Four minutes into the third quarter, Hedo Turkoglu broke his left hand. Nobody at Friday's game seemed quite sure how it happened, but the Magic were forced to maintain a 62-48 lead for much of the second half without their only active small forward in the lineup. Orlando relied on the combination of J.J. Redick or Arron Afflalo at small forward in the 102-89 win.
The Magic seem to have a bit of a small forward problem with Turkoglu recovering from surgery on his broken left hand Saturday that will keep Turkoglu out at least four weeks and possibly for six.
"That’s my brother from another mother," Jameer Nelson said. "I’ve been here with Turk so long, it’s upsetting to see that. He’s in the best hands here in Orlando. He’ll be all right. He’s a trooper and we’ll all pick him up."
Orlando though is still waiting for the season debuts of rookies Maurice Harkless and DeQuan Jones and veteran Al Harrington. Jones and Harrington did not suit up for Friday's opener and Harkless suited up but was not available. Harrington is not ready to come back from the arthroscopic surgery he had this offseason.
However, Orlando received some good news. Along with Gustavo Ayon, who practiced Saturday for the first time since spraining his thumb and could be available for Sunday's game, Maurice Harkless and DeQuan Jones should be available for Sunday's game against the Suns and ready to make their NBA debuts. OrlandoMagic.com's John Denton even suggests Jones could start Sunday with Jacque Vaughn preferring to keep J.J. Redick coming off the bench.
Either way, the Magic may be shuffling their rotation a bit and finding the right mix at small forward for the next few months with Turkoglu out.
Maurice Harkless especially will need some development. Harkless missed the entire preseason and really only saw something simulating game action in the Magic's open practice. Harkless, for all purposes, has not even been through a simulated game.
Yet, Orlando seems prepared to throw him into the fire out of necessity over this lack of depth in the front court. The sports hernia that kept him out of most of training camp did not leave much time for on-court exposure or experience. There will not be much time for learning and so the work Harkless has had to put in from the sidelines will have to do.
"I just sit next to [assistant coach Brett] Gunning and every time I have a question about what’s going on on the court, I just ask him and he’ll fill me in," Harkless said. "If he sees something that he thinks I should pay attention to, he’ll let me know. I try to soak up everything I can."
Harkless said the thing veterans have told him about getting in his first game was to play like he is not trying to make mistakes. That is good advice as it seems Harkless will get his first taste of NBA action a little bit sooner than he or the Magic had anticipated coming off that sports hernia.
This team's versatility though is perhaps the greatest weapon at Vaughn's disposal. Even without Turkoglu, Vaughn could rely on Afflalo to slide over to small forward or Redick to go there with E'Twaun Moore able to play both point guard and shooting guard.
Vaughn said after the game that he is not sure how the team will move forward. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported that Vaughn said he would like to bring his young players along slowly and put them in positions where they can succeed.
Orlando found away against the 6-foot-8 Andre Iguodala and the 6-foot-10 Danilo Gallinari in the second half without Turkoglu. There were somewhat comical moments of the 6-foot-4 J.J. Redick trying to guard Danilo Gallinari. Fortunately, Gallinari does not have much of a post game and stays on the perimeter.
The size disparity was obvious though.
Orlando made it work and maintained the lead. The problems though would become apparent. Gallinari scored 23 points in the game with 15 of those points coming in the second half, including 10-for-12 shooting from the foul line. The Nuggets won the second half over the Magic 52-44.
This is obviously not a sustainable formula without Turkoglu and so Jones or Harkless could find themselves not only playing against Phoenix but starting.
"It always happens in basketball, a guy gets injured, a guy is not playing well, somebody else fills in for him," Jameer Nelson said. "That’s why you have a team. That’s why you have the amount of guys you have on a team.
"It says a lot about the team for guys to step up. Even guys who played in the second half who didn’t play in the first half, they had to be ready. Coach has been talking about that the last month. No matter when the game is or what game it is, you may be called upon even if you haven’t played."
And so early on, the Magic have a challenge to confront without their starting small forward early on in the season. It might be time for some young players to get their feet wet and others to replace and fill in.