Nikola Vucevic

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Heat, Hawks, Vucevic

Magic center Mohamed Bamba is eager to leave his coronavirus difficulties in the past after having to depart Orlando early due to complications from the virus, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Bamba underwent a comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation after leaving Orlando, with results indicating that he’s on the right track to recovery, Parry notes. He’s since been cleared to return to basketball activities, which includes shooting and running.

“It’s kind of tricky because we’re in the offseason, so I’m not sure what 5-on-5 is going to look like,” Bamba said, recognizing the uncertainty of doing full-contact work. “I’m really eager to hear back from the team what their vision for me is in the near future. We don’t even know when the season is going to start. … I’ll be ready.”

Bamba contracted the virus on June 11 and began experiencing issues related to his conditioning in Orlando. It was later determined that he should leave the campus and undergo additional tests for his safety, with the 22-year-old playing just 10 minutes across two games in the league’s restart.

“Absolutely. Getting all those tests done was probably the most important thing that I’ve done all year, besides vote,” he said. “It was really important. It’s a matter of just making sure that I’m taking care of my body and making sure I’m ruling out anything that could be harmful.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • In his latest mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel ponders whether the Heat should roll with their current roster moving forward. Miami currently owns the best postseason record in the NBA at 7-1, with the team’s Game 5 against Milwaukee coming on Tuesday.
  • In his own mailbag, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines a number of topics related to the Hawks, including the rising expectations for head coach Lloyd Pierce and what will happen if the team fails to make the playoffs next year. Atlanta is set to sport a core consisting of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela and a number of young players next season, including the No. 6 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic earned redemption after a record-setting first-round playoff series against the Bucks, Parry writes in a separate story for the Orlando Sentinel. Vucevic averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds in five games, shooting 51% from the field and 40% from deep — a noticeable improvement from last year’s dismal first-round performance against the Raptors. “He’s been inside and outside,” coach Steve Clifford said of Vucevic. “He’s done it all. He creates so much offense for our team and he puts so much pressure on the defense because of the nature of how he plays.”

Nikola Vucevic To Return This Afternoon

Magic officials have stated that center Nikola Vucevic has been ruled active and available to suit up today against the Pelicans for the first time in 11 games, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Vucevic had been inactive since suffering a right ankle sprain in a 113-97 loss to the Raptors on November 20th.

Additionally, head coach Steve Clifford tells Robbins that Vucevic will face a minutes restriction, in accordance with the wishes of the team’s sports medicine specialists.

“(High performance director) David (Tenney) will watch him. (Head trainer) Earnest (Eugene) will watch him,” Clifford said, per The Orlando Sentinel’s Roy Parry (Twitter link). “He won’t play his regular minutes, but he’s going to play significant number, too.”

Vucevic, 29, was Orlando’s best player during the 2018/19 season, and received his first All-Star nod as the team went 42-40. They were defeated 4-1 in the first round of the 2019 playoffs by the eventual champion Raptors. It was Clifford’s first year on the sidelines with the Magic. Orlando is currently the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference with an 11-14 record thus far this season.

Injury Updates: Fox, Kuzma, Gordon, Favors, Vucevic

Kings star guard De’Aaron Fox has been out since November 11 due to a Grade 3 left ankle sprain but he’s hopeful of returning next week, as he told Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee“I have more range of motion now than I did before I got hurt,” he said. “My left ankle has just never had that much range of motion, but since we’ve been pounding it hard and going at it so hard, it’s been a lot better than before I got hurt.”

We have more injury updates:

  • Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma hopes to return from a left ankle sprain sometime during the team’s current trip, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin tweets. The injury is unrelated to the stress reaction he suffered this summer, McMenamin adds. Kuzma suffered the injury on Sunday and has missed the last two games.
  • Pelicans power forward Derrick Favors, a potential trade candidate, had eight points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes against Philadelphia on Friday. He had not played since November 16 due to knee and back injuries and personal issues.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon has begun on-court running, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Gordon underwent knee surgery on November 13 with a projected six-week timetable. A return around Christmas remains in play, according to Feigen, though the plan is to gradually increase his workload and ease off as necessary.
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic could return on Sunday, John Denton of the team’s website relays. He missed his 11th consecutive game on Friday against Houston due to a right ankle injury. “I think he’s feeling better and hopefully he’ll be able to get through a practice (on Saturday) and still feel good,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “I think there’s a good chance he’ll play on Sunday.”

Southeast Notes: Vucevic, Wagner, Richman, Bridges

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is showing progress as he rehabs an ankle injury, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Vucevic’s post-shootaround session on Monday included more running, jump shooting and some contact work, Robbins continues, but he’s still feeling some discomfort on certain movements from the bone bruise. The right ankle ailment, which he suffered November 20, is expected to sideline the big man for at least four weeks. He missed his ninth consecutive game on Monday.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks called out second-year big man Moritz Wagner after the team’s loss to the Clippers on Sunday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. Wagner started the game but only played three minutes in the second half, mainly due to defensive lapses. “His head wasn’t in the game,” Brooks said. “When you’re a young player, you’ve gotta lock in. You have to do what we need to be done. We talked about it. We talked about it at halftime and he didn’t want to do it.”
  • The Wizards’ G League coach, Ryan Richman, is just 30 years old and they’re grooming him to be a head coach at the NBA level, Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. He was moved from Brooks’ staff to the Capital City Go-Go this season. “I don’t look at him as a good, young coach. He’s a good coach,” Brooks said. “He’s gonna lead that team and be a big part of our organization and change things up. And we’re all one.”
  • Hornets second-year player Miles Bridges has bounced back and forth between power forward and small forward this season and it’s been a tough adjustment defensively, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes. “We’re throwing a lot at him. He’s having to adjust on the fly,” coach James Borrego said. “On the defensive end, he has a different (tough) matchup every night. He’s got to bring the urgency. I’ve seen growth on the defensive end. On offense (averaging 12.6 points on 45% shooting) he’s been solid.”

Injury Updates: Winslow, Thomas, Middleton, Vucevic

Justise Winslow has been sidelined most of the month with a concussion but he’s closer to returning, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The Heat’s point forward is expected to practice on Tuesday. Winslow hasn’t played since November 5. He suffered the brain injury in a collision with Nuggets forward Paul Millsap. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Winslow formally remains in the protocol, Winderman adds.

We have more injury updates:

  • Raptors guard Matt Thomas has a fractured left middle finger and missed Monday’s game, Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press tweets. The rookie suffered the injury at Atlanta on Saturday. Thomas, a shooting guard out of Iowa State, is averaging 4.8 PPG in 11.3 MPG while making 53.8 percent of his 3-point attempts over 12 games.
  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton has gone through contact work in practice and played 5-on-5 as recently as Monday, coach Mike Budenholzer told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Middleton suffered a left thigh contusion on November 10th and was expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Budenholzer said Middleton might be ahead of the original timetable for his return.
  • Magic center Nikola Vucevic said his right ankle sprain is not as severe as he originally feared when he suffered the injury last Wednesday, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, he also has a bone bruise that will take some time to heal. He hasn’t been able to do any kind of running, Robbins adds. Vucevic is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks.

Southeast Notes: Spoelstra, Magic, Thomas, McRae

The NBA implemented a new coach’s challenge for the 2019/20 season, an addition that’s received mixed reviews among the league’s players, coaches and fans just one month into the campaign.

The feature is simple: To initiate the one-time, challenge, a head coach must call timeout and pursue review of a foul, out-of-bounds, goaltending or offensive interference call. While reviewing the play, the referees must see clear and conclusive visual evidence in order to overturn the ruling.

However, not all of the league’s 30 head coaches enjoy the new addition to the game.

“I don’t like it,” longtime Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the challenge, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “I’m an NBA basketball coach. I’m not an official, and I’m not trying to be an official.

“There are too many things to focus on. It doesn’t work like the NFL one. And I’m not bashing it to say I won’t be a part of it. We’ve challenged and won one. I’ll use it, but it’s distracting.”

Despite giving teams the option to challenge a potentially incorrect call, the addition of the coach’s challenge presents one clear problem: Slowing down a game that’s already been slowed enough by officiating in recent seasons, particularly toward the end of contests.

“I don’t know how that helps the flow,” Spoelstra said. “To me, it hurts the flow. It’s just another thing to focus on that’s distracting that has nothing to do with the game.

“For example, we had a game in Miami the other night and there was a bang-bang play, and it could have been called or not. I didn’t have a timeout to burn in that instance; I didn’t want to, like, gamble. And I see two fans going like this [motioning with a twirling finger]. That’s where we’re going? It’s like, I don’t know.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic provides injury updates on Magic players Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams. Gordon has a combination of a right ankle contusion and right ankle sprain, Robbins notes, though his injury is improving and he’s receiving around-the-clock treatment. Vucevic is also rehabbing from an ankle injury, though the 29-year-old is no longer in a walking boot. Carter-Williams did some stationary bike work on Saturday to continue rehab on a left hip injury.
  • Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas is confident that he’ll return to his old All-Star form, as relayed by Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington. “A lot of people have counted me out, especially the last couple of years,” Thomas said. “But I know what I’ve been through, I know what my body’s been through. I know how good I feel I know I’m ready and I know given the opportunity, I can play at an All-Star level again. And that’s what I’m gonna showcase…I promise you I’m gonna be an All-Star, I’m gonna be an All-NBA basketball player again.”
  • Jordan McRae is finally having his special moment with the Wizards, Fred Katz of The Athletic details. McRae missed the entire 2017/18 season due to a shoulder injury and is coming off an up-and-down campaign with Washington, but he’s starting to solidify his role on the team this year. “There’s not a better feeling in the world — unless you sign a max contract. That might be a little bit better,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s a great opportunity for Jordan. … But he still can’t relax. They always say the easiest thing is to make it. The hardest thing is to keep it. And he’s doing everything we ask. It’s good to have him back.”

Nikola Vucevic To Miss At Least Four Weeks With Ankle Injury

Magic center Nikola Vucevic is expected to be sidelined for at least the next four weeks due to a right ankle injury, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Vucevic turned his ankle during an awkward fall in the second quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors and was wearing a walking boot after the game. Although initial X-rays were negative, the Magic had their All-Star big man undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury.

It’s a tough blow for an Orlando team that is off to a slow start on offense this season and will now be missing one of its top two scorers for at least the next month or so. In Vucevic’s absence, Khem Birch and Mo Bamba should see increased roles in the middle.

We’re still waiting to hear whether Aaron Gordon, who also suffered a right ankle injury in Toronto on Wednesday, will miss time too. Gordon’s injury didn’t appear to be as serious as Vucevic’s, but the forward was expected to be re-evaluated today.

World Cup Notes: Japan, Montenegro, Top Players

Several more national basketball teams have announced their 12-man rosters for the 2019 World Cup in China, including Team Japan, which will be led by a pair of NBA players, per a FIBA announcement.

Former Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, who was selected ninth overall by the Wizards in this year’s draft, is the headliner. He’ll be joined by Grizzlies swingman Yuta Watanabe, who is on a two-way contract in Memphis.

The Montenegro national team, meanwhile, is light on NBA players, but does include one notable nameMagic center Nikola Vucevic, who earned his first All-Star nod in 2018/19, will represent Montenegro as the program attempts to make its way out a tough first-round group that features Brazil, New Zealand, and Greece.

Here’s more on the World Cup, including a couple more roster announcements:

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Chalmers, Isaac, Wall

The Heat will need to use Justise Winslow at either point guard or power forward to optimize their other main wing options, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines in his latest mailbag. Putting Winslow at the ‘one’ or ‘four’ would allow coach Erik Spoelstra to play rookie Tyler Herro and Dion Waiters more often with the team’s top player, Jimmy Butler. If Winslow ends up playing regularly at small forward, Spoelstra would have to choose between Herro and Waiters as a mainstay in the rotation, Winderman adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • A reunion between the Heat and point guard Mario Chalmers is unlikely at this point, Winderman writes in another mailbag post. Chalmers, 33, is aiming for an NBA comeback after playing in Italy last season. However, even if the Heat are interested, they’d have to release Kendrick Nunn in order to create a roster spot for Chalmers since the team is hard-capped, Winderman notes.
  • Entering his third season, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is brimming with optimism over his team’s future after it reached the playoffs last season. Isaac likes the team’s continuity after it re-signed key free agents Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, as he told John Denton of the team’s website. “We’re all hyped up for the season,’” he said. “And I’m sure as guys get together and start playing again, we’ll have more of those talks about, ‘Hey, we can go even farther than we did last (season).'”
  • The Wizards are closely monitoring John Wall‘s rehab process as he works his way back from a ruptured Achilles, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. They are even providing owner Ted Leonsis with daily progress reports. “I used to start my day reading the Washington Post. Now I start my day reading [and watching] my daily John Wall exercise video,” Leonsis told Hughes.

Southeast Notes: Gordon, Wizards, Miller

Aaron Gordon jumped on Sirius XM NBA Radio to talk about the Magic‘s NBA offseason and he portrayed optimism about Markelle Fultz‘s future with the club.

“[Fultz] is a sleeper. If he wakes up and if he’s awake and woken up, he’s a monster,” Gordon said.

Fultz, whose return to the court has yet to be determined, will have a chance to win the team’s starting point guard spot. Incumbent starter D.J. Augustin, who has one season left on his deal, and Michael Carter-Williams, who re-signed with Orlando on a one-year deal, will be the former No. 1 overall pick’s top competition for the role.

Orlando didn’t make major additions in the backcourt this offseason. The team re-signed a few members of its core (Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross) and brought in Al-Farouq Aminu with its mid-level exception. Gordon is excited about the addition of Aminu, as well as the continuity the team will experience next season.

“We got Al-Farouq, which is dope,” Gordon said. “[He’s] another 3-and-D guy. Tenacious, hard noise, long-defender and that’s the most beautiful thing. Nothing has changed from this year to last year.”

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines whether the Wizards can make a quick turnaround. Hughes argues that if Washington is going to contend sooner than later, the team needs its young talent to show improvement. That would increase each players’ trade value and give the Wizards an avenue to place an immediate difference maker next to Bradley Beal.
  • The Hawks have promoted Tori Miller to assistant GM of the College Park Skyhawks, according to the G League affiliate’s website. Miller spent the last two seasons as the Skyhawks’ Manager of Basketball Operations. She broke into the NBA as an intern with the Suns from 2014-16.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel envisions Pat Riley remaining with the Heat for the foreseeable future, as the scribe details in his latest mailbag. Winderman adds that Miami’s team president remains determined to get the team back to contention and the franchise’s young players are suited to help them achieve that goal.