Gordon Sits Out Against Knicks With Sprained Ankle

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

NEW YORK – Already forced to play without forward Jonathan Isaac, the Orlando Magic also had to deal with not having standout forward Aaron Gordon on Sunday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Gordon, who has authored his finest stretch of the season over the last four games, missed Sunday’s game because of a left ankle injury suffered in the third quarter of Orlando’s defeat of Washington on Friday. Gordon played 42 minutes on Friday – a bulk of that after hurting his ankle in the third quarter – and the lingering swelling and soreness made playing on Sunday impossible.

``It feels like I don’t have a lot of movement in it right now because it’s a little swollen,’’ said Gordon, who is hopeful that he can return by Monday’s game in Washington against the Wizards.

With Gordon out on Sunday, the Magic started Jarell Martin. Head coach Steve Clifford chose to start Martin instead of Mo Bamba because he wanted to keep the rookie center in his regular rotation off the bench. Martin is hopeful that his promotion to the starting lineup will help him break out of a slow start to the season.

``We’re hurting for Aaron going down, but it’s an opportunity for the next guy and I want to do anything that the team needs,’’ said Martin, who is in his first season with the Magic after spending three years with Memphis. ``It’s been a little challenging adapting to the style of play and knowing what coach wants us to do. It has been a challenge for me, but I’m getting better and better in adapting.’’

Isaac, who has been out since Nov. 2 with a sprained right ankle, went through drills with the Magic during the team’s morning shoot-around and could be close to a return. He’ll likely need to go through a practice first before playing, but Clifford likes what he sees from the second-year forward.

``J.I. did some of the stuff (in practice) today and we’ll see how he feels,’’ Clifford said. ``It’s kind of the same thing with him – he’s still day-to-day – but he’s doing more and more. Again, it’s just a question of how he feels afterward.’’

Gordon had one of his best all-around performances on Friday, compiling 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists. However, he accidentally stepped on the foot of a foe in the third quarter. Gordon said his ankle twisted, but he made the choice to stay in the game for the good of his team. Ultimately, he played 42 minutes and had some noticeable swelling in the ankle following the game. Clifford was complimentary of Gordon’s toughness for playing in pain on Friday.

``(Clifford) knows that I am a competitor and I am,’’ Gordon said. ``He knows that I’ll go if I’m able to go. That’s never changed about me and if I can go, I’ll go.’’

Gordon had one of his worst games of the season on Nov. 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers when he scored just eight points on three-of-eight shooting. Since then, however, he’s averaged 21 points a game over the last four games while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point range.

MARIO MEMORIES: When Mario Hezonja playfully touted the upcoming game between the Magic and Knicks with some good-natured trash talk on Twitter, Gordon and several of Orlando’s players got a laugh. They’re well-aware, of course, of Hezonja’s fiery competitive nature and his burning desire to play against his former team.

Sunday presented Fournier, the No. 5 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, a chance to play against Orlando for the first time since he signed with the Knicks in July. He spent the first three years of his career with the Magic, but never lived up to expectations and left for New York largely because he knew he’d be buried behind Mo Bamba, Gordon and Isaac on the Magic depth chart.

Hezonja came into Sunday averaging 9.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists despite shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and 26.7 percent from 3-point range.

``Mario is such a genuine dude, a fierce competitor, he’s athletic and he has all the tools to be a great NBA player or a really good one,’’ Gordon said. ``I miss him. That’s my bro. It will be good to see him and I think he’s in a good place now.

``I think he’s going to come and try to really kill this game (against Orlando), so it will be fun to see,’’ Gordon added, noting he saw Hezonja’s joke posted on Twitter recently about wanting to feast upon the Magic. ``I hope he doesn’t work himself up too much.’’

LOOK-A-LIKE AARONS: Gordon has heard all the talk of how he closely resembles Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge, and he played along with it by dressing in a New York pinstriped, No. 99 jersey on Halloween night.

Gordon said fans often confuse the two of them the most in New York, where Judge has reached celebrity status for his propensity of hitting tape-measure home runs.

``Especially out here (in New York), it happens,’’ Gordon said of the comparisons to Judge. ``I see a little bit of a resemblance, but not as much as everybody else.’’

When they aren’t confusing him with Judge, Gordon said fans will occasionally call him by ``Casper,’’ which was his screen name in the movie, ``Uncle Drew’’ that he appeared in this past summer.

UP NEXT: The Magic will wrap up their third back-to-back set of games on Monday night when they face the Wizards in Washington, D.C. Orlando went 0-2 in its first back-to-back, losing at home to Charlotte and on the road in Philadelphia. In the second back-to-back, the Magic won in San Antonio and then edged the Cleveland Cavaliers on a game-winning shot.

The Magic have some recent history with the Wizards, beating them 117-108 in Orlando on Friday night. In that game, Orlando led by as much as 25 points in the third quarter only to see the lead shrink to one in the closing minutes. The Magic were able to hang on thanks to three big plays from veteran point guard D.J. Augustin.

The Magic will be back at the Amway Center on Wednesday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers and newly acquired forward Jimmy Butler.

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.