Al-Farouq Aminu

Magic Apply For Two Disabled Player Exceptions

The Magic have applied for a pair of disabled player exceptions, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has requested DPEs for both Al-Farouq Aminu and Jonathan Isaac.

As we outline in our glossary entry on the disabled player exception, a team can apply for a DPE to replace a seriously injured player. In order for the exception to be granted, an NBA-designated physician must determine that the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be sidelined through at least June 15 of the current league year.

The Magic haven’t announced specific recovery timetables for Aminu and Isaac, simply ruling both players out indefinitely. The club said last Thursday that Isaac’s knee injury would be re-evaluated in eight-to-10 weeks and said yesterday that Aminu’s knee injury would be re-evaluated in 12 weeks.

If the NBA determines that both players are likely to be sidelined through June 15, the resulting disabled player exceptions would allow the Magic to sign replacement players for 50% of the injured players’ salaries. A DPE, which doesn’t give a team an extra roster spot, can also be used to acquire a player on an expiring contract via trade or waivers if his salary fits into the exception.

A disabled player exception for Aminu would be worth $4,629,000, while one for Isaac would be worth $2,903,220.

The Magic are far enough below the tax line that they could safely use one or both of those exceptions to make a play for a free agent. I wouldn’t expect Orlando to be a top choice for the highest-profile veterans on the buyout market this winter, so the club’s ability to offer well above the minimum could come in handy when recruiting those players.

The deadline to use a disabled player exception is March 10. The Wizards, Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Nets all have DPEs available.

Magic’s Aminu Out At Least 12 Weeks Following Knee Surgery

It looks like it may be a lost first season for Al-Farouq Aminu in Orlando. The Magic announced today in a press release that the veteran forward has undergone successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Orlando doesn’t offer a specific timetable for Aminu’s return, announcing that he has been ruled out indefinitely. However, the team noted it will be approximately 12 weeks before he’s re-evaluated. That means he’s unlikely to return before April, and there’s a chance we won’t see him on the court again this season.

Aminu, 29, was one of the first free agents to come off the board during the summer of 2019, agreeing to a three-year deal with Orlando worth the full mid-level exception. He was coming off a solid season in Portland in which he averaged 9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG on .433/.343/.867 shooting while playing strong defense.

However, Aminu has been limited to just 18 games during his first season with the Magic, having been sidelined with his torn meniscus since the start of December. Even when he was healthy, the veteran struggled in a part-time role, with his shooting line dipping to an abysmal .291/.250/.655.

This is the second major injury for the Magic, who also lost Jonathan Isaac to a potentially season-ending knee injury. The club announced last Thursday that Isaac would be re-evaluated in eight-to-10 weeks.

With neither Aminu nor Isaac expected back anytime soon to fortify the frontcourt, the Magic will have to rely more heavily on forwards like Aaron Gordon and Wesley Iwundu as they look to hang onto a playoff spot. Orlando is currently the No. 7 seed in the East, with a 17-20 record and a three-game cushion on the ninth-seeded Hornets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Bryant, Washington, Martin

The Wizards may play it safe with regards to Bradley Beal‘s injury, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports writes. Beal left Thursday’s contest against the Pistons with lower right leg soreness and while it doesn’t sound like it will be a debilitating injury, it makes sense for the 9-21 Wizards to be as cautious as possible with their franchise star.

Beal is questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. the Knicks. Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Thomas Bryant said he doesn’t have an exact return date, but he is “very, very close” to returning, The Athletic’s Fred Katz tweets. Bryant practiced with the Wizards today and will practice with the Capital City Go-Go on Saturday.
  • Isaiah Thomas said he apologized to a lot of people in the Wizards organization for the incident with fans in Philadelphia, including owner Ted Leonsis, Hughes tweets. Thomas served a two-game suspension for the incident.
  • It sounds like PJ Washington will make his way back into the lineup for the Hornets, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The rookie has missed the past few weeks with a broken finger.
  • In a separate piece, Bonnell details how Cody Martin has been exceeding expectations for the Hornets. Charlotte selected the small forward with the No. 36 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
  • Coach Steve Clifford said Al-Farouq Aminu had a “setback” this week in his recovery from a knee injury, John Denton of NBA.com tweets. The Magic signed Aminu to a three-year deal this offseason.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Wiggins, Craig, SGA

A combination of injuries and head coach Ryan Saunders‘ desire to play matchups have resulted in the Timberwolves using 11 different starting lineup combinations this season. While those changes have often been made out of necessity, Jeff Teague believes the lineup juggling has impacted the club’s chemistry, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details.

“We haven’t been healthy all year, so it is difficult to try and get a rhythm,” the Timberwolves’ veteran point guard said. “Seems like every four games something happens. It’s part of the NBA. Just try to keep adjusting, keep making things happen. Hopefully we can get all on the same page one of these games.”

Since starting the season with a 10-8 record, the Timberwolves have lost 10 consecutive games and dropped to 13th in the Western Conference, so Saunders may continue tweaking the lineup until the club finds a combination that works.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins and Nuggets forward Torrey Craig have each signed with CAA Basketball for representation, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter link). Craig had previously been represented by Tony Dutt, while Wiggins had been operating without an agent.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post looks into whether the Nuggets should be trying to make a trade, what sort of move would make the most sense for the team, and what obstacles might stand in the way of a potential deal.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s 32-point performance in Sunday’s win over the Clippers was the latest sign that the Thunder‘s Paul George trade was a blessing in disguise, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman.
  • When Al-Farouq Aminu returned to Portland as a member of the Magic on Friday, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian took the opportunity to talk to the veteran forward about what this season would have looked like if the Trail Blazers had kept most of last season’s roster intact.

Southeast Notes: Mahinmi, Aminu, Heat, Adams

Wizards big man Ian Mahinmi has played an important role in recent games, serving as the team’s last remaining traditional center as Thomas Bryant and other players nurse various injuries, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Mahinmi, who missed all of training camp and the first 19 games of the season due to an Achilles’ injury, has made a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor this month — much to the delight of his teammates.

“He’s been great the first couple of games. Just his presence, his activeness, his long arms, his altering shots at the rim,” Bradley Beal said, as relayed by Buckner. “He’s catching on the roll; he’s finishing. So he’s doing a lot of things that we kind of missed a lot. We didn’t have that rim protector in a way. He’s blocking shots. He’s altering shots at the rim. He’s rebounding.”

Mahinmi, a veteran 6’11” center who spent time with the defensive-minded Pacers during several postseason runs from 2012-16, is capable of providing solid production off the bench when healthy.

“He’s definitely a factor,” coach Scott Brooks said of Mahinmi. “When he’s healthy, he protects the rim, and we’re a better defensive team when he’s out there. Hopefully we can keep his minutes up at a good number and keep playing well. He’s going to definitely help us.”

Mahinmi’s presence will be needed going forward with Bryant rehabbing from a stress reaction in his foot and Moritz Wagner dealing with a sore ankle. The Wizards have recorded just a 7-17 record through 24 contests, with upcoming games scheduled against the Pistons on Monday, Bulls on Wednesday, and Raptors on Friday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic plan to treat Al-Farouq Aminu‘s torn meniscus without surgery, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aminu averaged 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18 contests before suffering the injury, with the 29-year-old in his first season on the team.
  • The Heat could wind up having a large presence at All-Star Weekend in February, Ira Winderman details for the Sun Sentinel. Winderman contends that both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo could make the All-Star team this season, with Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn (rookie challenge), Duncan Robinson (three-point contest), Derrick Jones Jr. (dunk contest) and Adebayo (skills competition) also being contenders for the festivities.
  • The Heat could consider making a run at Thunder center Steven Adams via trade if the right dominoes fall, though this path seems unlikely for the time being, Winderman writes in his latest mailbag. Adams has two seasons left on his contract (due $25.8MM in 2019-20 and $27.5MM in 2020-21), with his contract running out just in time for the Heat’s anticipated mega free-agent chase in the summer of 2021.

Al-Farouq Aminu Out Indefinitely With Torn Meniscus

Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu has a torn meniscus in his right knee, the team announced on Twitter. An MRI revealed the damage. He will be evaluated further to determine how the injury will be treated and how long he will be out of action.

Aminu, 29, signed a three-year, $29MM deal with Orlando in July. He is playing 21.1 minutes per night through 18 games, mostly in a reserve role, and is averaging 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

The news is the latest injury blow to a Magic team already missing starting center Nikola Vucevic, along with Michael Carter-Williams. It should mean more minutes for Aaron Gordon, who returned from an ankle injury this week, and Jonathan Isaac, as well as a potential opportunity for third-year forward Wesley Iwundu.

Orlando is carrying an open roster spot that could be filled if depth becomes an issue, points out Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Al-Farouq Aminu Discusses FA Decision, Magic’s Goals

After finishing last season with a top-10 defense and a bottom-10 offense, the Magic made the decision to double down on their strengths in the offseason. Rather than using their mid-level exception to add a play-maker or shot creator, Orlando used the full MLE to bring aboard Al-Farouq Aminu, a veteran forward best known for his perimeter defense.

As Aminu recently explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, improving that defense and making it one of the NBA’s very best units is a priority for the Magic.

“We discuss it every day. We want to be a top-five defensive team, if not No. 1,” Aminu said. “I think it’s definitely something that this team has the ability to do and we just have to continue to click together and understand where we need to be in order to do it. I think the more and more we play together and get that cohesiveness, the better we’ll become on defense. And out of the gate, we’re already talented on defense. Now, it’s just getting that continuity and that will take us over the top.”

Although the Magic currently rank third in defensive rating, the team has the NBA’s second-worst offensive rating, which has contributed to a slow start (4-7) this season. Those struggles have prompted head coach Steve Clifford to experiment a little with his rotation, and that experimentation hasn’t benefited Aminu, who only played two minutes in Orlando’s win over the Sixers on Wednesday. After averaging 24.1 minutes in the team’s first seven games, Aminu has played just 11.9 MPG in the last four.

Aminu is in the first year of a three-year contract worth over $29MM, so it’d be a surprise if he’s removed from the rotation altogether. However, it may be a while before we see him match the 29 minutes he logged on opening night.

Still, when the 29-year-old spoke recently to Kennedy, he was happy with his decision to join the Magic in the summer and optimistic about what he could bring the team. Here are a few highlights from that conversation, which is worth checking out in full:

On why Aminu chose the Magic in free agency:

“I like that they’re a young team and I thought that I could bring some veteran leadership to them. Also, they went to the playoffs last year, so I knew they had a good team. I like their style of play and different things like that. I’m glad I made that decision.”

On whether he’s excited about the Magic’s young core:

“Yeah, for sure. I really wanted to play a part in molding them. In a couple of years, when these guys are in their prime and doing their thing, it’ll be cool to be able to say that I put my touch on that. That’ll be cool. I was talking to them the other day and I told them, ‘Y’all are going to make a lot of money! Y’all play the right way, y’all are young and the league is just changing. Guys are getting paid.'”

On leaving Portland after spending four seasons with the Trail Blazers:

“It was [tough] because I’m leaving the guys I was playing with, but a lot of the guys ended up leaving anyway, so it was kind of like, ‘Well, nobody is there.’ Not ‘nobody,’ but you know what I mean. The gang’s not even there anymore anyway, so it wouldn’t have been the same even if I had stayed.

“It’s not the organization, it’s the people that you get to work with every day that you end up [getting close with]. … Sometimes, it’s just one person; like, I remember the first time it was Ed [Davis]. Me and him came into Portland together and we became really cool. Then, after three years, he was gone and that was tough. Then, I started becoming really cool with Moe [Harkless] and Evan [Turner] and now they’re gone, so it’s like, man… It’s kind of already tough to make friends in this industry anyway and then guys move on. And you still get to talk to them and stay close, but it’s different. But I think that’s why it isn’t as traumatic because those guys are in different places anyway, so the gang is gone.”

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Satoransky, Lowry, Aminu

A Wednesday report suggested the Celtics have offered Jaylen Brown a four-year, $80MM contract extension and that the young swingman passed on that offer in search of a more lucrative deal. Appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Thursday, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge referred to that report as “not accurate,” though he declined to offer any real specifics on the team’s talks with Brown.

“We are working to come to some result by Monday as our deadline, and the negotiations have gone well,” the Celtics’ top decision-maker said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “It’s just not an accurate report, that’s all. We’ve given him numerous offers. We’ve been negotiating for a little while. So, that’s all.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote earlier today that multiple teams are watching the Celtics’ negotiations with Brown closely, since the soon-to-be-23-year-old would be a prime candidate for a big offer sheet if he reaches restricted free agency next summer. However, Ainge said that neither Brown nor the C’s are “too stressed” about the situation, as Forsberg notes.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After assuming most of the scoring and play-making responsibilities in Charlotte, Kemba Walker is enjoying playing on a Celtics team that has players capable of sharing that burden, writes John Karalis of MassLive.com. “It takes a lot of pressure off me,” Walker said earlier this week. “I’m getting a lot of different shots as well, but I’m loving it, not having to do so much all the time. Hopefully my usage rate might be going down a little bit. It allows other guys to make plays and I can appreciate that for sure.”
  • The Bulls officially named offseason free agent addition Tomas Satoransky their starting point guard this week, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details. Satoransky beat our fourth-year guard Kris Dunn, who is entering a contract year. However, Dunn is staying positive as he prepares for a reserve role, Johnson writes in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story.
  • After signing an extension with the Raptors this week, Kyle Lowry said that both sides “worked extremely hard to get it done” and that he’s glad to remain in the place he wanted to be. GM Bobby Webster, meanwhile, said working out a new deal with Lowry before opening night was always the goal. You don’t want to go into seasons with anything hanging over the team,” Webster said. “We knew it was something that was really important to him and it was really important to us (Twitter links via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Al-Farouq Aminu‘s new teammates in Orlando have been raving about his versatility, work ethic, and ability to adapt quickly to the Magic‘s system, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. Aminu was the team’s big offseason addition, signing a three-year contract worth nearly $30MM.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Burning Questions, Aminu

Although the Magic exercised 2020/21 rookie scale options this week on three players, only one of those decisions really generated headlines. The option pick-ups for Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba came as no surprise, but Orlando’s decision to exercise Markelle Fultz‘s $12.3MM option for ’20/21 raised some eyebrows.

Picking up Fultz’s fourth-year option is “the most tangible sign yet” that the Magic are pleased with the progress the former No. 1 overall pick has made in his rehab from thoracic outlet syndrome, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. As Robbins points out, making the move official a month and a half before the October 31 deadline helped relieve some of the pressure on Fultz, since there was no opportunity for speculation about that option decision to gain any steam.

As we wait for an update on when we can expect Fultz to make his debut for the Magic, here’s more on the young point guard, plus a couple other notes out of Orlando:

  • In the wake of their decision on Fultz, Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer wonders what the Magic know that we don’t. As Uggetti writes, guaranteeing another $12.3MM for the 21-year-old is a significant investment in a player who has appeared in just 33 total NBA games and has struggled with his shot.
  • In a separate article for The Athletic, Robbins examines the burning questions facing each player on the Magic’s roster this season. Among the questions Robbins poses: Can Orlando’s major free agent addition, Al-Farouq Aminu, effectively space the floor on offense? Aminu is a career 33.7% three-point shooter.
  • In a Q&A with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, Magic head coach Steve Clifford addressed a handful of topics, suggesting at one point that the team’s readiness to keep working hard is even more important than the roster’s continuity. “Often, we look at professional athletes as if they’re a given. The thing for us to all understand is this – we played better (in the second half) because we put a lot into it,” Clifford said. “The consistent players put a lot into it every year. And the really talented players who don’t really ever reach the level that they should, it’s because they have a fluctuation in their focus from year to year.”

World Cup Updates: Lithuania, Joseph, Nigeria, France

The Lithuanian national team has announced its roster for the 2019 World Cup, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that the 12-man squad will include Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also on the roster.

Lithuania is viewed as a contender to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, but it won’t have an easy path to even make it out of the first round. The Lithuanian national team is part of a group that also includes Australia, Canada, and Senegal — only two of those clubs will advance to the round of 16.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup, which will tip off in just four days in China: