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Jalen Suggs turns focus to ‘possibility’ of returning for Magic vs. Grizzlies


For Orlando Magic second-year guard Jalen Suggs, the past couple of weeks — especially the previous three days — have been encouraging.

Suggs, sidelined since exiting the Nov. 25 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers with right ankle soreness, has taken significant steps forward in returning to the court.

For the time since sitting with the injury, he fully participated in practices Monday and Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s home game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. Monday’s practice involved more 5-on-5 scrimmaging and live-action drills while Tuesday was a less intense session.

“I’ve had the biggest smile on my face these past two weeks, just being able to do more every day, ramping up,” Suggs said after Tuesday’s practice, his first time speaking with reporters since missing time with the injury. “Going from the weight room to actual on-court workouts to 1s, to 3s to now playing 5s. All of it’s been great.”

Suggs wasn’t available vs. the Thunder, but coach Jamahl Mosley said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround that “there’s a possibility Jalen might get in” for Thursday’s home game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back.

“Jalen is obviously going to be further along than [Jonathan Isaac],” Mosley said. “Jalen responded better. We won’t look at him [Wednesday]. JI’s going to be sometime down the road. Have to get some more practices under [Isaac’s] belt to get comfortable with these guys and group.”

The Magic don’t have to file their injury report to the league until 1 p.m. Thursday because of the back-to-back.

When asked Tuesday if there’s a timeframe he’s targetting to return by, Suggs responded “ASAP. I feel great.”

Suggs’ absence on Wednesday was the 19th consecutive game he’s sat because of the injury.

He said the soreness started to flare up leading up to the home games vs. the 76ers on Nov. 25 and Nov. 27. Suggs played 19 minutes in the first game vs. Philadelphia and sat the second for his first absence.

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“That last Philly game, we had talked about to go, not to go, seeing what we could play through,” Suggs said. “And after that, came to the decision, ‘Let’s just take care of it’ and kind of dead the issue.”

Suggs also sat five games (Oct. 22-30) because of a sprained right ankle.

He played in November’s first 12 games before sitting because of ankle soreness.

Suggs had surgery to address a stress fracture in his right ankle early in the offseason, limiting how much he could participate in basketball activities.

“We did the surgery to take care of all the problems,” Suggs said. “It just kind of ended up coming back, so making sure the issues are put to rest and it’s not something we have to worry about anymore before it becomes a bigger issue.

“Things don’t always work out how you want it to. Now that it came back, taking our time, making sure we’re deliberate with it, and making sure when I do come back, there’s no soreness.”

The Magic, who entered Wednesday 13-24, went 8-7 during a December in which they won 8 of 10 games during a 16-day stretch.

They closed the month on a three-game losing streak, dropping games to the Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 27), Detroit Pistons (Dec. 28) and Washington Wizards (Dec. 30).

“It was an excellent December,” Suggs said. “Obviously a bit tough coming to the end with the suspensions and we dropped the last couple, but we’re playing excellent as a team and we’re very selfless.

“But also when we were on that run, we had a swagger and confidence. Going into this new year, getting everybody back after being banged up, getting that groove back and just coming into it ready to rock. We’re ready to make this run and do what we have to do. We’ve shown that it’s possible already. That standard is set. Now it’s about matching that every day.”

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Suggs, the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft, had an up-and-down rookie season in part because of injuries that limited him to 48 games. Nothing has changed.

He’s averaged 12.4 points (41.9% shooting, 29.4% on 3s), 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes (14 games).

Suggs was sidelined for 20 games from early December 2021 through mid-January 2022 after fracturing his right thumb and dealt with injuries to his right ankle that sidelined him for 13 of the final 18 games last season.

Being away from the floor for another extended stretch has tested his patience, but he understands the process.

“It’s definitely been difficult,” Suggs said. “Especially not being able to go on the road with the guys. When we were playing well and things were going great, I wanted to be a part of that. When you’re not able to be a part of that and have to see it from a distance, you know they still love and care for you but just being away definitely is tough.

“Definitely been a test of patience, but every time [I’ve been sidelined], I’ve grown as a player and a person. Sometimes you have to take these things for what they are, learn from them, look at it glass half-full and keep it pushing.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.

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