James Ennis decided to waive his no-trade clause for selfish reasons. He wanted to play and an opportunity exists for him with the Orlando Magic.
Word had already leaked out the Philadelphia 76ers were acquiring Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks from the Golden State Warriors, filling their shooting need and squeezing James Ennis further down the depth chart. Philadelphia would have to cut someone from the roster to make room for those two.
Ennis held a no-trade clause on the two-year deal he signed with Philadelphia. He said he took less money to stay with the 76ers hoping to get some stability after bouncing around the league for every year of his six-year career. The Magic will be his seventh team in six seasons.
Ennis said as he wrestled with what to do next, his agent told him he needed to be selfish. Waiving his no-trade clause to open up the move to Orlando would give him a path toward playing time on a playoff team.
It was time to move once again.
“I felt like there was opening on the wing spot,” Ennis said after his first practice with the team Sunday. “I wanted to think about myself. My agent said, be selfish. I thought about myself and my family. That’s why I’m here today.”
Ennis said he felt good about his first practice with the team. Familiarity with former teammates like Michael Carter-Williams and Gary Clark should help him get acclimated some. So too should familiarity with Stan Van Gundy, whom James Ennis played for with the Detroit Pistons in 2018. It is impossible not to note how similar coach Steve Clifford and Stan Van Gundy’s sets and defensive schemes are.
Ennis had to make a move to advance his career. He had played in roughly 50.5 minutes over his last seven games — with 16:45 coming in his final game with the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday against the Miami Heat. Ennis was simply out of the rotation, especially with those new shooters coming in.
For a Magic team desperate for shooting, even a poor shooting team’s cast-off sounds nice. Ennis is hitting 34.9 percent of his 3-point shots this year and is a 35.6-percent career 3-point shooter.
Orlando hopes even that little bit can break loose some driving lanes and create better spacing for the team.
But Ennis was brought in too for his defense. He fits the bill for the kind of player the Magic like — tough-minded, defensive-focused and, yes, long athletically. The Magic brought him in as much to fit with their defense as they did for his shooting.
“I love defense,” Ennis said after practice Sunday. “That’s what I hang my hat on. I’m physical, I’m tough. I know how their defense is run. Everybody on this team, you are in the league in a while you get the relationship by playing against your opponent.”
Clifford said his first practice was good. He was able to jump right into the team’s practice after some work and film study with assistant coach Tyrone Corbin.
Ennis has had to adjust like this a lot in his career. He said the most difficult thing is moving mid-season.
That part is already taken care of with his family already settling in Orlando. But the next part is learning his teammates. That might be part of why the Magic may wait to get him into the lineup.
He arrived in Orlando on Friday to meet with management and coaches. Saturday was an early tip-off so Ennis missed the chance to go through a walkthrough and get some exposure to the Magic’s defensive rules and offensive sets.
He will have a practice and a walkthrough to get ready for Monday’s game. He has spent time with the coaches and in the film room to get ready for his debut.
So far, Ennis likes the vibe around the team. And this is with the team fighting through some struggles.
“They welcomed me with hands open,” Ennis said after practice on Sunday. “I get along with everybody. Being in the league for six years, I’ve been playing against these guys. Everybody is cool over here. Good vibes.”
Getting to Orlando was a selfish thing. It was Ennis taking care of himself. He realized there was no future with the 76ers and he needed to go someplace he might play.
Ennis confirmed he has a player option for the 2021 season. Whether he picks it up or not is a mystery. Ennis said he took less money to try to get stability with the 76ers. But his role evaporated.
Ennis has to play like his NBA life is on the line again. He has to re-establish himself with a new team once again.
“I approach each game as if it is the last game,” Ennis said after Sunday’s practice. “Every time I step on the floor, I’m going to play my hardest no matter if my shots are going in, no matter if I am getting touches. I’m going to try to do as much as I can either offensive rebounds, tip out, try to get a second possession, just run and defend.”
Now it seems like he will have some role with the Magic. They certainly could use some of his skills and his defense fits in with their overall profile.
Having lost 10 of their last 12 games, the Magic need a bit of fresh air and a new mix to their team. They need something to add some energy. It might be Ennis.
Ennis’ reasons for leaving Philadelphia were selfish. They were necessarily selfish. He wanted the opportunity to play and the 76ers were willing to help him find that.
That is not part of his game though. Ennis is not a chucker — a career 11.7-percent usage rate. He is a grinder and a defender who can hit from the outside when left open.
The Magic may well be the beneficiary of Ennis’ selfishness.