ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic are expected to have one of their valuable young players back on the court in their first game back from the All-Star break.
R.J. Hampton, who missed the last 14 games due to an MCL sprain and bone bruise of his left knee, went through back-to-back full contact practices on Wednesday and Thursday and should be available when the Magic host the Houston Rockets on Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Amway Center.
“It felt very good to get back on the court with the guys,” said Hampton. “I’ve missed doing what I love for the last month, so it’s very fun (to be back).”
Playing primarily with the second unit, the 6-foot-6 guard averaged 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game this season before suffering the injury on Jan. 19 with 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Orlando’s road game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
While going through treatment and the rehab process, the Dallas, Texas native attempted to make the most of his time off. Much like the organization did with Jalen Suggs, Magic coaches worked closely with Hampton on the mental aspects of the game by watching film and focusing on elements such as court vision and decision making in transition.
“I think it has mainly let me realize and sit back and learn from the coaches, from the players, from other teams and come back ready,” he explained. “The rehab process is long and hard, but it was a lot of fun getting back (on the practice court) with the guys. It made me happy.”
Since his arrival, Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley has preached the importance of playing with pace offensively and being a disruptive unit defensively. As he continues to develop, Hampton’s skillset could prove to be extremely valuable in both of those areas. Orlando will look for Hampton to continue to make strides in those areas as it goes into the final stretch of the regular season.
“His continued improvement throughout the year with his defense (has stood out),” Mosley said of Hampton. “I talk about him being a versatile defender, a ballhawk, getting into the ball, (and) defending at a high level. Offensively, the simple and quick decisions. Catch and shoot threes. He’s so fast in transition, his ability to get out on the break and working on finishing at the rim and then finding guys with the decision-making part of that as well.”
Hampton’s return will come against a Rockets squad that narrowly defeated the Magic, 118-116, in Houston on Dec. 3. Rockets guard Eric Gordon scored 24 points in that contest, including the game-winning floater with 1.6 seconds left. Orlando’s Cole Anthony led the Magic with a game-high 26 points in that meeting.