Southeast Notes: Gafford, Bagley, Murray, Wagner, Okeke

Wizards starting center Daniel Gafford entered the NBA’s concussion protocol this week following a head-on-head collision with Isaiah Stewart on Monday and was unavailable for Thursday’s contest vs. New York, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

Having traded Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari to Detroit, the Wizards had limited options up front with Gafford out. As Alex Schiffer of The Washington Post observes, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. could have opted to go small by starting Bilal Coulibaly or Patrick Baldwin, who had played well as of late, writes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network.

Instead, newly acquired big man Marvin Bagley III was immediately thrust into the starting lineup at the five and played a team-high 39 minutes in a competitive loss to the Knicks. Bagley impressed in his Wizards debut, racking up 20 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He was also a plus-two in a game that Washington lost by four points.

“That’s a heck of a start for him,” Unseld said, per Schiffer. “Played a well-balanced game, offense and defensively. Even things that happened on the fly I thought the group in general helped talk him through situations to keep him organized. That’s growth for us.”

The other player the Wizards acquired from the Pistons, Isaiah Livers, didn’t see the court in his first game with his new team. Livers will have to work his way into the rotation, according to Unseld, who said he expects opportunities to come for the third-year wing.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Within a look at the team’s potential approach to the trade deadline, Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talks to an NBA scout who says the Hawks will likely have to accept the idea of getting less for Dejounte Murray than what they gave up for him in 2022. “The Trae (Young) and Dejounte backcourt has not worked,” the scout said. “And I don’t think they’re going to get what they gave up for him, which puts them in a tough spot. They have to swallow their pride a little bit and take a loss, I think, to move forward.”
  • Zach Kram of The Ringer takes a closer look at Murray’s trade value, noting that various defensive metrics all suggest that the Hawks guard has taken a noticeable step back on that end of the court within the past year or two.
  • Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said he expects forward Franz Wagner (right ankle sprain) to be back “sooner than later,” adding that Wagner should resume full-contact work “pretty soon” (Twitter links via Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel). Wagner will miss his eighth consecutive game on Friday vs. Philadelphia.
  • Fourth-year Magic forward Chuma Okeke has been out of the rotation for much of the season, but he has started the past seven games with Wagner and wing Gary Harris sidelined. As Beede writes for The Orlando Sentinel, Okeke has earned praise from his teammates for how he’s adjusted to the increase in his playing time and especially for his performance on defense. “It’s not easy going from not playing to playing and then guarding most of the better players on the court, especially one-on-one,” Caleb Houstan said.
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