Pregame Report from AdventHealth Training Center
ORLANDO – For an Orlando Magic team that’s fought shorthanded for the majority of their 2022-23 campaign, some help may finally be on the way.
Rookie sensation Paolo Banchero is expected to return from a seven-game absence and Moe Wagner appears to be ready to make his season debut when the Magic host the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday at 7 pm ET.
“It’s really good to have these guys out there,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “Just continue to add more bodies as we go along. Them being healthy. Getting our guys healthy is going to be great for us.”
Banchero’s return will give a big lift to Orlando’s offense. The no. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft currently leads all first-year players in points (23.5) and rebounds (8.3) per game, while ranking second in assists (3.6) per contest.
“(He adds) a ton,” said Mosley of the Duke alum. “We talk about his ability to get to the rim. His ability to get to the free throw line. His physical stature (which allows him to) punish defenses is going to be big for us. Our switching gets back into playing the same way with bigger-sized bodies.”
While his stats don’t necessarily jump off the box score, Wagner’s return will certainly boost Orlando’s physicality and screening while adding a hardnosed big that can still stretch the floor. The 6-foot-11 center missed all 18 of the team’s regular season matchups after spraining his right midfoot in the Magic’s final preseason game on Oct. 14 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wagner played in 63 contests with Orlando last season, averaging 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game.
“It’s so great for us,” said Mosley of Wagner’s return. “His ability to impact winning in so many ways. His energy, his enthusiasm, those bell plays that we talk about – whether that’s taking a charge, making the extra pass, getting under the skin of a defender – he’s great at those things. The other side that people don’t recognize because of that energy is that he has a high basketball IQ.”
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is dealing with injuries to a number of its franchise cornerstones. Joel Embiid (left mid-foot sprain), James Harden (right foot; tendon strain), and Tyrese Maxey (fractured left foot) will all miss Friday night’s showdown in Orlando.
“There’s a different pace to the game (with those guys out),” said Mosley. “They’re chasing and searching out the three-point line. So, we have to make sure that we get to shooters. Obviously, (Furkan) Korkmaz is shooting the ball well. (Georges) Niang is shooting the ball extremely well. Tobias (Harris) has come on strong. Our ability to just sit down and guard. And then, keeping them off the offensive glass.”
IN AND OUT: Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia; strain) and Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) did not go through shootaround and are game-time decisions. Cole Anthony (right internal oblique tear), Markelle Fultz (fractured big left toe), and Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery) are out for the Magic.
For Philadelphia, Embiid, Harden, Saben Lee (G League – Two-Way), Maxey, Jaden Springer (right quad strain), and Matisse Thybulle (left ankle tenosynovitis) are out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think this is a very close group. I think that sticks out to me. Even in close games, the chemistry is at an all-time high as far as I’ve experienced it in the NBA so far. You need that for the ability to bounce back. You need to enjoy each other. You need to enjoy being in the gym together. You need to have the ability to embrace these moments. I think this team has that. You have to keep going, even if you lose (and) no matter what your record is.” – Moe Wagner on his impression of the team while he was out
HOW TO WATCH: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in on radio via FM 96.9 The Game.