The Orlando Magic left for and returned from their 2-3 West Coast trip the healthiest they’ve been all season.
The lone player who remains out because of injury is third-year forward Chuma Okeke, who’s been sidelined for nearly two months (26 games) because of left knee ailments.
Okeke missed 13 consecutive games from Nov. 25-Dec. 18 because of left knee soreness before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery (a chondroplasty — a procedure that involves shaving/smoothing damaged cartilage) on Dec. 19 that’s kept him sidelined for another 13 games.
The Magic said in a statement at the time that he’ll be reevaluated in four weeks — this past Tuesday. Okeke hasn’t progressed to doing on-court work.
He was seen on Wednesday, the team’s first practice since returning from the road trip, in the weight room at the team’s trailing facility while wearing a sleeve over his left leg.
“Chuma’s still working his way back,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “No real court sessions right now.”
R.J. Hampton practiced with the Magic after spending the road trip with the organization’s G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic.
Hampton averaged 23.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2 assists in 27.2 minutes during the four games he played in his most recent stint with Lakeland. He averaged 21.5 points (50% shooting) and 4 assists in 29.5 minutes in two mid-December games with Lakeland.
Rookie forward Caleb Houstan was assigned to Lakeland on Monday. He led Lakeland with a team-high 24 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in Tuesday’s 104-100 win over the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“It’s more about, defensively, being in the right position,” Mosley said about Houston’s performance. “The right spacing on the floor offensively. He did a great job of understanding what he was asked to do. He wants to do the right thing at all times. He’s done a fantastic job of staying professional, playing his minutes when needed and the growth of what the coaches have done with him here showed up down there.”
Houstan played in nine of the Magic’s last 11 games but was a healthy scratch in the previous two.
Most of his recent playing time with Orlando came when the team was dealing with the suspensions stemming from the on-court altercation with the Detroit Pistons.
“As guys are coming in and out the lineup, we get guys healthier, similar with R.J.’s situation — he just wants to play,” Mosley said. “He’s a young kid who’s earned some minutes. It’s just tough at times to get him in the game.”
Lakeland plays another road matchup against the Skyforce Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN+) — a game Jonathan Isaac is also expected to play in.
Isaac, who played for Lakeland last for his first official basketball game in 892 days, has suited up twice for the G League squad as part of his return-to-play process with the NBA team. He’s averaged 14.5 points (42.3% shooting), 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 15.7 minutes.
“He was doing a great job finding a way to get comfortable within just getting up and down the court,” Mosley said. “Being able to take contact. Defensively, just understanding pick and roll coverages whether he’s switching or staying in coverage. His activity with his hands, protecting the rim, making sure he’s a presence down there, and then offensively, it’s going to take some time to continue to find his groove.
Mosley added: “Understanding it’s about getting back on the court. That’s the biggest portion of it. As the games continue to go on, here’s what it’s like with scheming, gameplanning [and] adjusting — start to concentrate on those a little bit more. Just being able to get that comfortability level on the floor.”
When asked if the original plan was for Isaac to play three games with Lakeland, Mosley responded: “It’s really how guys respond to the different games and how much we can balance that out for where he is.”
Mosley wasn’t sure how much time Houstan will spend with Lakeland, either.
“That’s very similar [to Jonathan Isaac] — seeing how he’s adjusting to it down there,” Mosley said. “How many bodies we need here will be important as well.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.