Adam Silver Thanks Magic for Participating in NBA Mexico City Games

by John Denton

MEXICO CITY – In between the instances of stressing how important Mexico is to the NBA and its future, Commissioner Adam Silver repeatedly thanked the Orlando Magic on Thursday for giving up two home games so that the league could continue its quest to grow the game internationally.

The Magic are officially the ``home’’ team in the NBA Mexico City Games 2018 and are playing against the Chicago Bulls (Thursday night) and Utah Jazz (Saturday afternoon). The two games will be the 27th and 28th NBA games played in Mexico City and the eighth and ninth regular-season games played in the country of 120 million people.

For this season’s Mexico Games to grow beyond one game, the NBA needed a franchise to agree to play multiple games and the Magic willingly agreed to assist the league. Orlando will play 39 games at the Amway Center, two at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City and 41 as the road team this season. For that, Silver professed his immense gratitude to the Magic.

``They’re playing two games here in Mexico City and gave up two home dates in Orlando, so Orlando Magic thank you so much for being so supportive of the NBA in Mexico,’’ Silver said.

Silver is hopeful that the NBA will eventually be able to place a G League franchise in Mexico City. Those talks have continued this week, Silver said, and he is hopeful that a finalized deal with Mexico City can be announced in the coming weeks. That G League team would not have a direct affiliation with any other NBA club and it would become a 31stG League franchise for the NBA.

Silver said the NBA would also like to play more games in Mexico – even in other Mexican cities such as Monterrey – in the future. To do so, Silver stressed, the league would need the cooperation of more teams like the Magic to assist the NBA in growing the game internationally.

``It’s an enormous contribution the Orlando Magic are making by giving up two home dates to play here,’’ Silver said. ``To play more games out of market, that would require us to step back and maybe re-think the schedule a little bit. As we grow in popularity outside of the United States and Canada, it creates opportunities to do unique types of games. We’ve talked about mid-season tournaments and we’ve talked about doing additional things with our preseasons.

``So, it’s a balancing act for the league office and these are regular-season games and they’re very important, especially when it comes to April and one game may mean making the playoffs or not,’’ Silver added. ``We have to make sure that (travelling abroad) is not too big of a disruption on their bodies and on the schedule. But we will continue to look at other opportunities in Mexico.’’

TWITTER TIFF WITH T-MAC: Magic guard Evan Fournier is something of a deep thinker and he particularly enjoys a good debate. And when the topic of that debate, Fournier usually isn’t shy about joining in and expressing his opinions.

However, Fournier came under fire recently when he innocently weighted in on a debate about which NBA great – Hall of Famer and Magic legend Tracy McGrady or Golden State superstar Kevin Durant – would win a one-on-one basketball game.

When Fournier agreed with former Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith that the 7-foot Durant would have the edge, McGrady clearly became offended and fired back at Fournier. McGrady, who played for the Magic from 2000-04 won scoring titles in each of those final two seasons, is still affiliated with the Magic as a consultant to CEO Alex Martins, but he attacked Fournier, telling him to break one of his many Magic records prior to taking the side of another player.

``To be honest, this thing started when I was just giving my opinion,’’ Fournier said with a laugh. ``I just gave my opinion – I do think K.D. would win against T-Mac. As basketball fans, what we do is we argue about topics that have no sense. It’s like who’s the (greatest of all-time)? You can’t answer, you just have an opinion. I was surprised T-Mac was all sensitive.’’

The irony of the whole snafu, Fournier said, is that he idolized McGrady while he was growing up in France and dreaming of playing in the NBA someday. Fournier even owned McGrady’s No. 1 Magic jersey and cherished getting to meet the player who once scored 62 points in a Magic-Wizards game in 2004.

``I’m a T-Mac fan. He was one of my favorite players growing up,’’ Fournier said incredulously. ``I don’t know, he got a little hurt, obviously, but that’s not what I meant at all. So, it’s OK.’’

PAIRING GORDON AND ISAAC AT FORWARD SLOTS: With Fournier back from his one-game absence for a family matter, the Magic were able to put their starting lineup from the beginning of the season back on the floor together again.

That meant playing Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac together at small forward and power forward, respectively, alongside of center Nikola Vucevic and guards D.J. Augustin and Fournier. That grouping opened the first eight games of the season before Isaac went down with an ankle injury, but it was just 2-6.

Prior to Thursday’s game, the Magic had used that lineup 136 minutes. It had an offensive rating of 104.5 (points per 100 possessions) and a defensive rating of 104.1 (points per 100 possessions).

The Magic have used only two other five-man groupings with better offensive ratings at least 100 minutes this season. Augustin, Fournier, Vucevic and Gordon have been the constants. When they have been joined by Wes Iwundu for 168 minutes, the Magic have had a 114.7 offensive rating. When that foursome was joined by Jonathon Simmons for 108 minutes, they had a 106.2 offensive rating.

Gordon has historically played better at power forward than small forward, but Magic coach Steve Clifford insisted that there isn’t much difference at all between the two positions in Orlando’s four-out, one-in offense that it uses most.

``There has been times when (Gordon and Isaac together) have been very good and other times not as good. But with most of our playing groups, we just aren’t as consistent as we need to be,’’ Clifford said. ``If you watch the way that we play – which is like most teams in the NBA – there’s not much difference between (small forward) and (power forward). … I don’t see where for (Gordon) it makes much difference at all. We run the same plays for (Gordon) at (power forward) as we do at (small forward).

``It’s not those two guys; it’s all five guys,’’ Clifford added.

UP NEXT: The Magic’s stint in Mexico City is far from finished as they will once again be the designated ``home’’ team for Saturday’s NBA Mexico City Games 2018.

This time, the Magic will face the Utah Jazz and standouts Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET. Fournier is close friends with Gobert, also a native of France, from their time spent playing junior basketball together years ago.

Orlando is undoubtedly hoping that being established in Mexico City and already acclimated to the city’s altitude will give them a much-needed edge over the Jazz. Utah has swept the season series each of the past two seasons, winning four straight matchups against the Magic.

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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