Mohamed Bamba was trailing the play when Devin Cannady went down.
The Indiana Pacers were trying to beat the Orlando Magic after a made basket before their defense could get set and Edmond Sumner had the lead. Cannady did what any competitive player would do. He was going to contest the shot.
As Cannady came down after committing the foul, he landed hard on the floor, fracturing his ankle. From the reaction of players and the crowd, it was clear this was a serious injury.
Bamba’s immediate reaction was to run toward his teammate, take off his jersey and cover-up Cannady’s injured right ankle.
Officially, it was an open fracture of Cannady’s right ankle. A horrific injury that undoubtedly rocked the team, already flailing through several injuries and absences throughout the course of this season.
In the moment, Bamba just wanted to be there for his teammate and brother.
“I just saw my teammate was down and I just did what I thought he would do for me,” Bamba said of his immediate reaction to the injury after Sunday’s game. “I acted quick. I didn’t want him to see it. I took the shirt off my back and gave it to him. It was something he would have done for me.”
It feels like the Magic have had to go through this a ton. The team has faced now two catastrophic injuries during games in the 2021 season and a third one in the bubble. Looking to the bench, the team could seemingly field a workable lineup of injured players.
These injuries have turned the season south. The loss of so many players — Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz to ACL injuries, Aaron Gordon to a month-long ankle injury and Cole Anthony to a two-month-long rib injury and plenty more nagging injuries in the process — has turned the season.
Injuries have been the story of the Orlando Magic’s season. And another catastrophic injury haunted the team in Sunday’s loss. But even through it all, the team has stuck together.
The Magic likely made the decision to pull the plug on their team because injuries decimated the roster and kept them from remaining competitive. The team has had to soldier on and find a way. That part has been difficult.
Somehow the team has stuck together through it all and kept their spirits up. By all accounts, the team is still together and tight even if their on-court play has been frustrating and lackluster. This group has been dealt a terrible hand.
Even the trades did not do much to blunt the injuries. James Ennis is dealing with a sore calf and Terrence Ross has been out with back spasms. Their absences have been noticed.
Still, nothing can be quite as devastating as watching a teammate go down with such a horrific injury. It is a reminder of a player’s mortality and the randomness of these injuries. In many instances, there is simply nothing the team can do but watch and support their teammates in their recovery.
“It was very tough,” Lakeland Magic and Orlando Magic teammates Robert Franks said after Sunday’s game. “Just to see a guy go undrafted, go to Princeton and work his way up. He was building and definitely heading in the right direction. To see that was devastating. I know everybody in the Orlando Magic organization wishes the best and hopes for a speedy recovery for our guy Dev.”
The Magic have had to stay together through this all. Predictably, they have struggled on the court. Without consistent lineups or playing groups, several players have struggled to find their footing. Terrence Ross, for instance, has perhaps had his most uneven season since joining the Magic as the bench groups he has played with seem to change every night.
Somehow the group has seemingly remained positive. Teams are truly a brotherhood in that way.
The injuries for the Magic obviously started before the season with Isaac’s torn ACL in the bubble. Just eight games into this season, Fultz went down with his own torn ACL. Nagging injuries throughout the season — including to Aaron Gordon and Cole Anthony — have dotted the roster since then.
Evan Fournier was in and out of the lineup from the beginning of the season with back spasms. Michael Carter-Williams fell well short of his goal of playing every single game this season thanks to a variety of minor injuries. James Ennis has been dealing with a troublesome calf since training camp.
Many of these players were never able to find a rhythm. The team’s lineups were never able to find a rhtyhm.
No team has faced more injuries during this pandemic-filled season than the Magic — with only four games missed by players due to health and safety protocols.
It is pretty stark how many games the Magic lost to injury.
The team has lapped the field in games missed to injuries. They seem to add onto each other with how tightly compacted the games are on the calendar. The team has had no time to rest and recover going into several games with just eight available players.
Coach Steve Clifford has mentioned how concerned he was about playing guys too many minutes but having no choice but to do so. Rest and recovery time has taken away from time to get in practice and work on some of the team’s shortcomings.
It has been impossible to manage.
It is no wonder the team has struggled to win. Most of the teams at the bottom of the standings have missed lots of games to injury. It is simply impossible to compete when so many players from a rotation are out of the lineup.
Still, the team has had to carry on. They know they have to be a lot better on the floor.
Bamba said after Sunday’s 131-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers that the coaching staff put together a good gameplan and the team simply did not execute it well, starting with himself. He has mentioned several times about how he has seemingly good games scoring-wise but struggles defensively. He knows what will eventually keep him in the league.
Interim coach Tyrone Corbin added the team did not take anything away from the Pacers throughout the game. They had straight-line drives at the basket and easy transition and 3-point opportunities throughout the game.
Then again, it was hard to ask the team to compose itself after what happened.
“It was tough,” Bamba said after Sunday’s game. “I’d be sitting here lying if I said it wasn’t tough to play afterwards. Everyone was just on high alert. I think a few more guys took a couple falls and you are kind of looking over to see if they were OK. At the end of the day, we run the risks of things like this. If you ask Devin if he regrets playing defense the way he did, he’d say no. He’d do it again. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. We know that he is going to recover and bounce back pretty quick.”
This was especially heartbreaking for a player like Cannady who had worked his way up through the G-League to get an opportunity with the Magic. With all these injuries, he was looking like someone who could contribute and add something to the team. It was at least an opportunity for him.
But the message he sent to the world after the injury is the same message the Magic have needed all along.
To get through everything, Cannady will need that kind of grit and determination. The team has needed it throughout.
While they have certainly faltered at times on the court. If there is one positive that has come from this cursed season and one sign the team’s culture can withstand it, it is how well the group has stuck together through it all.
They are still a team at the end of the day.