With the Magic preparing to ramp things up for training camp, Steve Clifford gave some surprising updates on two key players.
Mo Bamba and Al-Farouq Aminu both remain “a ways away” from full participation and contact drills.
“When we start on Friday, the guys that won’t be cleared to do everything, to do contact: Farouq, Mo,” Clifford told reporters on Tuesday.
Bamba contracted COVID-19 in June and the virus had a lasting impact as he was unable to fully return to game shape while the Magic played in the NBA bubble. Bamba played a combined 10 minutes in the Magic’s first two games before getting DNPs over the final six games. He then then left the bubble shortly before the Magic’s first-round series against the Bucks for a post-coronavirus evaluation.
Now nearly six months since having the virus, Bamba remains unable to resume a normal NBA routine, though Clifford wouldn’t elaborate on the difficulties the 22-year-old center is having.
“Well right now we’re hoping that he can get healthy enough to get back on the floor,” Clifford said. “He’s going to be able to do some of the things early in camp, but he’s going to be limited. He’s had kind of a tough stretch here in terms of how much he been able to do. We have to be prudent, make sure we are moving along with him in an intelligent manner and try to get him on the floor as soon as we can.”
Asked later about the difficulties Bamba is facing, Clifford said: “There’s no real timetable for him to be able to come back and fully participate. I think that he’ll be able to do some things that are more organizational and everything. But he’s a ways away, these no timetable on his return. So, that’s where we’re at.”
As always, concern is first and foremost for Bamba the person over the player. The fact that the virus can have such a lasting impact on an otherwise healthy 22 year old, is just another example of how unpredictable and wide-ranging the effects can be.
Bamba last gave an update on his condition in September after he was cleared of long-term health issues and told he can resume workouts.
“I think if the doctors are concerned about anything they would have told me, but I’ve heard nothing but good news since I left the bubble.”
Jeff Weltman added at the time that while the doctors cleared Bamba of anything serious, it would take “months not weeks” to clear his system.
“Unfortunately for Mo, summers, offseason times, they’re just worth their weight in gold for young guys,” Weltman said in September. “You just can’t get anything more valuable to young players than offseason time and Mo just hasn’t had that. He didn’t have it last year, he’s now going to have to wait to start ramping up this time. I don’t know if it’s a concern, it just is what it is. Mo’s been dealt really a bad hand so far, you know, but the great thing about Mo is he keeps coming back, he keeps fighting, he keeps working through and he’s got a great attitude and approach.
“He’ll just have to forge ahead. He’s got great ability. He’s still just beginning his career. He’s in the infancy stages of his career. His body is filling out and he’s already shown flashes when he’s been given the chance of becoming a good player. So that’s just what he’ll have to deal with, and we’ll go through that with him. And we have every confidence that he’ll come out the other end being a very good player for a long time.”
Aminu suffered a torn meniscus in late-November. It brought an early end to his first season with the Magic, in which he struggled while playing 21 minutes per game. He averaged a career-low 4.3 points per game while shooting 29.1 percent from the field, including 25 percent from three.
But with Jonathan Isaac out for the 2020-2021 season, a healthy Aminu would be a welcome and valuable addition to the Magic frontcourt. Yet, after having surgery in early-January, Aminu is still recovering, although Clifford wouldn’t fully confirm or deny that he suffered a setback.
“He won’t be able to do contact in camp,” Clifford said. “There’s no timetable right now for him but he’s still a ways away.”