By John Denton
March 6, 2017
ORLANDO – With the games coming at the Orlando Magic fast and furiously now, their depth and ability summons energy could be severely tested over the next week.
Potentially further complicating matters for the Magic is an injury issue starting center Nikola Vucevic, who missed his second straight game on Monday with a sore right Achilles tendon. Orlando was so thin along the frontline on Sunday that it had to play power forward Jeff Green and rookie Stephen Zimmerman at center behind starter Bismack Biyombo.
On Monday, the Magic hosted the New York Knicks – their third game in four nights and their second game in 48 hours. Orlando will host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, travel to Charlotte on Thursday to play the Hornets on Friday and then return to the Amway Center on Saturday night for a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
``I always try to manage (off days) to make sure that we’re getting the proper rest,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``I haven’t looked at the that (upcoming) stretch as a concerning stretch, but we’ll manage the rest accordingly. We’ll get an off day (on Tuesday), but you’ve always got to make sure that your guys are fresh.’’
On Sunday, the Magic will embark on their second road trip of the season to the West Coast. The trip will start with a game in Sacramento on Monday before Orlando finally gets a bit of a reprieve. The team will have two days off in Northern California’s Bay Area before playing the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on March 16.
Orlando played two games after the NBA All-Star Game before getting just its second three-day break of the season. Then, starting with last Wednesday’s home loss to the Knicks running through Monday’s game in Sacramento, the Magic will have played eight games in 14 days.
PLAYOFF SIMULATION: The four games between the Magic and Knicks this season have come in two quick bursts. Orlando was in New York on Dec. 22 and Jan. 2, losing the first game and winning the second one.
This time around, the Knicks have been in Orlando twice in six days. New York won 101-90 on Wednesday in a game that saw both teams struggle to shoot the ball. That included Knicks standout forward Carmelo Anthony, who missed seven consecutive shots at one point last Wednesday. Anthony did not play on Monday because of a sore left knee that he injured in Sunday’s home loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Vogel said having two games against the same team in such a small window allowed him to use the moment as a teaching point for the future.
``It’s actually kind of fun,’’ Vogel said. ``Sometimes you’ll see a team on a back-to-back and play them consecutively. This is one of those situations with kind of a playoff feel with Game 1 and Game 2 and we made some adjustments in between with the things they hurt us with and we’ll see if we can adjust to it.’’
As for Anthony, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek brought up ``playoffs’’ when referring to his star forward’s knee injury.
``If it was a game that decided the playoffs, I’m sure that he might try it,’’ Hornacek said of Anthony’s Monday availability after jamming his knee following a blocked shot on Sunday. ``It’s pretty sore when you wrench it like that. Then, if you compound it and try to play (on Monday), he could be out for the next few games. So, it’s better to take this one off and get it healed.’’
MAGIC HISTORY: Founded in 1989, the Magic are still in their infancy compared to some of the original franchises in the NBA. But compared to the Toronto Raptors – a franchise that wasn’t started up until 1995 – the Magic seem like NBA old timers.
That topic came into focus recently when Terrence Ross talked about making the transition from the Raptors to the Magic following the Feb. 14 trade between the two teams.
Prior coming to Orlando, Ross had spent all five of his NBA seasons in Toronto playing for the Raptors. He welcomed the change, feeling he will get a more consistent role with the Magic than he did in Toronto while playing behind all-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
The Magic have jammed a lot of history into their short period of existence, twice reaching the NBA Finals, winning five division titles and fielding a virtual ``Who’s Who’’ of star players. Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis have starred Magic pinstripes through the years – something that quickly dawned on Ross upon tugging on his Orlando jersey for the first time three weeks ago.
``At first putting the jersey on here was a little different because I’ve never put on another jersey,’’ he admitted. ``But you put it on and then you walk to the locker room and you see the pictures of all the guys who have played here, it got me thinking about T-Mac, Shaq, Penny, Dwight and them.
``It’s a great city to be in and they have great fans here,’’ Ross continued. ``They’ve made some historic runs here and it’s exciting to be somewhere where they have a lot of history and there are a lot of guys who have come through here. I’m just happy to be a part of the organization here.’’
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.