Magic Coaches, Players Giving Back Throughout Thanksgiving Week

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic’s players and coaches will spend most of Thanksgiving Day on an airplane and that night they will be in a Denver hotel, but they aren’t allowing that to keep them from giving back to those in need in the Central Florida area.

On Monday, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac spent time at J.U.M.P. Ministries Global Church in Orlando serving an early Thanksgiving meal that he purchased to approximately 85 people in need.

On Wednesday night, fellow forward Aaron Gordon, Magic staffers and the Amway Corporation will distribute 475 Thanksgiving meals at the Engelwood Neighborhood Center to underserved families. Free haircuts for the youth and the donated meals are being provided by Gordon, Amway and the Magic. Gordon, a native of San Jose, Ca., also arranged to provide 400 Thanksgiving meals to families in the Oakland area on Thursday.

And in what has become one of the best traditions in Orlando, the Magic will provide breakfast on Thanksgiving morning for the approximately 500 residents and another 100 unsheltered individuals of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida for a 26th consecutive year. Magic head coach Steve Clifford will sponsor the meal.

Following Thursday’s breakfast at the Coalition, the Magic will host a carnival for families. Mascot, Stuff, and The Magic Dancers are slated to attend.

The Magic’s basketball team departs on Thursday afternoon for a nine-day, five-game road trip.

VUCEVIC CHEERED, ACKNOWLEDGES HELP OF TEAMMATES: Clifford took time out of Orlando’s preparation for the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday morning to acknowledge center Nikola Vucevic being named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week by the NBA. Upon hearing that news, Magic players clapped and cheered for the longest-tenured player on the team winning the award for the second time in his career.

Vucevic, 28, averaged 27.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor in games from Nov. 12-18. That kind of production is actually quite commonplace for Vucevic, but he said the reason he was able to win the East Player of the Week award was the Magic’s 3-1 record last week. The Magic whipped Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Lakers and New York last week and the 7-footer told many of his teammates that they played a big role in him being honored.

``That meant a lot because having the respect of your teammates is very important in this league,’’ Vucevic said of the text messages and cheers he received from teammates. ``Obviously they’re a big part in me getting the award. Basketball is a team game and the main reason I got the award is because we won those games. I had a lot of weeks before when I played well, and we didn’t win (games), and (the individual success) didn’t mean as much. As much as it’s an individual award, it’s a team award as well. We won those games and my teammates put me in a position to play well.’’

LOVING LEONARD: As they were preparing the scouting report for Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, Clifford and Magic assistant coach Mike Batiste came across a statistic that truly illustrates the defensive greatness of forward Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and ’16 and a four-time All-Defense pick, came into Tuesday’s game at the Amway Center with more career steals (745) than fouls (722). In 419 games before Tuesday, Leonard had averaged 1.8 steals a game compared to just 1.7 fouls committed a game. The same trend has held true this season in Toronto as Leonard had more steals (22) than fouls (16) in his first 12 games with the Raptors.

``That’s incredible when you think of the guys that he’s defended from the time that he was young,’’ marveled Clifford. ``He’s almost always guarding primary scorers and he’s incredible with his hands. He knows who he is guarding – he knows the backups and he knows the starters and he knows how to guard them. He is incredibly disciplined, but that stat (more steals than fouls) just tells him everything about who he is.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic will practice on Wednesday, and after working to help others have a happy Thanksgiving on Thursday morning, the team will depart on one of its longest road trips of the season.

The five-game, nine-night trip will feature games against Denver (Friday), the Lakers (Sunday afternoon), Golden State (Monday), Portland (Nov. 28) and Phoenix (Nov. 30). Following that daunting trip, the Magic will return home for two nights before leaving again for Miami where they will face the Heat on Dec. 4.

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