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Orlando Magic rookie Jalen Suggs showed little signs of rust in his return to the floor despite being sidelined for nearly 1 1/2 months.
Suggs had 12 points (5-of-8 shooting), 7 assists and 6 rebounds in the Magic’s 116-109 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. The victory was the first game Suggs played since fracturing his right thumb (shooting hand) on Nov. 29.
Despite playing limited minutes (22), Suggs was 1 assist away from tying his career-high and had the most efficient scoring output (62.5%) of his young career.
“I got to give him a lot of credit because it’s very apparent that he, as crazy as it sounds, somehow got better without having a lot of basketball reps since his hand was broken,” said Moe Wagner, who had a season-high 26 points against the Hornets. “It’s very apparent.”
The six weeks away from games tested Suggs’ patience and often frustrated him. But in hindsight, he admitted it was one of the better things that could’ve happened to him.
“For as much as it sucked to be out, this injury was a blessing in disguise,” said Suggs, with the Magic playing the Dallas Mavericks late on Saturday in the second night of a back-to-back. “It gave me time to sit back and reevaluate the things I was doing, the habits I had, change those to better ones and grow. I needed that.
“Me, [assistant coach] Nate [Tibbetts] and [assistant video coordinator] Randy Gregory, we had conversations and told each other we’re going into dark mode. No recording nothing. We’re just going to go work. Just really rededicated myself to the process. The past [1 1/2 months] has been real tough, but it was great for my growth.”
Since he was limited with what he could do with his dominant hand during the rehabilitation period, Suggs watched more film to become a better “student of the game.”
Gregory ensured he had an iPad with him at all times so he’d have plenty of opportunities to study.
“Those were the things I was missing earlier in the season just because things were coming so fast,” said Suggs, who also had 6 of the Magic’s 19 turnovers against the Hornets. “The injury allowed things to slow down and work on those things. I have everything in order. It’s gotten me out here on the court a lot more comfortable than I [was 1 1/2 months] ago.”
That greater comfort was apparent on the defensive end, too.
Suggs made timely help rotations and was consistently in the right position to slow down drives to the rim.
“That credit goes to my assistant coaches and the medical staff that’s helped him get right and stay in shape,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “The coaches have done a phenomenal job of watching film with him, so he understands rotations, he’s paying attention to scouting reports and seeing all of these things. It’s slowing down for him. He’s always been a physical, strong defender, but the coaches have done a great job of keeping him lined up with exactly what needs to be done.”