Could Nikola Vucevic be a casualty of the Magic’s rebuild this offseason as we look at the teams growing frustration as they close out the season. We also preview this weeks games against the Knicks, Mavericks, Hornet and Raptors.
Last week, I wrote about Frank Vogel’s time with the Orlando Magic who reportedly, will be let go at the end of this season. That will likely be the first of many moves that management will make this offseason, as they look to change the identity, the mood and the culture around the team. This season has been wearing on everybody associated with the team, including the players, coaches, team personnel and the fans.
Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks was more proof of the overwhelming and growing frustration, that’s haunted the injury plagued Magic all season long. Nothing could prove this more than Nikola Vucevic, who has been with Orlando for the last 6 years. 6 years of losing and constant change is finally grinding on one of Orlando’s most consistent and loyal players, who looks like he’s had enough.
Against the Hawks, Vucevic finished the game with 10 points and 14 rebounds but shot just 3 of 19 from the field. Nothing went right for the big man who struggled to get shots to fall, gave away cheap fouls and looked drained. Over the last 6 years, one thing that’s become more and more apparent is that when Vucevic gets frustrated, he stops playing hard, losses his focus and complains more to officials when fouls aren’t called.
Nik will be in the last year of his contract going into next season and though it’s possible he returns for one more year, his future with the Magic likely won’t continue past that. Hammond and Weltman have a huge clear up job over the next couple of seasons, as they try to shed salary, draft more talent and begin to piece together a roster that can return to the playoffs.
Vucevic is on record saying he’d love to stay in Orlando and is among some of the most likeable players in Magic history, but the scars of the last 6 years are evident and this off season maybe the right time for Orlando to head in another direction.
Tuesday 3rd April
Orlando Magic @ New York Knicks (12:30am)
On Tuesday the Magic and the Knicks will face each other for the last time this season, as both teams come into this game on 3 game losing streaks. New York’s season was effectively ended at the beginning of February, when All Star Kristaps Porzingis torn his ACL in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks, that later required surgery. Up to that point, the Knicks were in the hunt for the playoffs but have gone just 4-18 since the Unicorns injury.
4.5 games separate the two teams heading into Tuesday nights game. The Knicks held out Courtney Lee (foot), Frank Ntilikina (illness) and Enes Kanter (Back) in Saturday’s loss to the Pistons. The Magic will likely be without Jonathon Simmons (wrist) who’s missed the last 7 games, Evan Fournier (knee) and Terrence Ross (knee). All three are probably done for the year as the Magic close out the last 6 games of the season.
The Magic can win the season series against the Knicks 3-1 with a win Tuesday. The 2015/16 season was the last time Orlando won a season series against New York.
Wednesday 4th April
Orlando Magic vs Dallas Mavericks (12:00am)
For the Magic and the Mavericks, this will be their second game in two nights, Orlando will make the trip back from New York, whilst Dallas will be home to the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday evening. The Mavs beat Orlando back in January 114-99, that night Orlando were led by Aaron Gordon with 19 points.
The Magic have failed to win a season series against Dallas since 1997/98, and Dallas have a 33-25 all time record over Orlando.
Dallas will be without Seth Curry (leg) and Wes Matthews (leg), both are out for the remainder of the season. Salah Mejri (knee) missed Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers but could return along with JJ Barea for the game against the Magic.
Friday 6th April
Orlando Magic vs Charlotte Hornets (12:00am)
Charlotte can sweep the season series against the Magic for the second straight year with a win on Friday night. The Hornets have won 10 straight against Orlando including a 104-102 victory in February. It’s been a disappointing season for Charlotte too, who traded for Dwight Howard in the offseason, and despite having a good season, it hasn’t been enough for the Hornets to return to the playoffs. They have a big offseason ahead, who have a lot of money committed going into the 2018/19 season.
Cody Zeller (knee) and Michael Carter-Williams (knee) are both out for the rest of the season, Dwayne Bacon (ankle) missed Sunday’s game against Philadelphia but could return against the Magic.
Sunday 8th April
Orlando Magic @ Toronto Raptors (11:00pm)
The Toronto Raptors will be looking to secure the number one seed in the Eastern Conference this week, who sit 2.0 games above the Boston Celtics. The Raptors and the Celtics are the two teams who have the best possible chance of finally ending Lebron James’ NBA finals run this season. Toronto have been brilliant all season, led by All Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan, Derozan who returned to the court last week as they begin to prepare for the post season.
Unsurprisingly, the Magic have failed to beat the Raptors this season, who beat Orlando 93-86 back in March.