Speaking to the media on Tuesday for the first time since breaking a bone in his left hand nearly four weeks ago, Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. admitted that he was frustrated at the time of the injury, knowing he would likely be facing an extended absence. However, he’s in better spirits now after having his cast removed, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required).
“Today was probably one of the best days of my life,” Carter said on Tuesday. “When [the doctor] was saying I didn’t have to wear the cast anymore, it was like, ‘OK, it’s another step in the right direction.’ I’m just super excited just to finally get back out there at some point and help this team continue to win.”
According to Beede, Carter expects it will be about two weeks before he gets the green light from team doctors to resume practicing in full. The former seventh overall pick has been replaced by Goga Bitadze, who has started the past 12 games in the middle for the Magic. As Beede writes, Orlando hasn’t missed a beat during that time, improving its record to 12-5, and Carter has enjoyed watching the team’s success from the sidelines.
“We’re one of those teams that can hold their own against any team in this league,” he said. “Being able to sit on the sidelines and watch the joy that everyone’s playing with, [it] just gives me extra confidence, extra motivation so when I come back I’ll be able to play with that same joy and confidence as they are.”
Here are a few more notes on the Magic:
- Magic point guard Markelle Fultz will miss a 10th consecutive game on Wednesday due to left knee tendinitis. Fultz hasn’t played since November 9 and has only appeared in one game this month, but head coach Jamahl Mosley indicated on Tuesday that he’s “coming along,” per Beede (Twitter link). “We’re going to constantly see how he reacts to just what is happening each day,” Mosley said. “And he’s progressing. We’re just going to continue to evaluate as we go day-to-day with him.”
- Chuma Okeke is a name to monitor as a possible trade candidate this season, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who notes that teams like the Cavaliers, Suns, Bucks, and Nuggets have expressed exploratory interest in Okeke in the past. The fourth-year forward, who will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2024, is considered a good locker room presence and a hard worker, Scotto adds.
- Speaking to Marc J. Spears of Andscape, Mosley said the camaraderie and selflessness among the Magic players is one reason why he was confident about the team’s outlook coming into this season. “It’s one of the best groups I’ve been around because it is a genuine care for the next guy,” Mosley said. “… And there was a joy for whoever was successful on any given night. There was never a thing like, ‘Oh, that guy’s got it going, now I need to get mine.’ It was like, ‘Oh man, I’m so proud of you. Keep doing your thing.’ No matter who it was. And that speaks volumes for a younger group.”
- Both Spears and Josh Robbins of The Athletic took a closer look at the Magic’s hot start this season. Winners of seven straight games, Orlando ranks second in the NBA with a 107.0 defensive rating. “Coach Mos, I give him credit, he came in from training camp saying he wanted to be a No. 1-caliber defensive team in the league,” Paolo Banchero said. “That is what we have been so far. Give huge credit to the coaches for instilling that in us and the players for executing it.”