Evan Fournier Hopeful for Speedy Return

By John Denton
Dec. 8, 2017

ORLANDO – Already without difference-making wings Jonathan Isaac and Terrence Ross, the Orlando Magic likely will have to adjust to playing without injured forward Evan Fournier for several games to come.

Fournier badly sprained his right ankle on Wednesday night when he accidentally landed on the heel of teammate Nikola Vucevic, causing his ankle to grotesquely roll to the outside.

Magic coach Frank Vogel contemplated using rookie Wes Iwundu, third-year swingman Mario Hezonja and guard D.J. Augustin to replace Fournier in the starting lineup, but ultimately decided to go with veteran Arron Afflalo at the small forward spot. That could change from game-to-game depending on the opposition or what the Magic are missing without one of their most dynamic players.

On Friday, as Fournier hobbled along in a walking boot, the Magic’s second-leading scorer called the setback ``a stupid injury.’’ There is no firm timetable for his return, but he knows the lingering pain in his ankle could keep him on the shelve for an extended period of time.

``It shouldn’t be too long, honestly. I don’t know what it’s going to be like; it’s day-to-day obviously,’’ Fournier said. ``I’m (staying) positive and I don’t think it’s going to be as long as Jon (Isaac), for sure.’’

Isaac, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft, missed his 14th game on Friday because of complications from a sprained ankle. Ross injured his knee on Nov. 29 and could miss several months.

Fournier is averaging career bests in scoring (18.3 points per game), field goal percentage (47.8 percent) and 3-point range accuracy (41.5 percent). He has been a strong barometer of the Magic’s success this season as they are 3-0 when he scores 25-or-more points and 8-5 when he tops the 20-point plateau.

Fournier, who had 27 points, four rebounds and two steals on Wednesday, suffered the injury on the first basket of overtime. He said he couldn’t even playfully get onto Vucevic for the injury because ``he set a really good screen.’’ Then, he added that he feels mainly frustration because, ``you land on someone’s foot, and it’s just stupid.’’

Wednesday’s game began a stretch where the Magic are playing at the Amway Center in four of five games. Fournier missed Friday’s game against Denver and won’t travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game. Orlando won’t play again until Wednesday (against the Los Angeles Clippers) and Fournier is hopeful of a speedy return although he sounds uncertain about when he will be able to push himself through an obviously painful injury.

``You have good games at home and it’s an important stretch for us, so (the injury) is unfortunate,’’ said Fournier, who said the sprained ankle was the third of his NBA career. ``Being swollen doesn’t necessarily mean it’s terrible. You can have a bad ankle (without swelling) or a perfect ankle and it can be painful. It’s not really swollen, but it hurts right now.’’

AFFLALO’S CHANGING ROLE: Acknowledging a slippage in skill level due to age or injury can sometimes be an extremely difficult thing to do for a supremely confident athlete. Doing that hasn’t always been easy for a now 32-year-old Afflalo, but the veteran forward has been the picture of professionalism this season in Orlando.

Now 32 years old, Afflalo is a long way away from being the player who averaged a career-best 18.2 points per game for Orlando in 2012-13. Since then, he’s played for five different teams and he’s in his second stint with the Magic. And unlike in years past, when he was often a scorer who teams looked to feed the ball to in tense moments, Afflalo knows he is now a veteran who is being looked to as a scorer off the bench.

He came into Friday averaging just 2.3 points a game while playing just 12.5 minutes in the 20 games he’s appeared in. Those numbers figure to go up in the near future with Fournier out and Afflalo expected to see more minutes and shots at the small forward position.

``In recent years (there was frustration), but this year, no,’’ Afflalo said of his changing role. ``I truly feel fortunate to be back here. My commitment to this franchise and to (President of Basketball Operations) Jeff (Weltman) and (GM) John (Hammond) and Coach Frank (Vogel) is still with me today. I look at the big picture and I just want success for the whole group. There’s obviously going to come opportunities for me to have individual success, but (lack of chances) will never have me upset, I’ll say.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic were scheduled to depart right after Friday’s game for Atlanta where they will face the Hawks on Saturday night at Philips Arena. The snow that hit the North Georgia region on Friday isn’t expected to interfere with the Magic’s travel plans.

Orlando outlasted the Hawks 110-106 on Wednesday night in overtime. The Magic needed a 3-pointer from D.J. Augustin with 6.2 seconds remaining to tie the game and force overtime. Orlando led by as many as nine in the first quarter, but fell behind by as much as eight and the game stayed that way until a fourth-quarter rally.

Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but his biggest contribution was his four blocks. Many of those came on drives by Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder, who made just 10 of 25 field goal attempts against Orlando.

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