Michael Carter-Williams

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.”

Southeast Notes: Anthony, MCW, Aminu, Beal, Heat

With Markelle Fultz already out for the season due to a torn ACL, the Magic continue to have a hard time keeping their point guards healthy. Rookie Cole Anthony is the latest to have to deal with a health issue, as he was diagnosed with a shoulder strain following Tuesday’s loss to Portland.

As Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details, the injury is muscular, so Anthony didn’t require an MRI. It also doesn’t sound too significant, as the rookie hasn’t yet been ruled out for Thursday’s contest vs. Golden State — he’s listed as questionable.

In another piece of relatively positive news for the Magic, veteran point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who has been on the shelf since January 4 due to a left foot sprain, has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game (Twitter link). While there’s no guarantee that both Anthony and Carter-Williams will be in action tonight, it doesn’t sound like either player is far off.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu returned on Tuesday after missing over a year due to knee problems. While the plan was for him to play in both halves of that game, he was ruled out of the second half after experiencing some hamstring tightness, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Like Anthony and MCW, Aminu is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.
  • Speaking to Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports, agent Mark Bartelstein explained why his client – Wizards star Bradley Beal – has no desire to be dealt despite his team’s struggles. “He doesn’t want to quit on something,” Bartelstein said. “He’s an incredibly loyal guy, and he wants to always feel like he’s done everything he can to help something or someone be successful. It’s the way he was raised and what his values are based upon. … It’s the team that drafted him, the team that’s invested in him, and he desperately wants to make them a championship contender.” Beal will miss Friday’s game vs. New York due to rest, the Wizards announced today (via Twitter).
  • The Heat will play their next seven games on the road, but when they eventually return home on February 24, they’ll increase the fan capacity at AmericanAirlines Arena to roughly 3,000 people, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Al-Farouq Aminu Practices, May Play Tuesday

Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu was able to fully participate in a team practice today and may even return to the floor tomorrow for the first time this season against the Trail Blazers, per head coach Steve Clifford (Twitter link via Josh Robbins of The Athletic).

Aminu been unavailable since tearing his right meniscus on November 29, 2019 in a 90-83 loss to the Raptors. The 30-year-old is on the second season of a three-year, $29MM contract he inked with the Magic in the summer of 2019.

The versatile 6’8″ forward has appeared in just 18 games for Orlando during his tenure with the club. Aminu holds career averages of 7.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2, and 1.0 SPG.

An Aminu return would be a huge on-court boon for the Magic. Orlando is dealing with a rash of injuries, including to starting forwards Jonathan Isaac (out for the season with a torn left ACL) and Aaron Gordon. (out for the next 3-5 weeks with a left ankle sprain).

Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel tweets that Magic point guard Michael Carter-Williams participated in practice as well, though injured shooting guard Evan Fournier did not partake. A sprained left foot has rendered Carter-Williams unavailable since January 4. Fournier has been struggling with back spasms intermittently throughout the 2020/21 season.

Magic Granted DPE For Fultz’s Injury

The NBA has granted the Magic a Disabled Player Exception worth approximately $6.14MM due to Markelle Fultz‘s season-ending injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The DPE will expire on April 19.

It’s the second DPE awarded to Orlando this season. The Magic were also granted a DPE following Jonathan Isaac‘s season-ending ACL tear. Fultz tore the ACL in his left knee early this month.

The DPE is a salary cap exception designed to allow teams to add a replacement for a player who suffers a season-ending injury. It’s worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. Fultz has a $12,288,697 salary this season.

The disabled player exception doesn’t give a team an extra roster spot, but it allows the club to add a player without requiring cap space to do so. It can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. However, it can only be used on one player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

The Magic currently have a full 15-man roster and are approximately $3MM away from the luxury tax line. However, guard Michael Carter-Williams is dealing with a sprained left foot and is out indefinitely, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets, which might increase the odds of the Magic making a roster move.