WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the NBA and G League schedules working the way that they did, Orlando Magic forward B.J. Johnson was able to pull off a somewhat rare version of a professional basketball doubleheader on Tuesday.
Johnson, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound small forward, spent Tuesday afternoon helping lead the Lakeland Magic to a 107-106 defeat of the Capital City Go-Go in G League action.
The Lakeland/Capital City game tipped off at 11:30 a.m. at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, which is located approximately six miles away from the Capital One Center where the Magic and Washington Wizards tipped off at 7 p.m. The announced attendance for the G League game was 805. Later in the day, Johnson – who is on a two-way contract with Orlando and Lakeland – joined the Magic for the NBA action against the Wizards.
Johnson poured in 21 points, swiped four steals and grabbed three rebounds in 37 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. In nine G League games this season, he’s averaged 21.3 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from 3-point range.
“It’s not that bad. The game was about 11 (in the morning) and that’s about the time when shootaround is, so there’s still a good time difference between games and I didn’t have to rush to get over here,’’ Johnson said of his double duty in the same day. “This doesn’t happen too often, but to be a part of (G League and NBA games in the same day) would be exciting.’’
Point guard Josh Magette, another two-way player for Orlando and Lakeland, also played in the Tuesday afternoon game for Lakeland and capped a stellar individual performance when he drilled the go-ahead, game-winning 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds remaining.
Magette, who has appeared in two games this season with Orlando and dressed for seven others without playing, had 28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 36 minutes for Lakeland on Tuesday. Seven of his eight field goals were 3-pointers. He went into Tuesday averaging 18.4 points, 10 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists in his first five games with Lakeland.
“Whenever Josh is on the floor, it makes (the Lakeland offense) run so much better,’’ Johnson said of his G League teammate. “That was a big-time shot by Josh. He is one of the guys who every time he shoots it, you think it’s going in. So, when he let (Tuesday’s game-winning shot) go, I thought it was good.’’
A total of 38 players have participated in minor league action and NBA games in the same day before. Former NBA guard Jordan Farmar was the first to do it, playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Lakers on Feb. 1, 2007. He repeated the feat on Feb. 3 and 12thof 2007.
The practice has become much more common in recent years as NBA teams have worked to move their minor league franchises closer to the parent club for more synergistic efforts. Players competed in G League games and NBA games in the same day 17 times last season.
Johnson, of course, didn’t mind the double duty as he’s eager for another shot to play in the NBA full time. After going undrafted out of LaSalle in 2018, Johnson played for Lakeland and got his first shot at the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks (six games, 3.5 points in 7.2 minutes) after signing two 10-day contracts. He signed with the Sacramento Kings in April of 2019 and appeared in one game (two points in seven minutes).
MCW RETURNS: The Magic welcomed the return of defensive ace Michael Carter-Williams on Tuesday after he had missed the previous 6 ½ games because of irritation in his left hip.
Getting the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams back on Tuesday came just as the Magic were set to face all-star guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer at 28 points per game. Magic coach Steve Clifford, who pushed for the team to sign the point guard late last season, considers Carter-Williams to be one of the best perimeter defenders he’s ever coached in 20 years in the NBA.
“It’ll be good, but like you see with Aaron (Gordon, who recently returned from an ankle injury), those guys get into a rhythm of playing and then you don’t play for a while, it takes a couple of games (to get back to 100 percent),’’ Clifford said. “But it’s good to have (Carter-Williams) back. You’re not going to know how he is until he gets out there.’’
Carter-Williams, who has averaged 4.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 10 games at primarily shooting guard, initially feared for the worst when he injured his left hip on Nov. 17. Back in 2015, he tore the labrum in his left hip and needed season-ending surgery to recover from the injury. This time, he was able to avoid a similar injury.
Orlando is still without all-star center Nikola Vucevic (ankle sprain) and Al-Farouq Aminu (right knee meniscus tear).
Vucevic, who had his right ankle buckle on him following an awkward landing on Nov. 20, has been out five games. Aminu injured his knee in last Friday’s loss to Toronto and he is getting a second opinion to determine the severity of his knee injury.
BACK-TO-BACK DILEMMA: With Vucevic not yet close to returning, the Magic could be facing a dilemma with 7-foot center Mo Bamba on Wednesday when they host the Phoenix Suns.
Bamba, 21, saw his rookie season come to an end last January when he suffered a stress fracture in his left shin. The Magic’s medical team caught the injury early, allowing the center to avoid needing surgery to repair the fracture.
Because of that injury, the Magic have looked to lighten the load on Bamba this season by playing him just once when Orlando has games on consecutive nights. Earlier this season, Bamba was held out on Nov. 1 against Milwaukee and Nov. 6 in Dallas to keep him from playing games on consecutive nights. In those games, Khem Birch filled Bamba’s usual role as the team’s backup center.
With Vucevic out, the Magic promoted Birch to starter in order to keep Bamba in his familiar backup role. With the Magic about to play their first back-to-back since the Vucevic injury, they will have to decide how to proceed with Bamba in Wednesday’s game against Phoenix.
Clifford said the team will evaluate Bamba on Wednesday morning following Tuesday night’s game. Bamba said on Tuesday morning that he’s made enough progress from his injury that he should be ready for the workload of playing on consecutive nights.
“I feel good and I think those two things (how he feels and how he plays) correlate with each other,’’ said Bamba, who went into Tuesday averaging 5.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.35 blocks in 15.3 minutes over 17 games. “It’s just a matter of doing the diligence to my body and staying on top of things.’’
Bamba’s effectiveness has increased dramatically of late as he’s played with more force and purpose. A big part of that, he noted, was because he’s finally gotten over the mental hurdle of fearing he might injure his left leg again.
He had six points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a loss in Detroit last week and followed that up by making five of five 3-point shots in a 15-point effort in Cleveland. He added 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks on Friday against Toronto and he had four points, three rebounds and a block on Sunday versus Golden State.
“I’m slowly putting the injury and having a slower step in my back pocket and I’m just going out there and playing,’’ Bamba said.
UP NEXT: Orlando will be back in action again on Wednesday – this time to face Phoenix at the Amway Center. Tip-off is just after 7 p.m. ET and the game will be televised locally by Fox Sports Florida.
It will be the Magic’s third of 11 back-to-back sets of games on the season. Orlando hasn’t fared so well in those first four games, losing in Oklahoma City and in Dallas and falling at home against Milwaukee and Denver.
Phoenix, one of the NBA’s surprise teams and a winner of nine games already, rallied to a victory in Charlotte on Sunday.
As is often the case this season, the Magic will be facing a rested team while playing a second time in as many nights. In the Magic’s 11 back-to-backs this season, their opponent will have the previous night off while Orlando will be playing a second game in as many nights 10 times. In six of those instances, Orlando’s foe will have had at least two nights of rest while it will be playing a second time in 48 hours.
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