Audition report from the AdventHealth Training Center
ORLANDO- For an Orlando Magic team that’s struggled undermanned for most of its 2022-23 season, some help could finally be on the way.
Rookie sensation Paolo Banchero is expected to return after seven games, and Moe Wagner seems poised to make his season debut when the Magic host the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m. ET on Friday.
“It’s really good to have these guys out there,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “Just add more corpses over time. You are healthy. It will be great for us to get our boys healthy.
Banchero’s return will give Orlando’s offense a big boost. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft currently leads all freshmen in points (23.5) and rebounds (8.3) per game, while he ranks second in assists (3.6) per contest proven.
“(He adds) a ton,” Mosley said of the Duke grad. “We’re talking about his ability to get to the edge. His ability to reach the free throw line. His physical stature (allowing him to punish defenses) will be big for us. With larger bodies, our switching comes back into play in the same way.”
While his stats don’t necessarily jump off the boxing score, Wagner’s return will certainly boost Orlando’s physicality and screening while adding a hardened big who can still stretch the floor. The 6-foot-11 center missed all of the team’s 18 regular season games after spraining his right metatarsal in the Magic’s last preseason game on Oct. 14 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wagner played 63 games with Orlando last season, averaging 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game.
“It’s so great for us,” Mosley said of Wagner’s return. “His ability to influence winning in so many ways. His energy, his enthusiasm, those chimes we’re talking about – whether it’s taking on an attack, making the extra pass, getting under the skin of a defender – he’s great at those things. The other side that people don’t see because of that energy is that he has a high basketball IQ.”
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is grappling with injuries to a number of its franchise cornerstones. Joel Embiid (left metatarsal sprain), James Harden (right foot; tendon strain) and Tyrese Maxey (fractured left foot) will all miss Friday night’s showdown in Orlando.
“The game has a different pace (when these guys are out),” Mosley said. “They chase and seek the three-point line. So we need to make sure we get to Sagittarius. Obviously (Furkan) Korkmaz shoots the ball well. (Georges) Niang shoots the ball extremely well. Tobias (Harris) has developed a lot. Our ability to just sit and watch. And then to keep them off the offensive glass.”
IN AND OUT: Wendell Carter Jr. (right plantar fascia; strain) and Chuma Okeke (left knee pain) did not go through shootaround and are game-time decisions. Cole Anthony (right internal oblique tear), Markelle Fultz (broken big left toe) and Jonathan Isaac (recovering from a left knee injury) are on the road for the Magic.
Out for Philadelphia are Embiid, Harden, Saben Lee (G League – Two-Way), Maxey, Jaden Springer (right quad trunk) and Matisse Thybulle (tenosynovitis left ankle).
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it’s a very tight group. I think I notice that. Even in tight games, the chemistry is at an all-time high from what I’ve seen in the NBA so far. You need that to get back on your feet. You must enjoy each other. They must enjoy being at the gym together. You must 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 during his absence
HOW TO SEE: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in to the radio on FM 96.9 The Game.