Aaron Gordon Thrilled to be Back on Court With Teammates

By John Denton
Dec. 15, 2017

ORLANDO – Aaron Gordon’s vantage point on Friday night – smack-dab in the middle of the action as his Orlando Magic took on the Portland Trail Blazers – was dramatically more favorable to him than the one he had two nights earlier.

Still experiencing some of the symptoms from the concussion he suffered last Friday, Gordon was instructed to remain at home as the Magic hosted the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Too many lights, too much noise and the added adrenaline from the game would only slow down Gordon’s recovery time, so he watched Orlando’s disappointing 106-95 loss to the Clippers in solitary. And he hated every second of it.

``I watched it from my house, sitting in a dark room watching the game,’’ Gordon said of his isolation on Wednesday night. ``That was terrible.’’

Gordon’s spirits were flipped on Friday as he was removed from the NBA’s concussion protocol and allowed to return to action. He originally suffered a concussion a week earlier when he stumbled and ran face-first into the shoulder of Denver guard Gary Harris. That knocked him out of two games – one more than Gordon might have liked – but he was given full clearance on Friday morning by an independent physician.

As miserable as Gordon was on Wednesday while having to watch from afar while in a dark room, he was bubbly and excited to be back in the action on Friday.

``It feels good (to be back) and I’ve been saying it all year and all my life: I love this game so much and I love being out there with my teammates,’’ said Gordon, who wore wear a mouth guard on Friday for the first time since his rookie season in the NBA. ``It’s going to be a challenge (against Portland), but it’s going to be fun. I just love having my feet out there on the court and being able to use my body and compete.’’

ISAAC MAKING PROGRESS: While Gordon made his return on Friday, rookie forward Jonathan Isaac’s return is still on hold. However, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft is making significant progress daily and he potentially could get back into game action by the weekend.

Isaac has been out since Nov. 11 with a right ankle that he sprained after landing on the foot of Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay, causing his foot to grotesquely buckle. Isaac practiced fully on Thursday for the first time in a month and he reported no lingering pain from the session. However, the Magic’s medical staff made the decision to hold the 6-foot-10, 210-pounder out of action at least one more game – the 17th in a row that he’s missed since suffering the injury.

``Very well,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said when asked how Isaac’s ankle responded to his first full practice. ``I was hopeful that he was going to be able to play (on Friday), but the team is going to hold him out for another game as a precaution, but he came through (the Thursday practice) very well.’’

In 12 games (and two starts), Isaac averaged 6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.25 blocks. The Magic had their best stretch of the season on the defensive end when the long-armed Isaac was on the floor and the team is eager to get him back on the floor to further his development.

``I feel like I’m picking up where I left off,’’ he said after Thursday’s practice. ``I honestly feel even more confident.’’

HEZONJA STARTING AGAIN: With Evan Fournier (sprained ankle), Terrence Ross (sprained knee) and Arron Afflalo (back spasms) still out because of injuries, Vogel had a decision to make Friday night as to his starter at small forward.

Vogel ultimately chose to start Mario Hezonja over rookie Wes Iwundu ``because (Hezonja) deserves it more.’’ Hezonja was one of Orlando’s few bright spots on Wednesday as he scored a season-best 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked a career-high three shots.

Friday’s start was the third in a row for Hezonja – albeit the first at small forward after starting previously as a power forward in a small-ball lineup. Vogel liked Hezonja’s matchup on Friday night (against slow-footed forward Evan Turner) and he liked how the third-year pro played on Wednesday.

``He played better defensively and he played within himself offensively,’’ Vogel said. ``He had a couple of turnovers in that stretch of the second quarter, but he shot the ball with confidence. He made plays and he played within himself. He has (passing) ability, but he’s a little too reckless with it sometimes and it makes you a little uncomfortable, but he does have good vision and size to make passes. He just has to make sure he’s not reckless with it.’’

UP NEXT: Orlando will depart on Saturday for snowy Detroit where it will face the Pistons on Sunday at 4 p.m.

The Pistons played at The Palace of Auburn Hills from 1988 to 2017, but have since moved to downtown Detroit where they now play at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit is just 8-5 in its new home arena this season.

The Magic will be off Monday and practice on Tuesday before taking on the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday. Orlando returns to the Amway Center on Dec. 22 to host the New Orleans Pelicans.

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.