For the first time this season, the Orlando Magic might field a starting lineup that does not include prized rookie Franz Wagner.
The Rookie of the Year candidate suffered a sprained left ankle during the opening minute of Friday’s 102-89 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Orlando has four regular-season contests left — beginning Sunday with a home matchup against the New York Knicks — after Wagner made 78 consecutive starts this season. He also has scored 20-plus points 17 times.
It was not an April Fools’ joke when Wagner rolled his left foot defending another Rookie of Year candidate — Toronto’s Scottie Barnes. The No. 8 pick in last year’s draft limped off the floor after only 20 seconds and did not return as Orlando (20-58) lost its fifth consecutive game and dropped to 10-28 at home.
Orlando was already without injured starting center Wendell Carter Jr. (wrist), who has sat out four of the past five games, and rookie guard Jalen Suggs (ankle). Reserves Terrence Ross and Gary Harris were listed as a DNP-coach’s decision against Toronto.
If Wagner cannot play on Sunday, Orlando will use its 23rd different starting lineup to close out the four-game season series with New York. The Magic and Knicks, who have both been eliminated from playoff contention, last met on Nov. 17 and the Magic won 104-98 to take their second win of the series. The road team has won all three games on the season.
Wagner’s injury somewhat overshadowed Devin Cannady’s feel-good story.
Cannady made his return to the NBA against Toronto, playing 29 minutes and recording nine points. The former G League Finals Most Valuable Player appeared in eight games with the Magic last season only to sustain a fractured right ankle.
The former Princeton guard averaged 15.8 points in 16 games this season for the Lakeland Magic before joining Orlando on a 10-day contract.
“I’m just so happy for (Cannady) and his journey and his story, what he’s been through and his ability to get back out there and play fearlessly,” Orlando head coach Jamahl Mosley said postgame Friday. “Jumped right in. We talk about the connection that we have with the Lakeland Magic and how (head coach Joe Barrer) does a phenomenal job down there with these guys and keeping them up, keeping them ready to go.”
The Knicks arrive in Orlando for the second game of a back-to-back. New York (34-44) hosted a Saturday matinee and the result was a 119-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
New York played without All-Star forward Julius Randle as he continues to deal with a sore right quadricep tendon. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Randle is “out tomorrow (Sunday) and most likely will be out the rest of the way.”
Five of New York’s nine available players scored in double figures against Cleveland.
Obi Toppin led the way with 20 points, highlighted by a 9-for-9 effort at the foul line, and former Magic guard Evan Fournier added 19 points. Immanuel Quickley collected 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes off the bench, RJ Barrett scored 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting and Alec Burks had 11 points.
“I think our starters are capable of playing a lot better than we did,” Thibodeau said following the loss. “But Obi, he’s done a nice job all year for us. But I think we were lethargic, and if you don’t play with an edge you can deal with the missed shots, but defensively you can’t win like that.”
–Field Level Media