Aaron Gordon badly wanted to play in the postseason. How badly?
“I can tell you that he would have played on one leg if we’d allowed him,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman told reporters on Monday.
A one-legged Gordon might have been better in Game 5 than his replacement Gary Clark (1 point on 0-for-4 shooting in 24 minutes). But Weltman said Gordon never quite reached a point where the Magic could clear him to play.
“AG was bouncing off the walls, man,” Weltman said. “That guy wanted to play so badly. Every day we would practice, he would have his own kind of regiment on the sideline with our performance staff and just try to ramp him up a little more. Sprinting, jumping off one leg, sliding, put him into some semi-live situations. And it just wasn’t quite there.”
Gordon suffered a strained hamstring in Orlando’s third seeding game against the Raptors. Kyle Lowry hit Gordon’s arm during a drive to the basket and AG landed awkwardly. Lowry was called for a flagrant foul and the two later exchanged words. Gordon soon exited the game, and eventually the bubble.
“He just can’t run or sprint up and down the court,” Clifford recently told reporters. “Then the other concern is, because of the nature of the injury, the one thing we’re being very careful with is we don’t want something to happen where he compensates and injures something else or ends up with a significant injury.”
Still, it sounds as if Gordon was willing to take the risk that the Magic wouldn’t.
“Those are tough situations,” Weltman said Monday. “Especially when guys really go thorough the whole season and really much of your career to be in those moments, to play in those games, and then to have that right in front of you and not be able to take part, it was tough.”