ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic’s start to the week didn’t go how they envisioned when they returned to Central Florida on Sunday from a three-game road trip.
Hours before their 98-88 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Amway Center on Monday, head coach Jamahl Mosley and assistant coach Nate Tibbetts entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Mosley, who’s the 17th head coach to enter the protocols this season, told the Orlando Sentinel he and Tibbetts are asymptomatic.
With Mosley and Tibbetts — who’s the Magic’s lead assistant — sidelined, assistant coach Jesse Mermuys served as acting head coach starting against the Blazers. The defeat dropped the Magic to 8-37, including 2-16 at home.
Moe Wagner led Orlando with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting off the bench. Jalen Suggs, playing as a reserve for the third consecutive game after returning from his fractured thumb injury, finished with 10 points (5 of 10), 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Nearly half (42) of the Magic’s points came from their bench.
Jusuf Nurkić led the Blazers (18-25) with 21 points and 22 rebounds. CJ McCollum scored 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting in his first game since being diagnosed with a collapsed lung in early December.
Mosley expressed disappointment in not being with his team during his first Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a head coach. He was also disappointed in not being able to coach against Blazers coach Chauncey Billups.
Billups, who along with Mosley is one of five first-year Black head coaches, helped recruit Mosley to Colorado in the mid-1990′s. Mosley played for the Buffaloes from 1997-2001, while Billups was with Colorado from 1995–97 before being taken with the No. 3 pick in the 1997 draft.
Former Colorado coach Ricardo Patton (1995-2007) was at Amway Center for Monday’s game.
“He’s always been mad at me because I recruited him and I left to go pro,” Billups said of Mosley, who was an assistant with the Nuggets for two seasons when Billups played for Denver. “I’m happy and proud of him. It’s funny, we always text and I say ‘we’re both going to have so many stories after our first year of coaching, I can’t wait to sit down and go over that.’
Mermuys joined the Magic over the offseason after spending the previous two seasons (2019-21) as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings.
Before joining the Kings, Mermuys spent three seasons (2016-19) as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was the head coach and assistant general manager of Raptors 905 (G League) for one year (2015-16), a Toronto Raptors assistant coach for two seasons (2013-15), a Houston Rockets assistant for one year (2012-13) and Nuggets scout/assistant for four seasons (2008-12).
“Across the NBA, this has been a challenging season,” Mermuys said. “Obviously, we all know change presents a problem. In a professional sport, you want the same thing every single day and that helps the process. All we can do is do the best we can under the circumstances we have. As a league and our team specifically, we’ve done that. We’ve had a lot of players and coaches out. We’ve been able to maintain an intensity to how we play.”