Brothers Jerian and Jerami Encourage Each Other Every Day
ORLANDO – The first game of the season between the Orlando Magic and the Oklahoma City allowed brothers Jerian Grant and Jerami Grant a chance to spend time together this week, but in actuality they are spiritually never far away from one another because of the manner in which they communicate on a daily basis.
When Jerian, a backup point guard for the Magic, recently fell out of the regular rotation, Jerami was one of the first people to offer encouragement. And when Jerami was thrust into a starting role prior to this season with the Thunder, Jerian was one of the people who helped to build up his younger brother’s confidence with this support.
``We talk pretty much every day and he’s having a career year and he’s told me this is the best team he’s played on and he’s playing with some great guys, so I’m happy for him,’’ said Jerian, referring to Jerami averaging 12.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game. ``He’s kept me up through my struggles this season with it being an up-and-down season for me. So, we’re there for each other every day.’’
Jerian and Jerami are the sons of former NBA player, Harvey Grant, and the nephews of former Magic legend Horace Grant. Their older brother, Jerai, played professionally overseas, while the youngest brother in the family, Jaelin, is a rising high school basketball prospect in Maryland.
Jerian, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard, and Jerami, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward, have vastly differing memories of the heated one-on-one battles back in the day that helped them reach the top of their profession.
``Maybe (Jerian would win) when we were younger, but not anymore,’’ Jerami said. ``Someone would definitely leave mad, probably me. Or we’d end up in a fight, so that the game would never really finish.’’
Added Jerian, who is averaging 4.1 points and 3.0 assists thus far this season with the Magic: ``You know big brother had to beat down on little brother, so I’d say I was winning most of them. But he’s caught up. He’s tall and has a lot of skill now. The battles are a lot better now than they were back then.’’
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: In addition to putting himself in the running for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award with his offensive exploits, Thunder forward Paul George has finally started getting some praise for his tireless work on the defensive end of the floor.
Not only does George average 27.1 points per game offensively, but he ranks first in the NBA in deflections (179) and second in steals (2.31). Also, according the NBA.com’s formula for ``defensive win shares,’’ George ranks second in the NBA (0.177) behind only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (0.185). Those gaudy numbers have made George into a favorite to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award though the award traditionally goes to shot-blocking centers and guards who rack up steals.
``It would mean a lot because I pride myself on the defensive end,’’ said George, a two-time All-Defensive pick. ``I think I’ve been one of the best defenders way past this point I’m at now, but I’ve never received (the Defensive Player of the Year award). But I don’t play for awards. I play the hardest that I can and try to win games. With the awards, if I get it good, and if I don’t, move on. I just play the game and have fun with the game.’’
Orlando forward Aaron Gordon, a fifth-year pro, is trying to get to where George is both offensively and defensively. Like George, Gordon is often charged with guarding the other team’s top scorer and he had success earlier in the season in twice holding LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard below their scoring averages.
George, who is holding foes he’s guarding to a combined 42.1 percent shooting, admires the work of Gordon, who has held the individual opposition to 44.3 percent shooting this season. Gordon ranks 55thin the NBA in defensive win shares (0.112) – a number that is first among all Magic players.
``I just like a lot of the young guys who take on the role of wanting to guard the best players,’’ George said. ``It just shows their level of competitiveness, young guys who want those matchups and thrive in those matchups. Those are ultimately the guys that you want on your team. Those are the guys who are going to go out and make the best plays, cover the best guys and it shows a level of toughness.’’
EXPERIENCE IN CLOSE GAMES: The NBA describes ``close games’’ as ones where the score is within five points in the final five minutes of play. The Magic came into Tuesday first in the NBA in number of ``close games’’ they have played in at 30.
The bad news, however, is that the Magic are just 13-17 in those games. Their 17 losses in ``close games’’ is tied for the second-most in the NBA.
Coming into Tuesday, eight of the Magic’s last nine games had been classified as ``close games.’’ They are 3-5 in those games with the five losses coming in the previous six games.
``We’re fighting hard,’’ said Clifford, who said he had to find ways to help his team more in close games. ``These last two games (against Houston and Washington), the defense has been good, but we have to do better offensively in those games.’’
UP NEXT: The Magic will be back at the AdventHealth practice facility at the Amway Center on Wednesday to prepare for Friday’s home game against the Indiana Pacers.
Indiana recently lost all-star guard Victor Oladipo, a standout with the Magic from 2013-16, for the season because of a ruptured quad muscle. The Pacers held on to win last Wednesday when Oladipo was injured, but they have since seen a three-game winning streak ended by consecutive losses to Memphis and Golden State.
Playing without Oladipo earlier in the season, the Pacers whipped the Magic 112-90 at the Amway Center. That night, the defensively potent Pacers held Orlando to 40.4 percent shooting and just eight of 33 from 3-point range.
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