The end seemingly is near.
When Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier take the court against the Suns on Wednesday night, it could very well be for the final time as members of the Orlando Magic.
The two became a part of the Magic’s core in 2014, and in the years since, there has been a lot of losses and a lot of frustration, which Gordon highlighted on Tuesday as the reasons he requested a trade from the Magic. The two helped guide the Magic back to the postseason in 2019 for the first time since Dwight Howard’s departure in 2012, but outside of some thrilling Dunk Contest performances by Gordon and the occasional buzzer-beater by Fournier, there have been far fewer highs than lows during their tenure.
While many NBA rosters over the last seven years have been turned over repeatedly in that time, the Magic remained mostly in tact.
With Gordon expressing his desire to play elsewhere - though new reports suggest he is having second thoughts about that, which if true is probably in an attempt to better control his own destiny - and with Fournier set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, it seems more likely than ever that the Magic will undergo significant change prior to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. Not just with AG or Fournier, but also Khem Birch, James Ennis, Terrence Ross, or possibly even (though highly unlikely) Nikola Vucevic.
But again, this is the Orlando Magic and we’ve been down this road before. Trades have been expected and haven’t happened.
“I’m focused on tomorrow night,” Gordon said after Tuesday’sloss to the Nuggets. “As of right now I’m an Orlando Magic. I’ve been here for seven years, developed a home here, a sense of love and community here. So for as long as I have Orlando on my chest, Magic on my chest, I’m going to give it everything I have. So I’m focused on Phoenix tomorrow and getting that win.”
Getting that win won’t be easy. The Suns have won eight straight road games, giving them the best road record in the NBA at 14-5. Sitting in second place in the Western Conference, the Suns have won 21 of their last 26 games overall. They’ll take on a Magic team that has now dropped 11 of their last 12 games, and will be playing shorthanded in the second night of a back-to-back with trade rumors surrounding key players.
The Magic have been unable to reach the 100-point mark in five of their last six games, and they now play opposite a Suns team that defends the perimeter very well and enters with the league’s third best defensive rating at 108.2 points per 100 possessions. Gordon and Fournier both were out due to injury when the Magic lost to the Suns, 109-90, in February.
Key to slowing the Suns is obviously containing their backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, who lead a very methodical offense that plays with the league’s seventh slowest pace and is highly efficient from the field (49%, second best) and from deep (38.3%, seventh best). But don’t forget about the matchup at center....
No, not that one. Nikola Vucevic had his second-lowest scoring game of the season when he faced Deandre Ayton and the Suns in February, totaling just 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting. Ayton is coming off a 26-point performance against the Lakers and a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double against the Heat.
Should be an interesting game with the trade deadline just hours away. Could be the last time that Vooch plays alongside Gordon or Fournier or both as the “run it back” era of Orlando Magic basketball possibly comes to an end.
Who: Orlando Magic (14-29) vs. Phoenix Suns (29-13)
When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida
TV: Fox Sports Florida