conditioning staff and medical team,’’ Vogel said. ``I show him tapes every now and then of guys at his position, watch tape with Aaron (Gordon), Mario (Hezonja) and him and have him talk out what he’s seeing to make sure that he’s learning that way, too.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic will be put to the test on Wednesday when they play a second time in as many nights by facing the Bucks in Milwaukee.
The Magic don’t figure to arrive in Milwaukee until 2 a.m., while the Bucks had Tuesday off. Milwaukee (21-18) was beaten 109-96 in Indiana on Monday – a game where it fell behind by 21 points after the first quarter. Orlando is 4-10 on back-to-backs this season – 2-5 on both the first and second nights of those sets of games.

Orlando will be off on Thursday before closing their three-game road trip against the Wizards in Washington, D.C., on Friday. The Magic don’t play at the Amway Center again until Jan. 16 when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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