Mohamed Bamba

Mo Bamba Continues To Progress On The Sidelines

Mohamed Bamba’s rookie season took a rough turn when tests revealed that he suffered a stress fracture in his left leg. However, the 7’0″ center sees a silver lining in the injury. Bamba tells Hoops Rumors that he believes his time off the court has given him a perspective that he may not have gotten otherwise.

[RELATED: Mohamed Bamba to miss significant time with stress fracture]

“It gives you kind of a third eye,” Bamba explained. “Being out and having to watch your teammates perform and you see things that you wouldn’t see [if you were on the court].”

Orlando cannot afford to waste any time with Bamba’s development. Starting center Nikola Vucevic is a free agent at the end of the season and while the team wants to bring him back, the 28-year-old center will likely have many suitors. A Vucevic departure would thrust 2018’s No. 6 overall pick into a critical role.

Bamba, who remains in a walking boot, is optimistic that he will be able to play again this season. However, Orlando is taking a cautious, patient approach to managing his injury. Despite his inability to suit up, Bamba continues to stay engaged with the team in preparation for the next time he’s able to play.

Bamba’s rookie year hasn’t been a typical NBA freshman season. While he’s progressed on the court through his first 47 games in the league, he also saw off-court opportunities that most rookies don’t get to experience, including his appearance on HBO’s The Shop alongside LeBron James, rapper Drake, and other sports stars.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that not many people get to do. When I got word that they were thinking about me being there, I couldn’t believe it,” Bamba said of the chance to appear on the show. “…We talked about a lot [during the episode]. We talked about the game, the evolution of it and what we all attribute to that.”

The big man is also the subject of the successful rap anthem “Mo Bamba” by his childhood friend Sheck Wes. Wes, who only needed about 20 minutes to make the Bamba-inspired song, sent the audio track to the big man once his final version was complete, the 20-year-old tells Hoops Rumors. Despite the unique exposure, Bamba remains humble. Bamba added that he doesn’t feel any resentment from his teammates concerning his rap fame.

“I’m pretty sure if all the veterans on the team wanted their own song, they could do it,” Bamba said. “It’s nice to have something that a lot of people my age enjoy listening to.”

Mohamed Bamba To Miss Significant Time With Stress Fracture

FEBRUARY 7: While he didn’t provide details or an updated recovery timeline, Magic coach Steve Clifford said today that Bamba underwent a procedure on his injured left leg after all, per John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 5: Magic center Mohamed Bamba will miss significant time with a stress fracture in his left tibia, the team announced on Tuesday (Twitter link). The team confirmed a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bamba would not undergo surgery.

“Thankfully, we caught this early and we are able to treat Mo without surgery,” Magic president Jeff Weltman said in a statement. “His return to action will depend on how he responds to treatment.”

Bamba, 20, has averaged 6.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 1.4 BPG for Orlando in 47 games (one start). The Magic drafted the New York native with their first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2018 NBA Draft.

At 22-31, the Magic are currently three games back of the Heat for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. With the club’s postseason hopes dwindling, Orlando will likely take a cautious approach with Bamba.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, McGruder, Bamba, Briscoe

Even if the Wizards are granted an $8.6MM disabled player exception, they’re more likely to sign players to 10-day contracts than use that exception, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Washington applied for the exception due to John Wall‘s season-ending heel surgery.

The Wizards’ cap issues make it unlikely they’d find a free agent enticing enough to sign for the remainder of the season by using a portion of the exception. The Wizards inked point guard Ramon Sessions to a pair of 10-day contracts last season before signing him for the rest of the season, Hughes notes.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Shooting guard Rodney McGruder could lose his rotation spot if Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decides to expand Tyler Johnson‘s minutes, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his latest mailbag. In that instance, Dion Waiters would start ahead of McGruder and Johnson would receive second unit minutes. Waiters returned from ankle surgery three games ago. McGruder has played fewer than 20 minutes in three of the last four games.
  • An MRI on rookie center Mohamed Bamba‘s sore foot showed no structural damage, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Magic coach Steve Clifford said Bamba is unlikely to play this weekend, Robbins adds. The sixth overall pick sat out against Utah on Wednesday.
  • Clifford is inclined to keep rookie Isaiah Briscoe in the Magic’s rotation as the backup point guard, Robbins reports in another tweet. Briscoe has averaged 17.5 MPG in the last two games, contributing 5.5 PPG and 3.5 APG. The undrafted Kentucky product has displaced Jerian Grant, who had been backing up D.J. Augustin. Briscoe’s salary is non-guaranteed after this season, while Grant could be an unrestricted free agent if the club doesn’t extend a $3.76MM qualifying offer.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Bamba, Heat

While it may be a little too early to determine with certainty whether the Hornets will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer suggests in his latest mailbag that he expects the team to be more focused on improving this season’s roster than acquiring future assets. However, they’re unlikely to take on much salary in any deal, since they’re only about $3.4MM below the luxury tax threshold, Bonnell notes.

If the Hornets were to fall out of the playoff picture, they could explore the trade market for 2019 free-agents-to-be like Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky, per Bonnell. However, it would require a major slump to slip out of the playoff race in the East, where the ninth-seeded Heat have an 11-16 record.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • While the Wizards were something of a third wheel in last week’s trade that primarily featured the Cavaliers and Bucks, their involvement shouldn’t be overlooked. Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington explored the impact of Jason Smith‘s departure on the locker room and on Smith himself, while Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington spoke to Sam Dekker about becoming a Wizard.
  • Mohamed Bamba sat out the Magic‘s most recent game on Monday after violating team rules, head coach Steve Clifford said, per ESPN.com. “It’s just bad on my part, and I need to be better. I’ve got to be on time,” Bamba said. He’s expected to return to Orlando’s lineup on Thursday night against Chicago.
  • In a pair of articles for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman explores whether the Heat will be able to continue to find enough minutes and opportunities for both Justise Winslow and Derrick Jones if and when their roster is fully healthy.

Eastern Notes: Nets, Bamba, Griffin

Joe Harris, who re-signed with the Nets on a two-year, $16MM deal this past offseason, is helping Brooklyn play a better offensive game, Tom Dowd of NBA.com writes. The team’s shooting has helped keep the paint open and entering Tuesday, the Nets led the league in drives per game.

“Just because the spacing that we have, even with Jarrett [Allen] being able to step out and pose a threat at the 3-point line to open stuff up, we’ve just got to do a better job making the correct reads where, the drive is there, obviously we’re taking it,” said Harris. “But if they’re not and they’re contested, especially against these heavy shift teams, we’ve got to get off it and move the ball quicker. Where we’ve gotten ourselves in trouble is getting in there, turning it over versus getting in there, making the right pass, making the simple pass and moving it from good shots to great shots.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Shabazz Napier is expected to make his debut for the Nets on Wednesday against the Cavs, Dowd relays in the same piece. “[Napier] looked good in practice yesterday, so that’s a good sign,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Don’t expect big minutes from him, but we’ll build him up. I think he’ll be that sparkplug. I think it gives us something defensively. He creates turnovers. He’s a ball-pressure guy. He gets into guys. He’s fast. And offensively he can give you a punch and come off and get 10 points in 10 minutes. His experience, right? NBA experience. He’ll help us.”
  • The Magic envision Mohamed Bamba becoming Orlando’s version of Joel Embiid down the road, Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes. “I said to [team president Jeff Weltman],” Hammond recalled, “‘It’s going to be interesting to see in about five years from now.’ He’s not as naturally big and thick as Joel, but just see who he is five years from now. He’s going to look a lot different. We just have to have a lot of patience.”
  • Blake Griffin has emerged as a leader for the Pistons, Keith Langlois of NBA.com contends. Coach Dwane Casey applauded Griffin’s mental toughness after a recent win, comparing the power forward to Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, and Dirk Nowitzki. Casey will likely have even kinder words for his star after Griffin put up 50 points on the Sixers on Tuesday, scoring the final bucket to win to the game.

Southeast Rumors: Bamba, Vucevic, McGruder, Melvin

Magic lottery pick Mohamed Bamba will come off the bench and have his minutes monitored, John Denton of the team’s website reports. Coach Steve Clifford doesn’t feel the 20-year-old 7-footer is ready to jump into the lineup any time soon. “I want him to play 82 (games), and he’s going to be out there and playing quality minutes,” Clifford said. “But he’s just not ready to play starter’s minutes against starting players. (A reserve role) is a big part of how you bring a player along. He’s in a role that’s ideal for him.” The unspecified minutes restriction is designed to have him “playing his best in March and April,” Clifford added.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic can be expected to do their due diligence and gauge starting center Nikola Vucevic’s trade value, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Vucevic is in his walk year and will enter unrestricted free agency in July. Vucevic doesn’t fit president Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond’s desire for length and versatility, Scotto adds.
  • Rodney McGruder and Derrick Jones Jr. have been effective as starters during the first two games, which further complicates the long-range plan for the Heat’s rotation, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. With Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington currently sidelined, finding enough playing time for rotation-worthy players hasn’t been an issue, Winderman continues. When those players return, Miami will have 13 players who arguably should be in the rotation, Winderman adds.
  • Former WNBA star Chasity Melvin has been named an assistant coach with the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate, according to a Swarm press release. Melvin, who played 12 WNBA seasons, is the first female coach in franchise history. She was hired through the NBA Assistant Coaches Program.

Southeast Notes: MKG, Bamba, Whiteside, Bridges

Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will not play in the team’s preseason game on Tuesday, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. This is at least the second time in his career that Kidd-Gilchrist has suffered a concussion. He endured one during his rookie season in 2013. When Kidd-Gilchrist returns, his role will change, Bonnell notes. New coach James Borrego will play him primarily at power forward and he’ll likely be on the second unit.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic’s Steve Clifford has been impressed by how rookie big man Mohamed Bamba has picked up the coach’s schematic concepts, John Denton of the team’s website reports. Bamba, the No. 6 overall pick, made his preseason debut on Monday. “He said, `I’m watching this game and all I’m looking at are what their coverages are like and what they’re running for offense,’” Clifford told Denton. “People can get excited about (Bamba’s) length and that shows his physical talent, but he’s a smart guy. And I do think he has a real affection for the game.”
  • Heat center Hassan Whiteside will struggle to get enough playing time regardless of how well he plays, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines in his latest mailbag. If Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo receive rotation minutes, Whiteside will have to make do with fewer minutes than he’s played in the past. When  James Johnson returns from a sports hernia that has limited him to non-contact drills in practice, getting Whiteside adequate playing time will be even more difficult, Winderman adds.
  • Rookie Miles Bridges has played all three frontcourt positions during the team’s two preseason games, Bonnell notes in a separate story. He is averaging 16.5 PPG while shooting 59% from the field. “He picks things up quicker than I anticipated,” Borrego said. “His feel for the NBA game is much higher than I thought. He’s starting to figure out rhythm, screening action, terminology.”

Southeast Notes: Rivers, Heat, Bamba

When the Wizards exiled big man Marcin Gortat, they did more than simply shed the 34-year-old’s contract, they filled a void that they’ve had for some time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. The addition of backup combo guard Austin Rivers should alleviate some of the workload on Bradley Beal.

Beal logged the fourth most minutes in the NBA last season but ran out of gas for the Wizards late in the season. Rivers will also slot in behind John Wall at the point, providing capable support at both backcourt positions.

For the addition to work, Rivers will have to change his game slightly. For instance, he’ll have to tone down the volume shooting as part of a larger, competitive Wizards team.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat will bring back their “captain”, 38-year-old Udonis Haslem, for the 2018/19 season. Now, an Associated Press report states, he’ll get to work convincing Dwyane Wade to join him in fending off retirement. “My mindset has always been for us to finish it together,” Haslem said. “I want us to do a whole season together. Experience the road, dinner on the road, go through that whole process. I want us to experience that together.” Wade, of course, played half of last season with the Cavaliers after initially leaving Miami for the Bulls in the summer of 2016.
  • The Magic are expected to open the season with Nikola Vucevic as their starting center, team scribe John Denton writes, but the club will make sure that Mohamed Bamba has plenty of time to demonstrate his potential. According to Denton, the rookie has already “greatly impressed” the squad with the improvement he’s made since the end of the NCAA season.
  • The Heat have a number of options that Erik Spoelstra will need to mix and match in order to fill his frontcourt. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in a mailbag with readers that he views Kelly Olynyk as a change-of-pace backup center behind Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson as the club’s power forward.

Southeast Notes: Waiters, Fournier, Adebayo, Howard

In order to improve upon their 2017/18 campaign without having made any significant changes this offseason, the Heat had better hope that Dion Waiters, who missed 52 games last season, becomes this season’s Victor Oladipo, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

There are some unquestionable similarities between Oladipo and Waiters. As Winderman notes, both were traded from Oklahoma City, both were top five selections in their respective drafts, and both are now playing for their third NBA franchise.

“You can never predict anything in this league,” Riley said. “You look at what happened last year to Indiana and how good they became getting [Domantas] Sabonis and Oladipo, how they changed, how their mentality changed. They made some good additions. Very few people talk about them.”

Per Winderman, it’s that type of under-the-radar approach from Riley that has defined the Heat’s offseason thus far. Riley seemingly believes that his team is good enough to complete already.

“One thing we have going for us is we have familiarity, we have continuity,” Riley said. “There is a system that’s been intact here. (And) not having Dion Waiters play hardly at all, you’ve got to give it another shot. You can’t just keep ripping things up every year and changing your roster.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

Magic Likely Done In Free Agency

After re-signing Aaron Gordon to his four-year, $76MM deal, using part of their mid-level exception to reach agreements with rookies Melvin Frazier and Isaiah Briscoe, and adding a reliable backup point guard in Jerian Grant to spell incumbent starting point guard D.J. Augustin, the Magic are likely finished adding players to their roster through free agency this summer, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“We’re in a pretty good place with our financial flexibility, all things considered, but the roster is done as we sit here today,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman says. “We don’t feel like there are any holes that we need to shore up. We can always get better, and we’ll always be on the lookout for ways to get better. At this point, that would come probably more in the form of a trade if we were to do anything for the remainder of the summer.”

The Magic are currently projected to have a team salary around $110.9MM, assuming the team retains the services of backup guard Rodney Purvis, whose $1.4MM salary is non-guaranteed. Per Robbins, Orlando will also look to fill its open slots for two-way contracts and could bring in additional players on training camp deals.

The statement from Weltman all but puts to rest the speculation surrounding Isaiah Thomas, who was reported to be “negotiating a possible deal” with the Magic last week. Per Robbins, Orlando considered Thomas, but negotiations never took place, as the club believes Augustin is fully capable of leading this year’s squad.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve our roster at every position, but we are in capable hands with D.J.,” Weltman said. “D.J. is a very good player and he’s coming off the best year of his career under trying circumstances. D.J. represents what we want to be about: a professional who prepares, who plays for his teammates and who always brings the same personality to the team irrespective of the highs and lows of the season.”

Weltman also added that newly-acquired center Timofey Mozgov is not currently a candidate to be bought out, despite likely being buried on the depth chart behind Nikola Vucevic and heralded rookie Mohamed Bamba. Rather, the team hopes Mozgov will impact the team off the court through his experience and professionalism.

Should the Magic change their mind and decide to re-enter the free-agent fray, they still have nearly $7MM of their mid-level exception remaining after signing both Frazier and Briscoe to deals exceeding two seasons.