The Magic will likely be in firesale mode approaching the trade deadline, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Rival executives expect Orlando, which has sunk to the bottom of the conference standings, to shop guards Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton and swingman Mario Hezonja, Stein adds. Fournier is signed through the 2020/21 season at $17MM annually. Payton can become a restricted free agent in the summer, while Hezonja will be an unrestricted free agent after the team declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October.
In other items regarding the Eastern Conference:
- Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is now eligible to be dealt and admitted to reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell, that he’s motivated by the trade chatter. He signed a two-year, $27MM contract in September that includes a team option for next season. That made him ineligible to be moved until mid-January. “This is kind of some motivation for me,” he said. “I know it sounds weird. But people are talking, ‘OK, Niko be gone’ and ‘Bye bye, Niko’ or whatever. But for me, it’s OK, just do what you’ve got to do. Play well and try to do your best until the last day and not be distracted.”
- Bucks forward Jabari Parker believes he’ll make his season debut before the All-Star break, he told Scott Grodsky of CBS 58 in Milwaukee. Parker tore his ACL in February, his second major knee injury since entering the league. Parker, who was assigned to the Bucks’ G League affiliate on Monday to continue his rehab, is targeting “the first two weeks before the All-Star game. It’s probably in that area.”
- Sixers rookie Ben Simmons vows he won’t back down from a challenge, according to an Associated Press report. Simmons and the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry were ejected during the closing seconds on Monday after an altercation. Simmons believes that veteran opponents are trying to intimidate him. “I don’t know if they’re trying to test me or see how I am on the court, but I won’t play around,” he said.