Life after Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon begins.
The next chapter in Orlando Magic history opens on Friday night, and the first page probably is not going to be a pretty one.
Following their trade deadline fire sale on Thursday, the Magic won’t yet have their newly-acquired players available. And they’ll also be without Terrence Ross as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
That will leave the Magic with the bare minimum of eight players available:
Those are the names who will usher in the new era of Magic basketball as we await the arrival of their new teammates. Perhaps they’ll manage to steal a victory as the second-coming of the “Heart and Hustle” Magic.
Wins and losses, of course, are not the priority for the organization at the moment, with the Magic’s correct decision to do a full reset making that very apparent. Focus now will be on the development of the remaining core pieces like Chuma Okeke and Mo Bamba, both of whom should be getting extensive playing time every night when fully healthy, and the eventual infusion of the young newcomers like R.J. Hampton and Wendell Carter Jr.
That group likely will be together on Sunday when the Magic kick off a five-game West Coast trip (which includes a stop in Denver against Aaron Gordon’s Nuggets). First comes a matchup with the Blazers on Friday to conclude a three-game homestand. The Magic will be without four of the five starters from Wednesday’s win over the Suns, with Michael Carter-Williams being the only remaining member of that starting lineup still on the team. The starting lineup I image will look something like MCW, Bacon, Okeke, Ennis, Birch.
They’ll take on a Blazers team that will be shorthanded themselves as they’ll be without star point guard Damian Lillard for rest and recovery purposes in what is a “We will probably win this game without you” load management absence.
The Blazers made a trade deadline deal themselves, sending Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood to Toronto for Norman Powell. Unlike the Magic new additions, Powell is expected to be available and in the starting lineup for the Blazers.
Per Coach Stotts, Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell will start for the Trail Blazers tonight against Orlando.— Brooke Olzendam (@brookeolzendam) March 26, 2021
Portland will get back Jusuf Nurkic, who hasn’t played since Jan 14 when he suffered a right wrist fracture. The Blazers also have C.J. McCollum back healthy after a lengthy absence. He showed that in a 125-122 win over Miami on Thursday when he scored 29 of his 35 points in the first half. The Blazers, which connected on 20 three-pointers in the win, owns the league’s sixth best offensive rating at 116.1 points per 100 possessions and the eighth best three-point shooting percentage at 38 percent on over 42 attempts per game (second most in league). They also have the second worst defensive rating in the league at 117.0, so as shorthanded and offensively-challenged as the remaining Magic are, there will be an opportunity to get some buckets.
The Magic have lost 11 of their last 13 games and currently own the league’s fourth worst record at 15-29. The countdown to the draft lottery begins with what will be the Magic’s first game without their core trio on the roster since 2014. It will be an interesting evening at Amway Center.
Who: Orlando Magic (15-29) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (26-18)
When: Friday at 8 p.m.
Where: Amway Center - Orlando, Florida
TV: Fox Sports Florida