ORLANDO – Throughout much of their 2022-23 campaign, the Orlando Magic have had a shortage of guards.
For starters, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, and Gary Harris have all missed 16-plus games.
Finally, the shelves are being re-stocked.
Fultz is expected to make his season debut and Anthony should be available to return from a 16-game absence when the Magic face the Atlanta Hawks at Amway Center on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
“Everyday I wake up, I try to get a little bit better than I was yesterday,” Fultz tweeted on the morning of his return along with a motivational workout video. “Humble but hungry! Never forget where I came from & what got me here !! WORK, You gotta Work !!!!”
Fultz missed all of training camp, the preseason, and the team’s first 21 regular season games after he suffered a fracture in his big left toe this offseason. The 6-foot-4 point guard played in 18 games last season with Orlando, averaging 10.8 points, 5.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals. in 20.0 minutes per contest.
His on-court presence will certainly be a stabilizing force for an Orlando offense that’s had its share of ups and downs to start the season without a seasoned floor general at the helm.
Rookie sensation Paolo Banchero and second-year standout Franz Wanger have had to operate extensive stretches as point forwards without a true point guard at times on the hardwood. While both players will still likely operate in those roles at times, Fultz will provide additional balance and playmaking from that position.
Anthony, meanwhile, opened up the season averaging 15.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists before a right internal oblique tear sidelined him. The third-year guard will provide an offensive spark to the Magic’s rotation with the ability to light up the scoreboard at any given moment.
Now, the Magic will assimilate those two key cogs in their offensive machine back into the lineup against one of their Southeast Division rivals.
“(As) we do get healthy, there will be a rhythm to the game,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley recently. “We’ll understand some of the rotations. Even with that being said, we’re still going to have to look at different combinations and different lineups. But the message to our guys is when you step on that floor it’s about competing. It’s about fighting. When you put that Magic uniform on, you represent the city, the organization, and you represent yourself. So, making sure you’re competing night in and night out.”
Orlando will need to bring a high level of energy and intensity against an Atlanta team that’s looking to right the ship after three straight losses.
Somewhat surprising for a team that features perennial All-Star and deep threat Trae Young, the Hawks are second to last in 3-pointers made per game. In fact, 58.2 percent of their points are twos, the highest percentage in the association.
Young and forward John Collins will both likely be high up on Orlando's defensive priority list after the two Atlanta players each posted double-doubles in a Hawks victory over the Magic on Oct. 21.
IN AND OUT: Magic center Mo Bamba (back spasms) is questionable for this matchup, while Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia; strain), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness), and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) are out.
For Atlanta, Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee injury recovery) and Jalen Johnson (right ankle soreness) are doubtful, while Tyrese Martin (G League – On Assignment) is out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “He’s unique. He’s tough to deal with. You can see his confidence growing by the game. He can pretty much do everything on the basketball court. So, he just needs more reps. The last few years, he’s been in and out the lineup, hurt, G League stints, but I love what Jamahl (Mosley) is doing with him over there. Putting him at the point at times, putting him at the five, (and) just moving him around because he’s such a versatile player. It’s great for the league. I think you’ll start to see him be more and more of an impact player as time goes on. So, he's playing well this year.” – Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant on Orlando’s Bol Bol after the Magic center scored 24 points in a loss to the Nets
HOW TO WATCH: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in on radio via FM 96.9 The Game.