The Magic have fallen on tough times after an 8-4 start, but they are just two and a half games out of a playoff spot and still qualify as one of this year’s early-season surprises. Coach Frank Vogel tells Nick Friedell of ESPN the team made a mistake at the start of last season by going against the small-ball trend, adding that things began to turn around with the trade of Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross. That created an opening for Aaron Gordon at power forward and Evan Fournier at small forward.
“I think last year we were trying to go big when the whole league was going small and it wasn’t really working,” agreed center Nikola Vucevic. “A lot of guys were out of their comfort zone, a lot of guys were out of position. It just wasn’t working, it wasn’t clicking. I think this year players’ roles are more clear.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- New GM John Hammond is confident that Gordon, a restricted free agent, will agree to a long-term contract next summer, Friedell relays in the same story. Orlando wasn’t able to work out an extension with Gordon before last month’s deadline, but Hammond believes his future will be with the Magic. “You look at a guy like that and say, ‘He’s one of those guys as you move forward with, that you got to have,'” Hammond said. “And we feel that way.” Gordon is off to the best start of his career, averaging 17.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 17 games.
- Early-season technical fouls are piling up for Hornets center Dwight Howard, notes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The NBA announced today that Howard was fined $35K for an obscene gesture in Friday’s game at Cleveland. That’s his second fine this season and sixth technical in 18 games. There will be an automatic one-game suspension if he reaches 16, and the league could impose a separate suspension if the obscene gestures continue.
- Nicolas Batum isn’t worried about any long-term effects from his latest elbow injury, Bonnell tweets. Batum was able to return to the Hornets‘ lineup tonight after sitting out Friday. He left Wednesday’s game with a contusion on his left elbow, the same one that caused him to miss the first 12 games of the season.