Magic’s Nikola Vucevic set to return vs. Pelicans after missing nearly a month
Vucevic makes his return to action following an 11-game absence due to a right ankle sprain. In the wake of a scary looking injury on Nov. 20, the fact that Vucevic missed just under a month seems like a victory within itself
Without Vucevic in the mix, Khem Birch started 11 games at the center spot and contributed little offensively, but did manage to average seven rebounds per contest. He figures to slot back into his role as a bench asset, sharing time in the frontcourt with Mo Bamba.
Even without Vucevic at their disposal, Orlando has managed to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, currently holding the eighth seed entering play Sunday despite their 11-14 record. Evan Fournier has taken on a major role in the offense without Vucevic available and figures to see a minimized load with the team’s premier offensive asset back in the mix, though he should still remain a vital cog.
After being named an All-Star for the first time in 2018-19, Vucevic has responded by averaging 17.1 points and 11.6 rebounds across his first 14 contests. If Orlando plans on making another playoff push, it will begin and end with Vucevic’s contributions on both ends of the floor.
How quickly head coach Steve Clifford reintegrates Vucevic into the mix remains to be seen. The team embarks on a four-game West Coast road trip on Sunday, looking to snap a three-game losing streak.