Vuce­vic hopes to play Fri­day, says in­jured an­kle feels ‘good’

Cen­ter was av­er­ag­ing dou­ble-dou­ble when he got hurt in Novem­ber

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Luis Tor­res

Or­lando Magic cen­ter Nikola Vuce­vic is inch­ing closer to a re­turn to the lineup from a sprained an­kle, and he is hop­ing he can play against the Hous­ton Rock­ets on Fri­day.

“It felt good, it felt good,” Vuce­vic said fol­low­ing the Magic’s prac­tice Thurs­day. “We’ll see how it feels the rest of the day [on Fri­day] and then we’ll go from there. Hope­fully, I can go [Fri­day] and if not, I hope Sun­day should be a re­al­is­tic date for sure.”

Vuce­vic has missed the past 10 games af­ter sprain­ing his an­kle on Nov. 20 in a loss against the Toronto Rap­tors. He was in the midst of his best stretch of the sea­son prior to go­ing down with the in­jury.

He was named NBA Eastern Con­fer­ence Player of the Week on Nov. 18. He av­er­aged 21.7 points, 14.0 re­bounds, 4.0 as­sists and 1.33 blocks per game to help the Magic go 3-0 in home games against the 76ers, Spurs and Wizards. He had sea­son highs in points (30) and re­bounds (17) in the win over Washington.

Vuce­vic went through con­di­tion­ing and shoot­ing drills at the end of Thurs­day’s prac­tice, which was a light work­out fol­low­ing the 96-87 loss to the Lak­ers.

He said has yet to re­ally test the an­kle in a scrim­mage.

“It was very frus­trat­ing for me

be­cause I felt like I started re­ally get­ting back to play­ing re­ally well,” Vuce­vic said. “That’s part of it. It’s been three and a weeks or some­thing like that. It is what it is. You just have to fight through it and come back healthy as soon as you can and get back on the court.”

The Magic and Rock­ets will face off at 7 p.m. Fri­day and the game will air on Fox Sports Net­work.

Or­lando guard Markelle Fultz was not at prac­tice on Thurs­day. Coach Steve Clif­ford said Fultz is feel­ing bet­ter af­ter miss­ing Wed­nes­day’s game with a stom­ach virus.

“He’s still sick and he couldn’t come in and prac­tice,” Clif­ford said.

“It’s go­ing around, so we just have to be care­ful both for him and for ev­ery­body else.”

Fultz has played in 23 games this sea­son and is av­er­ag­ing 12 points per game and 4.1 as­sists per game.

Clif­ford wants Magic to play smarter:

The Magic’s men­tal lapses frus­trated Clif­ford dur­ing the team’s loss to the Lak­ers.

Af­ter scor­ing a sea­son-low nine points in the first quar­ter, the Magic bat­tled back. Or­lando tied the game up 71 af­ter Michael Carter-Wil­liams hit a cor­ner 3-pointer.

The Lak­ers then re­sponded with an 8-0 run when LeBron James as­sisted all three bas­kets. The slow start ham­pered the Magic, and Clif­ford told the team they need to play smarter.

“Like I told the guys [Thurs­day morn­ing], ev­ery team has their strengths. To me, we have po­si­tional size and we’re su­per smart and we weren’t smart [on Wed­nes­day],” Clif­ford said.

“That can’t be OK with any of us. We’ve got to be the team that’s ex­e­cut­ing their sets, that ex­e­cutes their de­fenses, par­tic­u­larly in the fourth quar­ter. On nights that we have done it, we’ve given our­selves a good chance to win.”

The mar­gin for er­ror is smaller when play­ing against elite teams and play­ers.

Hous­ton boasts two of the top play­ers in the league in James Harden and Rus­sell West­brook. Harden is com­ing off a 55-point ef­fort in a 116-110 win over Cleve­land on Wed­nes­day.

Iwundu sur­prised he was ejected: Magic for­ward Wes Iwundu said Thurs­day he was sur­prised he was ejected from Wed­nes­day’s game fol­low­ing a scuf­fle in­volv­ing for­mer Magic All-Star Dwight Howard.

Howard was fouled by Jonathan Is­sac, and then raised the ball above his head and walked be­tween Is­sac and Mo Bamba. It es­ca­lated to a point where Iwudu shoved Howard and Iwundu and Lak­ers for­ward Jared Dud­ley were ejected.

“A lit­tle shocked, to be hon­est,” Iwundu said, “just be­cause it was a lit­tle shov­ing and push­ing. Things hap­pen some­times and those were the re­sults.

Iwundu said it was the first time he had to fin­ish watch­ing a game from the locker room. He added he was stand­ing up for his team­mates and tried to pro­vide them with en­ergy down the stretch.

PHE­LAN M. EBENHACK/AP

Cen­ter Nikola Vuce­vic, left, hopes to re­turn from a sprained an­kle Fri­day when the Magic face the Rock­ets at Amway Cen­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.