Wendell Carter wants to impact winning with the Orlando Magic

Wendell Carter has made the most of his early opportunity with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Wendell Carter has made the most of his early opportunity with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

24. Final. 115. 38. 106

On social media after the game, Wendell Carter was a bit embarrassed by the face.

On a third-quarter possession, Carter had beaten out two Chicago Bulls players for an offensive rebound twice before powering up for a two-handed slam. The basket gave the Magic an eight-point lead they would eventually balloon to 22 points.

It was a big play. And with the intensity and emotion of this game, with Carter playing against his former team in his old stomping grounds, it proved to be a catalyst for the young player to play perhaps his best game since joining his new team.

But all anyone was talking about was the look the Bally Sports Florida cameras caught him giving as the broadcast went to commercial break. An instantly memeable moment which the team took full advantage of with the popular Chuma Okeke sunglasses photo.


The Magic are still discovering all the possibilities they have available with Carter. The third-year center had a disappointing run with the Chicago Bulls where the team could never figure out how to unlock everything he had. But the most important thing he wants is to help his team win.

Early on, it is clear Carter can do this as he has found his place with the Magic.

Playing against his former team, Wendell Carter stepped up in a big way and showed why he can help the Orlando Magic win down the road.

Carter is a quiet, hard-working player. The outburst of emotion he showed during the game against the Bulls was a rare one. It was clear from the opening jump how much energy he was going to bring to the game.

His final box score reads like one of his best since joining the Magic — 19 points, 8-for-16 shooting, 12 rebounds and four assists. It was a game that showed all the ways the Magic could use him and all the possibilities he presents them.

Just like the last time the Magic traded away their franchise center, this time around the team has acquired an undervalued player that has shown plenty of room to grow and become a key player for this team’s future.

Carter has shown up every game with a generally high level of energy. But when he is aggressive and physical, he makes the Magic significantly better. This was one for him to get up for.

"“It meant a lot coming back to a team you just got traded from,” Carter said after Wednesday’s win. “It’s kind of for all games. You want to come out there especially a player on a new team to make an impact and influence winning. Tonight, I think I did a great job helping my team win. We had a great overall team win both offensively and defensively. We stuck to the gameplan the whole 48 and we made some big shots down the stretch. That’s what the NBA is all about.”"

Carter had a strong game. He hit his fair share of big shots throughout. He continues to regain confidence and views this time with the Magic as a big opportunity for himself. The fresh start was something he needed.

He said after the game that his last few games with the Bulls — where he scored 13 points and grabbed 19 rebounds combined in 39 minutes off the bench — he was disappointed with how he played. The Bulls never really carved a consistent role for him as they cycled through coaches.

If anyone needed a fresh start, it was someone like Carter, a clearly talented player with perhaps some limitations but a solid defensive reputation. He just needed a group to believe in him again.

That is what he found in the Magic. He has played with renewed energy and has helped provide the Magic with a whole new list of possibilities defensively as they get themselves reorganized after the trade deadline.

"“Ever since he has gotten here, all of us knew he was a talented kid and tries to do the right things on the floor,” Michael Carter-Williams said after Wednesday’s game. “He doesn’t try to force things. He’s aggressive. He tries to make the right play. He is easy to talk to, he’s easy to coach. He’s going to be really good. We’re lucky to have him.”"

Carter is still finding his footing. But no one can argue the good start he has had with the Magic.

He is averaging 14.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game with the team since the trade, shooting 54.5-percent from the floor. Opportunity is obviously a big part of it. He is playing three more minutes per game and more featured in the offense.

If anything, the Magic have had to remind themselves how important it is to keep Carter involved. They will sometimes go away from him even though the team’s offense is still built around actions with the center in the high post like it was when Nikola Vucevic was around.

Carter can be such a non-descript, team player that his own games can get forgotten. Perhaps that is one reason why things did not work out in Chicago.

But Carter’s real value has come on defense. He has proven himself to be a tough, physical defender. He is willing to mix things up and take the body blows of the bigger players he has had to defend.

The team has a 110.6 defensive rating while Carter is on the floor. That is not a good number by any means, even in the suped-up offensive NBA. But considering the Magic’s overall defensive rating is 115.8 points allowed per 100 possessions, Carter’s positive defensive impact is obvious.

He still has flaws — especially on the defensive glass — but Carter has proven himself to be more than just a  throw-in to this trade or a matching salary just like Vucevic did nine years ago. Carter is a young player the team can build and grow around.

"“He’s competed hard every game we’ve played,” coach Steve Clifford said after Wednesday’s game. “I think he has good poise and an excellent feel for the game. I think he played offensively in a way that he helps his teammates. He was really good. I wouldn’t say he didn’t do anything he can’t do every night or didn’t surprise me.”"

Throughout his postgame presser, Carter tried to assure everyone playing his former team was not an extra motivator — although his energy level certainly suggested it was. He said he was more focused on doing what it takes to win.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

The Magic are still talking a lot about building winning habits. The team had a talk to get themselves more locked in on the gameplan and doing what they needed to do to win. Carter relishes this opportunity because it is not just a moment for him to play meaningful minutes but to impact winning.

Carter said the team still has a goal of making the play-in tournament. They will have to play a lot better to get to that point.

But everything returns to how it helps the team. Carter is not a player that is about promoting himself or doing things for himself. That is probably his biggest strength and maybe one of his bigger weaknesses.

"“That’s kind of the player I am,” Carter said after Wednesday’s game. “I don’t really feed into trying to core a whole bunch of points or do something outside of my body. Stick to what the coaching staff wants for us, wants for me and just flourish in that role. the coaching staff believes in me on the offensive end and the defensive end. They believe I make the right plays and the right decisions.”"

Orlando is still exploring and figuring out everything Carter can do. They have started blitzing and hedging on screens a lot more, using Carter’s versatility and mobility on defense more. Carter has proven himself a solid paint protector too with some big blocks and big plays. The team’s goal at this point is to get to the end of games where Carter’s energy can play a huge factor.

Next. 5 questions the Orlando Magic face to finish the season. dark

There are still a lot of possibilities. But Carter has proven himself a keeper for the Magic and a big get in their All-Star trade.