Orlando Magic third-year guard R.J. Hampton requested and was granted another assignment with the organization’s G League, the Lakeland Magic, multiple people with knowledge of the situation told the Orlando Sentinel.
The Magic confirmed the Sentinel’s reporting Thursday afternoon ahead of their home matchup vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, announcing Hampton was assigned to Lakeland.
Hampton requested the temporary assignment so he could get more playing time.
He did the same thing in mid-December, averaging 21.5 points (50 shooting%) and 4 assists in 29.5 minutes in two games with Lakeland before being recalled to Orlando.
“I just felt like I got to play basketball at the end of the day,” Hampton told the Sentinel about his first assignment with Lakeland. “I really don’t care where I play basketball. I could be on concrete or pavement, for real, as long as I got a ball, teammates and we’re striving to win.
“At the time I felt like I wasn’t really playing up here. Wanted to stay in shape and sharp for when my opportunity is called.”
The same motivations led to Hampton requesting another assignment with Lakeland — so he could get more playing time.
Hampton felt his first time with Lakeland helped him grow as an on-ball decision-maker.
“I felt like just being able to direct offensive traffic while having the ball in my hands a lot was helping me,” he said. “Just getting in a rhythm. Getting to the basket, getting to the free throw line — doing all that kind of stuff again.”
Since returning from the first assignment with Lakeland on Dec. 17, Hampton had been a healthy scratch in 4 of 8 games.
He played fewer than five minutes in the Dec. 23 win over the San Antonio Spurs, Dec. 27 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and Dec. 30 loss to the Washington Wizards.
The lone game he’s played more than 10 minutes since Nov. 30 came when the Magic had nine players available for Wednesday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder because of various suspensions, ailments and injuries.
Hampton had 12 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Thunder.
He’s averaged 6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 14.4 minutes (25 games) — more than seven fewer minutes than he averaged last season.
Hampton played in all 64 games (21.9 minutes) he was available for last season.
He’s been a healthy scratch in eight games His spot in the rotation was unpredictable even before the returns of guards Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Gary Harris during the last five weeks.
Second-year guard Jalen Suggs returned against the Grizzlies after sitting 19 games with right ankle soreness — pushing Hampton further down the rotation.
Hampton, the No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft, will become an unrestricted free agent in July after the Magic didn’t exercise their fourth-year option for the 2023-24 season.
The Magic can still re-sign Hampton as a free agent.
Lakeland plays the Windy City Bulls on Friday and Saturday in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
Hampton traveled with Lakeland to Illinois on Thursday.
The plan is for him to rejoin Orlando on Sunday during the team’s West Coast trip, ahead of the Magic’s matchup against the Sacramento Kings.
They kick off the road trip Saturday vs. the Golden State Warriors.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.