Orlando and Orlando Magic will always be home for Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon

Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon seem destined to be dealt. They left everything on the floor for the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon seem destined to be dealt. They left everything on the floor for the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

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Evan Fournier said before Tuesday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets he is not really interested in the trade rumors surrounding him. This is not the first time his name had been passed around various reports.

His interest in the trade rumors in the league is the same as any other fan. He enjoys the same intrigue and storytelling that occurs in this league as any other basketball fans would.

He did take the time on Twitter to deny a report he had informed the Orlando Magic he would not re-sign with the team this offseason if it came to that.

Still, something felt different this time around. After seven years in Orlando, it felt like this was it for this group. There was a feeling of finality about this game. Even if Fournier did not want to say it.

He very well might have played his last game in a Magic uniform after seven years with the team. And what a finish it was.

The Magic put together a complete performance, bouncing back from a slow start and competing on both ends in the way they have come to expect under coach Steve Clifford. It ended with Fournier hitting a go-ahead layup with 10 seconds left that would end up the game-winner.

Evan Fournier and the Orlando Magic put together a performance they can be proud of if he has indeed played his final game in a Magic uniform. If he and the other leave, Orlando will always be his home.

This was not a full Amway Center celebrating a victory over the second-place team in the Western Conference. It was not the send-off that anyone would want in an ideal situation. But this Magic team played its best on the doorstep of their seemingly inevitable breakup.

If this is how they send off this group, then it was a fitting end to their run together.

It feels almost certain this is the end too. Everyone could feel it, even if the players directly involved did not want to talk or acknowledge it. They still hope they will be together Friday when the Orlando Magic take on the Portland Trail Blazers.

That hope may be just that. But it is something deeper than that. It is a tie to the place that many of these players have called home.

It is exceedingly rare that players would spend seven years together and on the same team. Perhaps the Magic should have broken this group sooner. There were plenty of opportunities that this team did not take. There were times the Magic tried to force the breakup by putting the focus on other players.

But they are here now. They made it through with all the successes and failures they had.

For Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic this the only team they have ever known. This is home.

"“The fact I have been here for seven years, had a son here, got married, it means more than a lot,” Fournier said after Wednesday’s win over the Phoenix Suns. “It is hard to put words into it. I got traded here when I was 21. Now I’m a totally different man and a totally different player. I have a lot of love for the franchise and the people who work here. If this is the end, it’s the end. I obviously will love the franchise and we’ll see.”"

No place like home

Evan Fournier really has been a vagabond for much of his professional career. He moved out of his parent’s apartment at 13 years old to begin playing professionally at an academy in France. He was drafted into the NBA at 19 years old and joined the Orlando Magic two years later at 21 years old.

Fournier has played seven of his nine seasons in the NBA with Orlando. He has really known no other place.

This is his home. His teammates likely feel the same way as they played nearly their entire professional careers in Orlando.

It is not just about the personal milestones a young person crosses as they grow and mature. Nor is it just about the improvement on the court.

This is the place where Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon have put down their roots. They poured their hearts and souls into the game and for this city. They all chose to stay in the city, signing second and even third contracts with the team.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

They hurt with each loss as they tried to figure out how to win. And they celebrated those major victories.

They represented the jersey and the franchise as well as they could both on the court and off. They are ingrained in this community. They are a part of it as much as it is a part of them.

It is hard to throw all that away. It is hard to say goodbye to that.

Gordon, who reportedly asked for a trade through his representatives in February, said after Tuesday’s loss the request came from a frustration of the buildup of losses and the way this team started to stagnate after it had that breakthrough into the postseason.

But Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on the Woj and Lowe trade deadline special on ESPN that Gordon was having second thoughts on that request. Letting go of home is very difficult.

Instability and lost opportunity

Aaron Gordon is right to be fearful of that return to the Lottery and starting over.

The Orlando Magic did not do the best job giving this trio the support and stability young players need to thrive.

They have played for five coaches in that time. They have shuffled through teammates and rebuilds and mismatched rosters and everything in between.

These past seven years are among the worst overall in Magic history. If there is restlessness from fans to move on, it is because this group has been responsible for the worst run the team has had in its history. They have been unable to move forward fully.

But change is necessary to get where they want. Both for the player and for the franchise.

Still letting go is hard. And it is good to look at the successes, even if they were fleeting.

This group was able to break through and make the playoffs in 2019 and then again last year.

That victory meant a lot to those players. It was evident as they walked off the floor in Boston after clinching that first playoff berth. It was evident in the disappointment they were not able to deliver a home win for the fans hungry for playoff success.

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It was even more disappointing they were not able to deliver more inside the bubble or see the growth through. Everything got put on hold because of injuries as a new generation of players beneath them began to develop and take root.

They never got the chance to see how far they could grow. Instead, they bumped up against their ceiling and fell back to earth.

Sense of finality

There was a sense of finality when the Orlando Magic lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. The team stagnated that year too and it felt like the team would have to make some changes. Perhaps the pandemic and injury delayed that.

But it does not feel like it can delay it any further. Thursday seems to bring with it the promise of long-awaited change and the end of an era.

"“Losing is extremely frustrating,” Evan Fournier said after Wednesday’s win. “But when you go from losing to making the playoffs and you go through what we’ve been through from the start, you create bonds that last a very long time. I’m really attached to the coaching staff, the players. I’m having a great time. We’ll see.”"

No matter what happens, this trio will forever be associated with the franchise. All three should be in the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame one day and will be welcomed back when their playing days are over.

In a rare instance, the Magic will be moving on from some core players on seemingly good terms. There will be no booing when they make their return.

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This will always be their home.