ON SOLID FOOTING
Magic center Nikola Vucevic applauds training staff, plan for recovery from ankle injury
SALT LAKE CITY — The Magic at Jazz game was not completed in time for this edition. Read the late game story in our e-edition at OrlandoSentinel.com/late or on our website.
Orlando Magic starting center Nikola Vucevic was pleasantly surprised with how good he felt after his first game back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for 11 games.
Now he’s ready to build on it. Vucevic finished with 20 points and nine rebounds and played 29 minutes during Sunday’s 130-119 win over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
The Magic went into the game with a plan to keep Vucevic under the minutes threshold he had prior to his injury but planned to give him “significant” playing time.
Team trainers and performance staff monitored Vucevic closely, but it turned out they had little about which to worry.
Vucevic was happy to be back but happier the Magic picked up a victory in his return.
“I felt good with where I was,” Vucevic said. “We put together a good game as a team and got a good win, so it was a good, positive comeback. Hopefully we can carry it over to [Tuesday against the Jazz].”
Vucevic was injured Nov. 20 against the Raptors in Toronto, and the Magic went 5-6 during his absence.
For his part, Vucevic set his sights on a two-week recovery window and went to work.
“I knew it was going to be at least two weeks,” he said. “That’s what the plan was. I was able to do a lot of work.”
That work included a lot of
conditioning, mostly because early in his recovery Vucevic couldn’t make cuts. Instead, he focused on running in a straight line and riding a stationary bike to maintain his endurance level.
“Anything that could really get my heart rate up to kind of make [it] easier for me once I got to my conditioning,” he said.
Vucevic credits performance and rehabilitation coach Nathan Spencer and physical therapist Lindsay Winninger for helping him get back on the floor as quickly as he did.
“We had a good plan and I was able to come back, and [I’m] good to go,” Vucevic said.
Bamba available for back-toback set: For the second time this month, Magic center Mo Bamba will be available for both games of a back-to-back set.
Coach Steve Clifford said after Tuesday’s morning shootaround that Bamba had been cleared for the team’s back-to-back games Tuesday against the Jazz and Wednesday against the Nuggets.
Bamba’s availability, however, doesn’t necessarily mean he will continue to play in back-to-back contests. Clifford said Bamba will be evaluated more on a case-bycase basis when it comes to backto-back games. Bamba continues to undergo MRI exams on his leg, according to Clifford.
“It’s just depending on what they see and how he feels,” Clifford said.
The team had decided early in the season to hold Bamba out of one game of a back-to-back set to help him manage soreness in the left leg he injured last season.
With Vucevic out, Bamba played both games of the most recent back-to-back set on Dec. 3 and 4 against the Wizards and the Suns.
Magic forward Aaron Gordon releases a shot as Jazz center Rudy Gobert defends in the first half of Tuesday night’s game in Salt Lake City.
Jazz center Rudy Gobert goes to the basket as Magic center Nikola Vucevic defends Tuesday night in Salt Lake City.