Southeast Notes: Stan Heath, Aldridge, Hunter, Magic

Just days after the Lakeland Magic, the NBAGL affiliate of the Magic, won the 2020/21 G League title in a 97-78 route of the Delaware Blue Coats, Lakeland head coach Stan Heath has been named the NBA G League Dennis Johnson Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches, per a G League press release.

Heath’s defensive approach worked wonders for the Magic, who finished their regular season with a 9-6 record that nabbed them the No. 6 seed heading into the G League playoffs. Lakeland’s stifling defense ranked atop the G League with a 101.0 defensive rating and 101.5 PPG allowed.

Heath won top honors during a uniquely unorthodox year for the G League, one that was reduced to a 15-game regular season within an Orlando “bubble” campus. Heath is the only head coach Lakeland has ever known, since its 2017 inception. He holds a 94-63 record across his four seasons at the helm for the club.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat may not be done adding 35-year-old NBA veterans to their roster this season, following the news of Miami’s trade for Trevor Ariza today. Sources tell Marc Stein of the New York Times (via Twitter) that the Heat will remain in pursuit of former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who is currently away from the Spurs as they try to coordinate a trade. Stein notes that Miami would likely look to add Aldridge in the event of a buyout, not a trade.
  • Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan apparently does not share the previously-expressed optimism of Atlanta GM Travis Schlenk that injured small forward De’Andre Hunter will return to the court Thursday. Hunter has been rehabilitating from a January surgery on his right meniscus. During an interview on the Midday Show with Andy & Randy for 92.7 FM The Game. McMillan pushed back against Schlenk’s claims. “He has been working out, he’s getting closer, but playing tomorrow? That’s something we haven’t really talked much about,” McMillan said. “I think the conversation before going on the road trip was hopefully he’ll be able to join us on this eight game road trip we have coming up.” Hunter, the No. 4 pick out of Virginia in 2019, had been enjoying a breakout season with the Hawks before his injury. Across his 18 healthy games (all starts), Hunter averaged 17.2 PPG on an efficient slash line of .514/.366/.877, to go along with 5.4 RPG and 2.2 APG.
  • The 13-26 Magic may be best served exploring their trade options in the days leading up to the March 25 deadline. John Hollinger, Danny Leroux and Josh Robbins of The Athletic preview potential deals for the franchise, suggesting that veterans Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic, and even 2021 free agent swingman Evan Fournier could all net some intriguing young talent.
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