Jalen Suggs returns, Magic end losing streak with win over Hornets

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  • Jalen Suggs
    Jalen Suggs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The last several weeks couldn’t have tested Jalen Suggs’ patience more.

After fracturing his thumb against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 29, the Orlando Magic rookie guard was sidelined and had to watch games from the bench for six weeks.

The last couple of weeks were especially difficult for Suggs, who hadn’t sustained a significant injury since the seventh grade.

Suggs, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, said he asked the team if he could play “every other day” for the previous two weeks.

But the Magic wanted to make sure the fractured bone fully healed to ensure there wouldn’t be any regression, meaning Suggs had to watch the 10-game losing streak Orlando entered Friday with from the sidelines.

“Not being able to help my teammates and bring energy, that was frustrating,” Suggs told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s part of the process. Doctors and the training staff wanted to make sure I was fully healed so when I got back there were no setbacks.

“As tough as it was, it’s a great thing I was able to bring energy from the bench and see things from the sideline.”

Suggs’ wait to return ended Friday in the Magic’s 116-109 win against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. The win was their first victory since Dec. 22 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Suggs had 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Moe Wagner led the team with a season-high 26 points off the bench. Franz Wagner had 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Gary Harris finished with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting.

Although Suggs — who started in the 21 games he played before the injury — wasn’t a part of the starting lineup and played limited minutes (22) as he readjusts to game speed, he was eager to be back help the Magic end their losing streak.

“I’ve been anxious to get back out here, touch the floor and get back up and down with my guys,” Suggs said. “We’ve made real strides in putting ourselves in the position to be in every game.”

Suggs wore a “small” splint over his thumb that was taped up “for precautionary measures.” He’ll continue wearing the splint “for a couple of weeks”, adding that he’s “still able to shoot, dribble and do all of those things with it.”

Coach Jamahl Mosley noticed the excitement from Magic players for Suggs’ return.

“They’re so tied together,” Mosley said. “They’re really pulling and rooting for one another. He’s been phenomenal on the bench, boosting guys up, talking during the huddles, film sessions and meetings. Just being able to stay connected with these guys has been great.”

Although Suggs had been limited in what he could do with his dominant hand during rehabilitation over the last six weeks, Mosley said the time off has been helpful for Suggs to work on his body and basketball mind.

“During some of the timeouts, he’s coming over talking with the coaches,” Mosley added. “Seeing things on the bench and talking to his teammates. It’s been so beneficial. From a conditioning standpoint, he’s done a great job of getting his body in really good shape. And he’ll continue that.”

The Magic were without starting big man Wendell Carter Jr. for the fourth consecutive game because of a sore left hamstring. Fellow starting big man Mo Bamba missed his second straight game because of a right toe sprain.

Orlando closes out its three-game road trip against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.

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