Jonathan Isaac

Magic Notes: First-Round Loss, Wagner, Offseason, Cap Room

After blowing a Game 7 lead in Cleveland on Sunday in a game that ended their season, the Magic went home disappointed, but viewed the loss with a mature, even-keeled perspective, as Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel writes.

“It doesn’t define us,” said second-year forward Paolo Banchero, who averaged a team-high 27.0 points per game in the seven-game series. “This is our first time in the playoffs. I’m just proud of how we played, and I know we’ll be back.”

“I walked in the locker room, and I said, ‘It sucks,'” head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters, including Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “It does — not to get the game, knowing what you were capable of doing, to be up 18, to feel you (had) a chance to close out and not get it done. It doesn’t feel good. And, then in the same breath, you have to put it all into perspective. Sometimes these painful things are blessings in disguise.”

The Magic had missed the playoffs for three straight seasons prior to 2023/24 and this year’s young team – led by Banchero and third-year forward Franz Wagner – was considered unlikely to make a deep postseason run. So the fact that Orlando took the Cavaliers to seven games and outplayed them for much of the series should be viewed as a positive development rather than a letdown that the team didn’t go further. The Magic’s players said they intend to build off the experience.

“We won’t be walking into next season’s playoffs and have people questioning our ability to have done it before,” Jonathan Isaac said. “We took a good team to a Game 7 and we’ll be able to have that chip on our shoulder leading into next season.”

“This was a great year,” Cole Anthony added, according to Matt Murschel of The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required). “We set goals and accomplished our goals. Was it the outcome that we wanted? Obviously not, but we’ve got to look at the positives. We’ve got to take those and build on top of that for the summer and into next season.”

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • It was a brutal Game 7 on Sunday for Wagner, who scored just six points on 1-of-15 shooting and missed all five of his three-point attempts. He took the loss hard and said he felt like he “let my team down a little bit,” according to Robbins, but Banchero came to his teammate’s defense. “We’re not here without Franz,” Banchero said (Twitter link via Beede). “… He’s going to have a great summer. He’s going to get better. Just knowing him, I know he’s going to use this to motivate him and take it to another level. I don’t think he let anybody down. Sometimes it happens.”
  • Armed with a significant chunk of cap room, how can the Magic continue to improve this summer? ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link), Mark Deeks of HoopsHype, and Robbins and Danny Leroux of The Athletic each explore that topic, previewing the offseason in Orlando. While adding shooting is a priority, the Magic could also use a facilitator who can create easier shots for Banchero and Wagner, Marks writes. Additionally, the team faces important decisions on the non-guaranteed salaries of Isaac ($17.4MM) and Joe Ingles ($11MM) — letting go of one or both players, perhaps in an effort to try to bring them back at a lower price, would substantially increase Orlando’s cap room.
  • Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman didn’t offer many hints about how the team intends to use its cap room this summer, suggesting that it could be used in trades or on draft night as well as in free agency, per Murschel of The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required). The goal is to use it “wisely and with future planning in mind,” according to Weltman, who indicated there are at least three cornerstone players Orlando intends to build around. “We don’t want to lose the North Star of our team, which is our three leading scorers (Banchero, Wagner and Jalen Suggs) who are 22 and under,” said Weltman. “A lot of good things happened to our team this year. Now it’s up to us to earn our way into repeating that.”

Cavs’ Jarrett Allen, Magic’s Gary Harris Out For Game 6

Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen will miss a second consecutive game on Friday due to his right rib contusion, having been ruled out for Game 6 in Orlando, writes Chris Fedor of According to Fedor, Allen participated in this morning’s shootaround and had hoped to play, but he’s still having trouble lifting his arm, with certain movements causing pain.

“It’s the same thing. It’s his safety, always,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff of Allen’s status during his pregame media session. “When you have an injury to your core, your ability to change directions, get out of the way, move freely and play in the trenches like he does. We will always look out for Jarrett.”

Allen dominated the first two games of the series, averaging 16.0 points and 19.0 rebounds in a pair of Cavaliers wins. He put up solid numbers (18.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG) in Games 3 and 4 as well, but Cleveland was outscored by 30 points during his time on the court after outscoring Orlando by 22 during his minutes in the first two games.

The Cavs managed to pull out a victory at home on Tuesday without Allen to take a 3-2 lead in the series, as fellow big man Evan Mobley stepped up to provide 14 points, 13 rebounds, and a game-saving block. He’ll man the middle again on Friday with Allen still on the shelf.

While Isaac Okoro took Allen’s spot in the starting unit in Game 5, it’ll be Marcus Morris who gets the start in Game 6 next to Mobley, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, and Max Strus, according to Fedor.

On the other side of the ball, veteran swingman Gary Harris, who has started the first five games of the first round, will be unavailable due to a right hamstring strain, the team announced (Twitter link).

Harris hasn’t produced big postseason numbers, but Orlando won his minutes in four consecutive contests from Games 2 through 5. He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by Jonathan Isaac, creating a super-sized frontcourt alongside Wendell Carter, Paolo Banchero, and Franz Wagner to complement point guard Jalen Suggs.

Magic Notes: Banchero, Isaac, Carter, Suggs

The Magic shot a dismal 34.3% from the floor during their two losses in Cleveland to open their first-round series, then got off to an ominous start on Thursday in Game 3, missing their first eight field goal attempts.

However, as Kendra Andrews of ESPN details, the shots eventually started falling for Orlando, which ultimately had one of the best offensive playoff performances in team history. The Magic blew out the Cavaliers by a score of 121-83 for their first home playoff win since 2011.

“Give credit to us being home and backed by the fans,” forward Paolo Banchero said. “Starting your first two playoff games on the road in that environment was tough for everybody … Being home just calms you down.”

As Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes, it was a big night for Banchero, one of several young Magic players who are competing in the playoffs for the first time. Last season’s Rookie of the Year racked up a game-high 31 points and 14 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action as Orlando ran away with Game 3.

“He’s a winner,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said of Banchero. “That’s who he is. We challenged them today to go after some more rebounds, and he did it. That’s the thing about him: He’s going to find whatever way necessary to help his team win.”

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • After starting Jonathan Isaac alongside Banchero and Franz Wagner in the frontcourt in the first two games of the series, Mosley inserted center Wendell Carter in Isaac’s place for Game 3. “You’ve gotta try something new,” Mosley replied before the game when asked about the adjustment (Twitter link via Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel). “You drop two. You’ve gotta change it up.”
  • The starting lineup change was an effective one. While Carter only had two points and five rebounds on the night, Orlando outscored Cleveland by 19 points in his 25 minutes of action. Banchero credited Carter for helping the Magic control the glass — after being out-rebounded 102-81 in the first two games, Orlando grabbed 51 boards to Cleveland’s 32 in Game 3. “We thought we had been playing pretty good defense but we had been giving up way too many rebounds. We really wanted to put an emphasis on neutralizing their bigs, keeping them off the boards and I think Wendell Carter was a huge part of that,” Banchero said, per Andrews.
  • Jalen Suggs showed no ill effects from the injury scare he sustained in Game 2. Suggs scored 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting and was deployed as the primary defender on Donovan Mitchell. He was a +25 in his 28 minutes on the court. “What we did tonight was special,” said Suggs, one of two Magic youngsters – along with Wagner – who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.
  • In an entertaining and in-depth profile for ESPN, Tyler R. Tynes looks at the growth Banchero has shown since being drafted first overall in 2023 and his importance to the organization. “We call him The Franchise because he is The Franchise. We’re just the supporting cast,” Cole Anthony told ESPN. “Man, he had 23 a game for most of the year. And until Wendell got his rebounding up, he was leading our team in every statistical category except steals. That’s what you call a franchise.”

Wolves’ Naz Reid Named Sixth Man Of The Year

Timberwolves big man Naz Reid has been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for the 2023/24 season, the league announced on Wednesday evening (via Twitter).

A former undrafted free agent, Reid averaged 13.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 0.9 BPG on .477/.414/.736 shooting in 81 games this season (24.2 MPG).

Reid is the first player in Timberwolves franchise history to win the Sixth Man award, per a team press release.

The 24-year-old was a major reason why Minnesota didn’t skip a beat when Karl-Anthony Towns was sidelined with a knee injury late in the season. The Wolves went 14-6 without Towns and 56-26 overall, good for the No. 3 seed in the West.

The voting was remarkably close (Twitter link via the NBA). In fact, it was the smallest margin between first- and second-place finishers since the current voting format was implemented 21 years ago, according to the league (via Twitter).

Reid finished with 45 first-place votes, 39 second-place votes and 10 third-place votes for a total of 352 points. Runner-up Malik Monk had the exact same number of second- and third-place votes, but finished with two fewer first-place votes for 342 total points.

Kings guard Monk appeared in 72 games this season for Sacramento, all off the bench. He averaged 15.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 5.1 APG on .443/.350/.829 shooting in 26.0 MPG.

Bucks big man Bobby Portis, who finished third in Sixth Man voting last season, finished a distant third again in ’23/24, receiving 81 total points. He averaged 13.8 PPG and 7.4 RPG on .508/.407/.790 shooting without missing a game this season for Milwaukee (24.5 MPG).

Clippers wing Norman Powell (65 points) and Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (40 points) finished fourth and fifth in voting, respectively. No other player received more than three points.

Powell actually received the most third-place votes of any player, but fewer first- and second-place votes than Portis, which is why he finished behind Milwaukee’s forward/center.

Jose Alvarado, Russell Westbrook, T.J. McConnell, Jonathan Isaac, Jaime Jaquez, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Bojan Bogdanovic all received at least one vote.

Central Notes: Allen, Lillard, Rivers, Giannis, Pacers

Jarrett Allen has been a dominant force in the Cavaliers’ first two playoff games against the Magic. He’s averaging 16 points in the first-round series, while his 38 total rebounds are just 11 fewer than the 49 Orlando’s entire starting lineup has grabbed, Joe Vardon of The Athletic notes. Magic defensive star Jonathan Isaac only played 19 minutes in Game 2 due to Allen’s superiority.

The Cavaliers’ center has drawn extra motivation from his postseason clunker against the Knicks last season.

“He’s a prideful individual,” Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell said. “And I think that the way it happened last year, you could see it’s a motivating thing. I think it goes without saying. I think he’s shown it himself to us all season. I had no doubt that this is who he would be.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Damian Lillard erupted for 35 points in Game 1 of the Bucks’ first-round series against the Pacers. The longtime All-Star guard was itching to get back into the postseason after a two-year absence with Portland, Jamal Collier of ESPN writes. “The last two years not being in the playoffs, it (stunk),” Lillard said. “Early vacations. Last year, I went to Coachella. I ain’t never been able to go to Coachella. Just having that long summer, I was over that. Being able to be in a playoff series on a championship team, championship organization, knowing that we got an opportunity for it, that was the thing I was looking forward to most.”
  • Lillard and coach Doc Rivers had dinner together last Wednesday, where the main topic of conversation was boxing, not basketball. There’s a strong bond between coach and player, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “We’ve connected,” Lillard said. “I’ve always respected how he goes about being a coach. He says what’s unpopular. He’s not afraid to address s–t and I’m a fan of that. I like addressing the elephant in the room, the uncomfortable situations. My family, that’s how it’s always been. That’s how you move past stuff and grow. So I like that that has always been his style. He challenges the best players, in front of everybody. I think that’s how you get the most out of the team.”
  • Not surprisingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t play in Game 2 this evening, the team tweets. The Bucks superstar had been listed as doubtful due to a calf injury suffered late in the regular season.
  • The Pacers got a big-time wake-up call in Game 1, scoring a season-low in points against a perennial playoff contender, Kelly Iko of The Athletic notes. “The first half was embarrassing,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “No excuses. We simply have got to come out better. It was ugly, and we all own it. … They looked like the experienced team. We looked inexperienced. That led to a lot of problems early. You can talk about how different (the playoffs) are, but actually experiencing it is another thing. We were very poor and have to be way better.”

Magic Notes: Chippy Play, Fultz, Game 1 Flop, Lineup, Mosley

Game 1 between the Magic and Cavaliers had an edge to it and it could get even more chippier as the series goes along, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins opines. Orlando’s Markelle Fultz was assessed a Flagrant-1 foul and the Cavs’ Georges Niang received a technical foul for an altercation during the series opener.

“Either he was going to hit me first or I was going to hit him,” Fultz said. “So, I just took the initiative to body up, not trying to hurt nobody or anything like that but just deliver a hit, make it be known that we’re not soft.”

Cleveland’s Isaac Okoro received a technical foul for shoving Moritz Wagner during another incident.

“We love that stuff,” Magic guard Cole Anthony said. “Especially for us, we’re a hard-nosed team. We want the game to be physical. So, I think that for us that works in our favor.”

We have more on the Magic:

  • The Magic tried to quickly move on from their 97-83 loss in Game 1, in which they shot a woeful 32.6% from the field. “It’s the first game,” center Wendell Carter said. “We don’t want to overreact to anything. The first game on the road, we got to see what kind of game they want to play. I think we’re good. I thought we did really good defensively. I think offensively we struggled. Holding a team under 100 is always a good defensive outing.”
  • There will be no changes to the starting lineup for Game 2 tonight, Robbins tweets. Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Jonathan Isaac will take the court for the opening tip.
  • In a subscriber-only piece, Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel details how Jamahl Mosley‘s methods propelled his team to the postseason, comparing and contrasting him to other recent first time head coaches who flopped on rebuilding teams.

Southeast Notes: Isaac, K. Thompson, Gill, Bridges

The Magic got to experience a playoff-style atmosphere on Friday in New York, and even though it didn’t turn out well, Jonathan Isaac believes it was a valuable lesson for his young teammates, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando was limited to a season-low 74 points, but Isaac said the physicality of the game and the raucous Madison Square Garden crowd are things his team needs to prepare for.

“Coach’s message after the game was that this was good for us to face this as a group,” Isaac said. “We didn’t get off to our best start, our best footing and that kind of set us behind for the rest of the game. Over the course of the game, we learned what playoff basketball is like. I’ve experienced it before and not everybody has. We know how to move going forward.”

Beede points out that Isaac is a major reason why the Magic are in the thick of the playoff race after finishing 13th in the East last year. He’s part of the team’s four best defensive five-man lineups and he  has been able to stay on the court, appearing in 43 games so far, which is the second-highest total of his seven-year career.

“It means I’m healthy,” Isaac said. “I look forward to continuing to play meaningful minutes in big games and keep moving forward. I’m not worried about injuries or looking back, or anything.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic expressed interest in acquiring Klay Thompson from the Warriors before last month’s trade deadline, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY. He notes that Thompson is heading toward free agency, and Orlando projects to have more than $30MM in cap room.
  • Anthony Gill was only on the court for 2:23 in Friday’s game, but he played an important role in helping the Wizards snap their 16-game losing streak, observes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports. Gill has done most of his work behind the scenes during his four years in Washington, Hughes adds, and teammates are thrilled any time the 31-year-old power forward gets a chance to contribute on the court. “I just want to continue to be a light to people,” he said. “This basketball world can seem kind of small sometimes and it can seem kind of isolated. This world can pull you in many different directions. I just always want to bring people back to really what matters and that’s being a good person overall. Everyone has it in them. I just want to consistently show that every single day.”
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford singled out Miles Bridges for his competitiveness tonight on the second game of a back-to-back (video link from Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer). Bridges has put together a strong bounce-back season after not playing last year and figures to be one of the most intriguing names on the free agent market.

Southeast Notes: J. Davis, Dawkins, Micic, Isaac

Wizards guard Johnny Davis has played in all three of the team’s games since the All-Star break, averaging 17.0 minutes in those contests. While that’s a modest role, it represents a significant uptick in minutes for the former 10th overall pick, who had averaged 7.9 MPG in 23 appearances prior to the break.

“It feels really good,” Davis said, per Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network. “I feel like I’ve been preparing myself and putting in the work for this opportunity. When I go out there, I just want to do what it takes to help my team win.”

While the sample size is small, Davis has underwhelmed offensively in those three games, making 3-of-15 shots (20.0%) from the floor and compiling more fouls (9) than points (6). The Wizards also have an atrocious -31.9 net rating during his 51 minutes on the floor. Still, interim head coach Brian Keefe suggested he’s encouraged by what he’s seen on defense from Davis, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday on Tuesday.

“I thought he was great,” Keefe said after Davis spent some time guarding Cavs stars Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland on Sunday. “He got caught with one foul when he went for the pump fake, but other than that, Johnny’s been great. The last three games, his defense has been great. His defensive rebounding has been great. He brings great energy. That’s kind of the role we envision for him. He’s been a positive on the defensive end.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Wizards general manager Will Dawkins spoke to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman about how his time in the Thunder’s front office prepared him for a larger role in Washington and the lessons he learned in Oklahoma City that he has taken with him to D.C.
  • Vasilije Micic didn’t play much in Oklahoma City this season as an NBA rookie, but he has taken on a rotation role since being sent to the Hornets in the Gordon Hayward trade and has made an impression on new head coach Steve Clifford, according to Eurohoops. “He’s a talented player,” Clifford said of the former EuroLeague MVP. “His awareness and feel for the game are really exceptional. There’s still newness to us. The more organized we get offensively, the better he’ll play.” Micic has averaged 9.7 points and 6.0 assists in 22.2 minutes per game for the Hornets, who have gone 5-1 since his debut for the club.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac has been ruled out for Tuesday’s game vs. Brooklyn due to a left knee strain, but he’s relieved that his MRI showed no significant issues and thinks he could be back in action on Thursday, per Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter video link). “I’m definitely still a little sore, so just kind of taking it day by day there, but I don’t foresee this being a multiple-game injury,” Isaac said.

Injury Notes: Paul, Santos, Simmons, Isaac, Sasser

Future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul is not listed on the Warriorsinjury report for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Wizards, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. That means the 38-year-old will be active for tomorrow’s game, which will be his first contest since January 5.

Paul has been sidelined for most of the past two months after fracturing his left hand, which required surgery. While he was mentioned in several rumors leading up to the trade deadline, the Warriors decided to keep him for the home stretch of the 2023/24 season.

In his first season with Golden State, the 11-time All-NBA point guard has averaged 8.9 PPG, 7.2 APG, 3.8 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .424/.361/.833 shooting in 32 games (27.6 MPG), mostly off the bench (11 starts).

Here are a few more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • The lone member of the Warriors who is on tomorrow’s injury report is rookie Gui Santos, who is out with right knee inflammation. According to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link), the Brazilian forward had an MRI, which showed no structural damage. Santos thinks he could return at some point next week, Poole adds.
  • Nets guard Ben Simmons injured his leg in Saturday’s loss to Minnesota, which saw him exit the game in the third quarter. However, the issue seems to be a minor one, as he’s questionable for Monday’s contest vs. Memphis with left leg soreness, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Simmons has only played 14 games in 2023/24, mostly due to a nerve impingement in his lower back. It’s worth noting that he missed one game last month with a left knee injury, though it’s unclear if the two issues are related.
  • Another oft-injured player, Magic big man Jonathan Isaac, underwent an MRI on his left knee/leg, but it revealed “no significant injuries,” the team announced (via Twitter). The defensive stalwart is questionable for Tuesday’s contest vs. Brooklyn with a left knee strain. Isaac was limited to two minutes of action in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta due to the injury.
  • Pistons guard Marcus Sasser will be reevaluated in one week after sustaining a knee contusion, tweets Keith Langlois of The former Houston Cougar has had an impressive rookie season for Detroit, averaging 7.7 PPG and 3.0 APG on .468/.424/.850 shooting in 50 games off the bench (16.3 MPG). Sasser was the 25th overall pick of last year’s draft.

Southeast Notes: Rozier, Hornets, Isaac, Keefe

Even though Terry Rozier hadn’t won with the Heat until Wednesday night, he has noticed a sharp contrast between Miami and his former team, according to Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Rozier, who dropped 18 of his last 21 games with Charlotte before being traded last week, said the Hornets don’t place the same emphasis on winning that the Heat do.

“It’s the total opposite,” Rozier stated. “In Charlotte, you’re kind of used to losing. It’s in the DNA… Over here, it’s the total opposite. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody is fine with it. … This organization, when you lose, it bothers them.”

Although Rozier’s comments sound like an insult to the Hornets, his ex-coach and former teammates don’t seem upset about them, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Steve Clifford believes Rozier was referring to the added pressure to win that exists in Miami, while Miles Bridges said his team should use Rozier’s analysis as inspiration.

“I mean, he’s not wrong,” Bridges said. “I’m not saying we’ve got losing DNA, but the way that we’ve been taking losses and … I wouldn’t say we are getting used to it, but it’s like we are just moving on. We are not really taking it that serious. We’ve got to take it serious, man. Terry is getting a lot of backlash for what he said, but he’s been in the locker room. He’s been a vet in this locker room and he sees what’s going on. So, we’ve just got to turn that into motivation.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets guard LaMelo Ball missed his third straight game Wednesday and is considered day-to-day with soreness in his right ankle, Boone adds. Gordon Hayward, who hasn’t played since straining his left calf on December 26, has started doing individual basketball activities, but there’s no timetable for his return. Mark Williams is trying to recover from a lower back contusion, but Boone considers it unlikely that he’ll return before the All-Star break if he isn’t cleared to resume team activities soon.
  • The Magic continue to be careful with Jonathan Isaac, who played just eight minutes Monday on the second night of a back-to-back, tweets Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters that the team’s approach with Isaac is focused on “the long game more than this moment right now.”
  • The Wizards have been invigorated under interim coach Brian Keefe, with a rare two-game winning streak earlier this week, per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Wallace notes that players have responded to Keefe’s direct style. “In film, if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. There’s no conversation about it,” Landry Shamet said. “[Keefe’s] a black-and-white guy: ‘This is what we should have been doing, and this is what we did. Here’s the divide.’ And that’s incredibly important as a coach and a leader. It’s been great.”