Aaron Gordon’s injury shrinks Orlando Magic’s small margin for error

Feb 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) handles the ball while Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) handles the ball while Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) defends during the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic are still aiming for the Playoffs. The margin for error got smaller with Aaron Gordon succumbing to a bone bruise in his right foot.

Aaron Gordon told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel following Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets the right foot that caused him to miss the second half was something that had been getting progressively worse for a little bit of time.

Gordon assured the media he would not be out long.

"“It was more of a progressive thing: you know, just soreness in my foot,” Gordon said. “It’s been kind of aggravated for maybe a little bit of time now. Tonight, it was just difficult to move.”"

Gordon did not practice with the team Wednesday — it was a light practice anyway — and went in for a MRI. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports the MRI revealed a bone bruise and Gordon is officially listed as day-to-day. It is unclear how long he will be out, if at all.

This is a setback for an Orlando Magic team struggling to gain its footing. Orlando has lost 16 of its last 21 games. And it seems like the hits for the team keep coming.

Tuesday night it was losing Gordon at halftime and not having Jeff Green, who had returned to Orlando to be with his fiance for his daughter’s birth. It left the Magic extremely thin on the wing.

Gordon, for all his struggles offensively adjusting to the 3, still brings a lot to the team defensively. And losing a player of his potential and caliber hurts a Magic team with an already small margin for error.

“Losing Aaron, you obviously lose an athlete who runs the floor hard and a good perimeter defender,” Evan Fournier said. “When things are bad, it’s very bad. It’s just how it is. It’s unfortunate, but we don’t have a choice. We’re going to have to deal with it.”

With Jodie Meeks already out, even bringing Green back leaves the Magic somewhat thin on the perimeter. There are seemingly few good options and the Magic may have to rely even more heavily on its starting group.

But the Magic did rally. They cut was once a 27-point lead down to nine points. The Magic showed some considerable fight, albeit too late considering how bad the Magic’s second quarter was in that game.

Coach Frank Vogel said after practice Wednesday he would study the Philadelphia 76ers before deciding how best to replace Gordon in the lineup, should Gordon not be able to play. Vogel said his decision would probably be based on the matchups.

That could then free up some time for Mario Hezonja.

The second-year player recorded seven points on 3-for-6 shooting in 14.5 minutes. He started the second half with Gordon out of the game.

“I liked that Mario got a chance,” Vogel said. “The kid has had 10 out of 10 on the attitude skill with him being out of the rotation a lot of the games this season. He made some plays that give your reason to believe he can be a big-time player. He still makes some young player mistakes that he has to battle through. I like seeing him get a chance when the opportunity presents itself naturally like it did [Tuesday] night.”

It was an opportunity Mario Hezonja desperately needed. It is hard to say he hurt himself, even if he did not make a major impact. And that is certainly something Vogel will consider as he figures out his rotation with or without Gordon on Thursday.

Vogel cautioned with Hezonja it was still “plus-1, minus-1,” with Hezonja. He said his attitude has been impressive, but it is still likely a night-to-night decision with Hezonja on whether he plays or not.

If Gordon has to miss time, that will open up opportunity once again for Hezonja.

Whether Gordon misses time is indeed a big if. Certainly, his play of late would suggest some time off to recover might help. Gordon is averaging just 6.6 points per game and shooting 36.5 percent from the floor, including 17.6 percent from beyond the arc since the team returned from its January West Coast trip.

If Gordon’s foot soreness has been a progressive problem, perhaps letting it rest and heal would be a good way to get him back to producing at least his season averages and continue the progress he showed through December and January.

For whatever it is worth, the Magic still believe they can rally and make the Playoffs. Not having Gordon, or having a less-than-healthy Gordon will make that job that much harder. Orlando’s margin for error is already pretty small to accomplish that goal.

Next: Orlando Magic's needs are clear: shooting and spacing

Gordon’s setback is one more impediment put in their place.