Michael Carter-Williams

Magic’s Isaac, Fultz Won’t Be Ready For Opening Night

Young Magic cornerstones Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, who are both coming off ACL tears, won’t be ready to play in the team’s regular season opener next month, sources tell Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

As Robbins explains, the Magic’s organizational policy is to avoid setting specific timelines or return dates for players who are recovering from injuries. However, Robbins has heard that the team will exercise significant caution with both Isaac and Fultz. The front office views getting the two players back into games and getting them through the 2021/22 season without any new health issues as two of its top organizational priorities, Robbins adds.

“Both of those guys have been, as you would expect if you cover our team, relentless in their approach,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said of Isaac and Fultz. “They’ve been working daily grinding. They both look really good. I will not elaborate on timelines. To me as a layman, this is where I just don’t want any setbacks. … But right now, they continue to progress through their rehab right on course and they’re making progress.”

As Robbins observes, Isaac is about 14 months removed from his ACL injury, while Fultz underwent surgery on his ACL only about nine months ago, so the forward may be on track to return a little sooner than the former No. 1 overall pick.

The Magic will also be missing veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams to start the regular season, putting point guard duties in the hands of youngsters Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Isaac confirmed on Monday that he has yet to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but suggested that a recent Rolling Stone report misrepresented his views. “I am not anti-vax,” Isaac told reporters, including Robbins. “I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science. I didn’t come to my current vaccination status by studying Black history or watching Donald Trump press conferences. … But with that being said, it is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice, and completely up to them without bullying, without being pressured, without being forced into doing so. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m uncomfortable with taking the vaccine at this time.”
  • Suggs and fellow lottery pick Franz Wagner are both candidates to begin the season in the Magic’s starting lineups, but new head coach Jamahl Mosley isn’t prepared to speculate about the makeup of his starting five quite yet, according to Robbins. “I think it’s a little early to tell which way we’re going to go with lineups and the roster and rotations,” Mosley said on Monday. “We want to get that first part of training camp started just so we can see what the different combinations look like.”
  • Chuma Okeke won’t be participating in full-contact drills at the start of training camp, since he recently sustained a right hip bruise during a voluntary workout, per Weltman (via Robbins).
  • The Magic are expected to have “thorough” discussions with Wendell Carter Jr.‘s reps about a possible rookie scale extension before opening night, says Robbins. “I would love to be here for a long time,” Carter said. “I love Orlando. I love the city. I love my teammates. I love the people here, the weather, everything. So I would love to be here, but right now, I’m just focused on training camp.”

Michael Carter-Williams Has Ankle Surgery, Will Miss Start Of Season

Michael Carter-Williams underwent surgery on his left ankle Monday and won’t be available for the beginning of the 2021/22 season, the Magic announced today (via Twitter).

Doctors removed a bone fragment and repaired a ligament in the ankle, according to president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman. No timetable has been set for the veteran guard to return, with the team stating that it will depend how the ankle responds to treatment and rehabilitation.

Carter-Williams, 29, averaged 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists last season, starting 25 of the 31 games he played. He missed the first half of the season with an injured foot, then took over as a starter in mid-February when both Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony were sidelined by injuries.

Carter-Williams, who joined the Magic as a free agent in March of 2019, re-signed with the team last November on a two-year, $6MM contract. His $3.3MM salary for the upcoming season is fully guaranteed.

Magic Notes: MCW, Ennis, Fultz, Coach Search

Veteran Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams provided helpful on-court production and off-court leadership during the first season of his two-year, $6MM deal with the club, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

After missing the first half of the year due to a foot injury, Carter-Williams stepped in as the starting point guard on February 12 with Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony both injured for much of the season. He started in 25 of his 31 games for the club, averaging 8.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 4.2 APG.

Carter-Williams’ 2021/22 salary is guaranteed, though it remains to be seen what sort of role he’ll have with a team that has shifted into rebuilding mode.

There’s more out of Orlando:

  • Veteran Magic wing James Ennis helped supply 3-and-D contributions when healthy during a difficult 2020/21 season in Orlando, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Ennis is a free agent, having signed a one-year, $3.3MM contract with Orlando in the offseason after the team traded for him while he was finishing up his prior contract with the Sixers in February 2020. Various injuries (most persistently, a calf ailment) limited Ennis to just 41 total games (37 starts) with the Magic, averaging 8.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 APG and 0.8 BPG. He boasted a solid shooting line of .473/.433/.805. Parry notes that the Magic currently do not have a small forward signed for the 2021/22 season, and may look to the 30-year-old Ennis to fulfill that position in the immediate future.
  • Magic point guard Markelle Fultz was frustrated by yet another injury-abbreviated season, the final under his rookie-scale contract, reports Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Fultz, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL in January, signed a three-year, $50MM extension with Orlando in the 2020 offseason. He helped power the team to a 5-2 start to kick off the 2020/21 season before suffering his injury. A solid finisher and defender, Fultz has yet to develop his outside shooting. Parry notes that rookies Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton could compete for the long-term starting point guard position in the years ahead, and cautions that an exact timeline for Fultz’s anticipated return next season remains unclear. A standard 12-month ACL recovery would push Fultz’s return to January 2022.
  • The Magic’s newly-opened head coaching job should appeal to candidates eager to develop young players, writes Josh Cohen of Magic.com. The Magic have an intriguing core of under-24 youth, and will add to that tally in a hurry, with possibly two lottery selections and one early first-rounder (the No. 33 selection) in next month’s draft. “This job has tremendous growth potential, which is very attractive,” team president Jeff Weltman said. “It has organizational strength and ownership behind it. We are moving into a new practice facility next year. There are a lot of good things happening here. Most importantly, we have a lot of bright young talented players.”

Injury Notes: Ingram, Vucevic, LeBron, Magic

An MRI has revealed that Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram suffered a left low-ankle sprain during the team’s 108-103 victory over the Warriors on Tuesday, the team has announced via Twitter. Ingram is set to miss Friday night’s contest against the Sixers and is considered day-to-day with the injury beyond that.

Losing Ingram, the club’s second-leading scorer behind All-Star forward Zion Williamson, could be a major blow for New Orleans as the team strives to qualify for the play-in tournament in a crowded Western Conference field. With a 30-36 record, the Pelicans currently sit just two games behind the Spurs for a shot at the play-in tournament in the West this season.

There’s more injury news from around the league:

  • Bulls All-Star center Nikola Vučević (adductor) was able to fully participate in a team practice today, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Head coach Billy Donovan commented that the sharp-shooting big man, who has missed the club’s last two games, “looked fine.”
  • Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James will miss at least the next two games and potentially more as he grapples with fresh, sharp pain in his sprained ankle, Dave McMenamin told Rachel Nichols and Richard Jefferson on ESPN’s The Jump (Twitter video link). A source informed McMenamin that James is “focusing on the big picture” right now. “Does ‘big picture’ mean two more games missed? I’m not so sure,” McMenamin said. “He is clearly prioritizing using every bit of time he can to… get back for the playoffs.”
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford has indicated that five injured players could miss the rest of the 2020/21 NBA season, tweets Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams and power forward Chuma Okeke are both sidelined with ankle sprains. Wing James Ennis is unavailable with a sore calf. Injury-prone forward Otto Porter Jr., who has played in just 28 games this season for the Magic and Bulls, is struggling with foot pain. Swingman Terrence Ross has been felled by back spasms. “I don’t even know what the time frame [is],” Clifford conceded. “If you look at the schedule now, it’s seven games, I think it’d be 12 days, and I’m not sure even if any of those guys are that close, to be honest with you.”

Cole Anthony Set To Return For Magic

Magic point guard Cole Anthony will return to action on Wednesday after missing nearly two months, the team announced today (Twitter link). Anthony had been sidelined since February 9 due to a fractured rib.

Anthony, the son of former NBA player and current broadcaster Greg Anthony, was drafted out of University of North Carolina by the Magic with the 15th overall pick last fall.

On the season, the rookie has appeared in 25 games, averaging 11.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest. He hit a game-winning buzzer beater to beat the Timberwolves on January 20.

Khem Birch (illness) and Michael Carter-Williams (illness) will also return tonight after multiple missing multiple games, per Orlando’s announcement.

The Magic are currently 17-33 and hold the 14th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Southeast Notes: Haslem, Brooks, Carter-Williams, Snell

Udonis Haslem – who is in his 18th NBA season, all with the Heat – has not played a single minute this season. And while the 41-year-old would welcome the chance to see some action, he has embraced his increasingly off-court role within the organization, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“I’m always ready,” Haslem said. “And that’s my job, is to stay ready so I don’t got to get ready. And I’m always ready if Spo (head coach Erik Spoelstra) needs to put me out there and contribute to winning basketball games. But I understand that the bigger impact that I have is off the basketball court, before the clock starts.”

Last season, Haslem only played in four regular-season games, but he helped the Heat make their sixth NBA Finals appearance since 2005. The role on the team he plays is deeper than actually going out there to set screens and rebound the basketball, according to Spoelstra, who says the big man is “moving mountains with his leadership.” However, the Heat coach said the team would have no qualms about using Haslem on the court if needed.

“I always have the ultimate confidence in UD,” Spoelstra said. “And he and I have been through so many pressure-packed moments that I feel I can throw him in at any time, even in the fourth quarter if he hadn’t played before that.”

More from the Southeast Division:

  • After some uncertainty, presumably related to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks received clearance to coach Thursday’s game against the Grizzlies, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (Twitter link). Brooks and the Wizards got off to a slow start but are creeping up in the standings (two games back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference). 
  • Magic point guard Michael Carter-Williams spoke to Spencer Davies of BasketballNews.com about feeling as if his NBA career was in jeopardy during the 2018/19 season, just a few years removed from winning Rookie of the Year. “I didn’t know where my future was gonna go,” said Carter-Williams, who has rejuvenated his career in Orlando. “I kept thinking, ‘Am I gonna go the G League route? Am I gonna go overseas? Do I even want to play at all anymore?’ There was a lot of things that went through my head at the time.”
  • Veteran wing Tony Snell looked like a salary throw-in when the Hawks acquired him from Detroit in the offseason, but he has played a meaningful role for the team, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details. The 29-year-old, a free agent at season’s end, is knocking down a scorching 56.9% of his three-point attempts, including a last-second, game-winning buzzer beater on Thursday. Atlanta has now won its first three games since Nate McMillan took over as head coach for Lloyd Pierce.

MCW, Ross Fined $15K After Arguing With Refs

The NBA has fined Magic guards Michael Carter-Williams and Terrence Ross $15K apiece after altercations with referees in their 115-112 Wednesday home loss to the Hawks, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets.

Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee (via Twitter) shared an official NBA press statement on the penalties. The league listed the charges as “verbal abuse of game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner.”

Ross, who scored 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the loss, and Carter-Williams, who logged 20 points, six assists and six rebounds, were upset about two late-game referee decisions. Carter-Williams was irked over a foul call that went against him while defending a Trae Young layup attempt with 18 seconds left in regulation.

Carter-Williams was called for hitting Young in the head. Magic head coach Steve Clifford debated the foul in postgame remarks (video link), saying in part, “In my opinion that’s not a foul, particularly at that point in the game. I’ll tell you with 100% certainty there was no contact to the head.” 

On the other end of the floor, Ross was upset over not receiving a foul call in his favor while being guarded by Solomon Hill with eight seconds remaining in regulation.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Carter-Williams, Collins, Heat

The Hawks could benefit from addressing a problem related to accountability, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes. Atlanta has opened the season with a 11-15 record, albeit with various injuries, but Kirschner contends the team’s underwhelming start shouldn’t just be attributed to that.

“We just really have to find a way to win,” Trae Young said. “It’s hard as hell to win in this league. We’re not fine with excuses with guys being out. We still have to find a way to dig in and make some shots and get some stops and find a way to win. That’s pretty much the bottom of the line.”

Atlanta has upcoming road games against New York on Monday, along with Boston on Wednesday and Friday. The team will then return home on Sunday to host the Nuggets. The Hawks currently hold the 10th-best record in the Eastern Conference.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Michael Carter-Williams provided the Magic with a boost at point guard in Friday’s victory over Sacramento, Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Despite missing the previous 19 games due to injury, Carter-Williams finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes of work. “I’m always ready to go play the point. I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Carter-Williams said. “Coach has me do it in practice sometimes. I’m always staying sharp in that area for moments like this, so we can go out there and not skip a beat and still be successful.”
  • Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat should go all-in for Hawks star John Collins. Miami has struggled offensively and could benefit from acquiring a starting power forward this season, though Collins would certainly come with a somewhat-hefty price tag. The 23-year-old has averaged 18.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 31.8 minutes per game in 26 contests, starting over free-agent acquisition Danilo Gallinari.
  • Winderman examines in a separate story how the Heat’s flexibility is being limited by roster constraints. Miami has dealt with a series of injuries and COVID-19 issues this season, often leaving the team short-handed or leading to inconsistency during games.

Southeast Notes: Martin Brothers, MCW, Hawks, Collins

Caleb Martin and Cody Martin remain out for the Hornets today due to coronavirus-related issues, and starting power forward P.J. Washington has been categorized as doubtful ahead of today’s contest against the Spurs, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

When the Martins and Washington initially were held out Friday, Bonnell was unable to provide any additional info (in another piece) on whether either Martin brother or Washington had actually yielded a positive or inconclusive test for COVID-19 or had entered the league’s contact tracing protocols.

There’s more out of the Southeast:

  • After a 19-game injury absence, point guard Michael Carter-Williams provided an ample boost for an injury-plagued Magic squad, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel“I’m always ready to go play the point,” Carter-Williams said. “Coach has me do it in practice sometimes. I’m always staying sharp in that area for moments like this, so we can go out there and not skip a beat and still be successful.”
  • The Hawks have struggled to preserve leads in the fourth quarter, having gone just 9-7 this season when they’ve been ahead entering the final frame, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. “I don’t know if it’s always been the fourth,” head coach Lloyd Pierce notes of Atlanta’s recent struggles. “We’re trying to find our rhythm. We’re trying to find guys to find that belief to finish the game.”
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if the struggling Heat should make a full-court press for two-way Hawks power forward John Collins. The power forward position has been problematic for Miami this season, while Collins – who is on an expiring contract – is averaging 18.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.6 APG for the 11-15 Hawks. He holds a slash line of .543/.391/.853.

Southeast Notes: Herro, Strus, Magic, Graham

For the second time in two weeks, Heat guard Tyler Herro briefly entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. When he was first affected by the protocols on January 31, Herro only had to sit out a practice before being cleared, but this time around, he missed Thursday’s game in Houston.

Still, Herro and the Heat got good news today, as the second-year sharpshooter was cleared to rejoin the Heat and resume basketball activities. According to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, Herro was flagged after a Thursday test result, but gained clearance after returning multiple negative tests and was able to join the team on its flight to Salt Lake City for Saturday’s game.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In Herro’s absence, two-way player Max Strus took on an increased role on Thursday and had arguably the best game of his NBA career, scoring 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 25 minutes. Strus took advantage of the fact that the Heat were without guards Goran Dragic and Avery Bradley in addition to Herro, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I knew that my hard work would pay off at some point,” Strus said after the game. “To be honest, to be doing this this early in the season, I probably didn’t expect that. But it’s a weird year and there’s a lot of weird things going on. So you’ve just got to be ready.”
  • Already without Markelle Fultz for the rest of the season and dealing with injuries to Michael Carter-Williams and Cole Anthony, the Magic lost another point guard on Thursday when Frank Mason left the game with a groin strain, as Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details. Mason won’t play on Friday in Sacramento, but Carter-Williams is no longer on the injury report, meaning he should be available for the first time since January 4, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
  • Given how well LaMelo Ball has played since entering the starting lineup, the Hornets will have to decide what role Devonte’ Graham will have when he returns from the groin injury that his sidelined him for the last three games, says Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “No matter if he’s a starter or off the bench — if he plays first quarter, second quarter, fourth quarter — the guy produces for us,” head coach James Borrego said of Graham. “Having him back on the floor is a good problem — a good thing for me and for us.”