SAN ANTONIO – Sunday presented a good news/bad news scenario for the Orlando Magic as guard Jonathon Simmons returned from an injury, while forward Jonathan Isaac missed a game because of one.
As expected, Simmons was back in action on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs following a one-game absence with a bruised right wrist. Meanwhile, Isaac was unable to play on Sunday after spraining his right ankle in the second quarter of Friday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Wes Iwundu, who played on Friday with Simmons being inactive, got his first start of the season on Sunday in place of Isaac.
The Magic held Simmons out on Friday in hopes that another two days of rest would help to improve the health of his right wrist. Simmons had surgery last May to repair ligament damage in the wrist and he’s been slowed thus far by stiffness in the joint and the time he had to spend away from basketball while wearing a cast over much of the offseason.
``It’s obvious he’s not 100 percent, but it’s a combination of him not getting to play all summer and still getting his rhythm back,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ``And he plays in a nature that he’s always banging around and on the floor, so it’s sore from that anyway. I think by taking the two extra days (of rest), it will help him.’’
The concern is much greater for Isaac, whose young career continues to be marred by ankle injuries. The nearly 7-foot, 226-pound Isaac played just 27 games as a rookie because of a series of ankle injuries. He sprained his ankle nine minutes into the first game of the preseason, and then suffered a similar injury on Friday night when he accidentally landed on the foot of a foe, causing his ankle to grotesquely roll over.
Isaac, who made the trip to San Antonio with the team, got treatment on his ankle Saturday and throughout the day on Sunday, but was unable to play. The Magic are holding out hope that Isaac might be ready to play by Monday’s home game against Cleveland.
``We’ll see how he feels (on Monday) and he’s day-to-day,’’ Clifford said. ``All is know is he can’t (play on Sunday). He’s been doing treatment, but he can’t play (Sunday night).’’
BAMBA BACK ON CAMPUS: Rookie center Mo Bamba took advantage of the Magic being in Texas this weekend by returning to Austin where he played basketball at the University of Texas last season. In addition to getting a haircut while in Austin, Bamba visited with former teammate and close friend Matt Coleman III and head coach Shaka Smart. Bamba said Smart was the primary reason that he picked Texas over a host of college teams vying for him and admitted that Smart is still very much a mentor to him.
``He’s just an awesome guy and I don’t think many guys have the kind of relationship with their college coach as we do,’’ said Bamba, who averaged 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots in 30 games for the Longhorns last season as a true freshman.
``He’s a pretty stand-up guy. He was a big reason why I went to Texas. It’s hard to say no to Shaka,’’ Bamba added. ``It’s just about who he is as a person. He has a lot to do with who I am as a person and I still try to learn from him as much as possible.’’
TURK’S SUPPORT FOR CLIFFORD: Back in Orlando last week so that he could be honored as part of the Magic’s 30thanniversary celebration, Hedo Turkoglu was on hand for a recent practice and addressed several of the Magic’s players.
Turkoglu played for the Magic from 2004-09 and 2010-13, averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his 497 games while wearing Orlando pinstripes. He was a driving force on the 2009 team that vanquished Boston and Cleveland in the playoffs and reached the NBA Finals.
Clifford was an assistant coach on that team and he developed a close bond with Turkoglu that the two of them still maintain today. With Turkoglu – who now lives in his native Turkey -- back in Orlando, Clifford asked him to talk to the team this week. One of the Magic’s all-time great players was more than happy to do so, and he stressed to the players about the importance of them believing in Clifford’s coaching.
``I built a really good relationship with Steve and we’ve still been in contact, texting and talking to each other,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I’m sure he’ll do whatever it takes to bring this franchise back to where it belongs. This city deserves those moments again of being in the playoffs.
``I’ve been talking to some of the guys and I’m sure they will give `Cliff’ their support to turn things around,’’ Turkoglu added. ``Steve introduced me to them and I just told the guys about what kind of relationship that we had. (Clifford) was trying to give the message to the guys that as long as the team keeps the chemistry together, things will work out, and I agree with that. We had really good chemistry in those (2007-2009) years and we had a lot of fun being around each other. They’ll do that here too as the guys get to know each other more and spend more time with each other.’’
UP NEXT: The Magic will be back in action on Monday night when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Amway Center. Tipoff time is just after 7 p.m.
It will be the Magic’s second back-to-back of the season, and a considerably difficult one considering that Orlando will be traveling from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone. Sunday’s earlier start time in San Antonio gave the Magic a bit of a break, but still the team wasn’t projected to be back in Central Florida until after 1 a.m. And later Monday night, the team will take the floor for a second time in 24 hours.
Cleveland has obviously been staggered by LeBron James’ second defection – this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavs are just 1-8 so far and winless on the road in four tries. Veteran Kevin Love (foot surgery) is out and Jordan Clarkson is leading the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game.
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