Wendell Carter Jr. Shines Against Former Team Despite Magic Loss

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Speaking to media after the Orlando Magic’s shootaround Friday morning, Wendell Carter Jr. acknowledged the extra juice he felt going up against his former team. Out to show that he’s a much-improved player since getting traded to the Magic, the 6-foot-10, 270-pounder had himself a night to remember, posting 26 points, two shy of his career high, and 10 rebounds despite his team having another rough shooting night in a 123-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Amway Center.

Top Performer

On the game’s first possession, Carter buried a 3-pointer, a greatly improved facet of his developing repertoire. On the night, he knocked down two of them and has now made 31 of them this season. Amazing about that is over his first three NBA seasons combined he drilled only 27 threes. The headliner in that March 2021 deal was Nikola Vucevic, who finished Friday’s game with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Rookie Watch

Playing point guard for parts of Friday’s game, Franz Wagner is getting more comfortable orchestrating the offense. His basketball IQ is off the charts, enabling him to make accurate reads off the dribble. Some of his passes – to cutters or shooters on the perimeter – were right on the money. One of Wagner’s comps coming out of college was Hedo Turkoglu, who was one of the best playmaking forwards of his era.

This Day in History

Penny Hardaway recorded two triple-doubles with the Magic. One of them came on Nov. 26, 1994 when he tallied 35 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in Orlando’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. The 35 points Hardaway scored is the second most a Magic player has ever scored in a triple-double. The record is 46, Tracy McGrady’s total in his 2003 triple-double against the Nets.

Rivals Report

Most agree that Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Miami – whichever order you want to rank them – are the three best teams in the East. But if there’s a team in the conference that could change that narrative, it might be the Bulls, who feature three All-Stars and have been solid defensively early in the season. It doesn’t help, though, that Patrick Williams will be out for the rest of the season with a dislocated wrist. Also, their bench is thin. Alex Caruso has been good, but Chicago is going to need more from some of their other reserves, especially Coby White, who recently returned to action after suffering a left shoulder injury in the offseason.

Injury Report

Out for Orlando were Cole Anthony (sprained right ankle), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee) and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain). Williams (dislocated wrist) and Marko Simonovic (G League – assignment) were out for Chicago.

Quote of the Night

“It’s an adjustment for sure. The last time I was in that spot I was like 12 years old. I think that’s a challenge, and I like challenges like that, and I think even for me I can see I make progress in those situations as I go and as I watch some film and talk to the coaches. I think that’s good. But I had two turnovers as well that led to easy points. But I like learning new things and being in those situations.” – Wagner

Up Next

Not often do the Magic fly out of town the same night they play a home game. But that’s precisely what they did Friday night. Their first stop of a two-game trip will be in Cleveland, where they will square off against the Cavs on Saturday at 8 p.m. On a five-game losing streak, the Cavs have been hit hard by injuries lately. Although he reportedly is recovering faster than originally expected, Evan Mobley has missed the last four games with an elbow sprain. Collin Sexton won’t be back any time soon, however. The 6-foot-1 guard tore his meniscus in his left knee and will be out the rest of the season.

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