Magic get fuller rotation back in loss to Clippers as uncertainty looms

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ORLANDO, Fla. — After getting their preferred starting lineup back in Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bulls, the Orlando Magic got as close to having their regular rotation as they’ve had in a couple of months for Wednesday’s 111-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

With Gary Harris (back spasms) and Terrence Ross (right knee soreness) back in the lineup after missing Sunday with injuries, the Magic had their top-eight players in minutes per game available against the Clippers. Until Wednesday, that hadn’t been the case since Nov. 17.

Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac, who have been starters for the Magic when healthy, have been sidelined for the season recovering from torn left anterior cruciate ligaments. Michael Carter-Williams (recovery from August left ankle surgery) and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) haven’t played this season.

The lone player who wasn’t available against the Clipper who’s been a consistent part of the Magic’s rotation this season was R.J. Hampton, who’ll be sidelined for multiple weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 MCL sprain against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 19.

“I look at it as an opportunity,” coach Jamahl Mosley said pregame. “You’re putting different guys on the floor in different situations than they’ve been in before.”

The Magic (9-40) had five players finish in double-digit scoring, led by Franz Wagner — 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 9 assists and 3 rebounds — but were outscored 35-24 in the fourth quarter after entering the quarter with a 78-76 lead.

Cole Anthony finished with 19 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds. Jalen Suggs had 14 points (6 of 10).

The Clippers (25-25), who shot 15 of 29 (51.7%) on 3-pointers, were led by Amir Coffey’s 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

Harris’ return after a one-game absence meant returning to coming off the bench — a role he had earlier in the season but one he hadn’t consistently been in since mid-November.

He scored 14 points (4 of 8, 3 of 5 on 3-pointers) in 31 minutes as a reserve.

Harris was a starter in the previous 29 games he played in entering Wednesday, averaging 14.1 points on 45.5% shooting and 37.4% on 3-pointers over that stretch.

“The one thing about him — he’s always going to do the right thing every time,” Mosley said of Harris. “[He] and I have always kept a dialogue of what it looks like with playing time, starting or coming off the bench. Those conversations are never easy, but the one thing about Gary is his level of professionalism and care for the team always stands out.”

Ross and Harris are players who’ve reportedly been made available ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline — especially for teams looking to compete in the playoffs, making their futures with the Magic uncertain.

Ross is the third year of a 4-year, $54 million contract ($50 million guaranteed) he signed with the Magic during the 2019 offseason. Unless he signs an extension, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Harris is on an expiring contract that pays him $20.5 million for 2021-22.

“Honestly, I really do know, 1), that’s above my pay grade,” Mosley said. “Two, I try to get our guys focusing on the moment and the next opponent. It’s winning every day. You can’t control certain days and I think being out as a coach helped me understand. Looking forward, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The Magic will continue their homestand with a matchup against the Detroit Pistons on Friday.