LaMarcus Aldridge’s level of comfort with the San Antonio Spurs was a hot topic of conversation last season and through the summer while his name was surfacing in trade rumors, but a contract extension signed on the eve of training camp quieted the speculation. Aldridge is certainly looking comfortable early in 2017-18 and will try to lead the Spurs to a fifth straight win to begin the campaign when they visit the Orlando Magic on Friday.
Aldridge is averaging 26 points and 8.8 rebounds and enjoyed his best game of the young campaign at Miami on Wednesday, when he collected 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting in a 117-100 triumph. “Big-time post scorer,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters of Aldridge. “A big-time matchup problem in today’s NBA because you don’t have that many back-to-the-basket guys who can actually put the ball in the basket, and do it against different coverages. He’s a guy who can shoot the ball, but can keep you honest. All the veteran savviness of shot fakes, he’s seen every coverage that there possibly is.” The Magic have their own big-time post scorer in Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging 23.8 points on 59.7 percent shooting and 10.3 rebounds. Vucevic and frontcourt mate Aaron Gordon will try to make Aldridge work hard on the defensive end and lead Orlando to a fourth win in its first five games.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Southwest (San Antonio), FS Florida (Orlando)
ABOUT THE SPURS (4-0): Aldridge could be getting some help sooner than expected from point guard Tony Parker, who is already beginning a rehab assignment less than six months after suffering a torn quadriceps tendon during the Western Conference semifinals last spring. Parker was assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, on Wednesday and immediately began working out with the team. San Antonio is also getting solid work from 40-year-old shooting guard Manu Ginobili, who is averaging 9.3 points in 21.5 minutes off the bench and scored a season-high 14 on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE MAGIC (3-1): Vucevic carried most of the load in the first three games but it was Gordon breaking out in Tuesday’s 125-121 win over the Brooklyn Nets. The 22-year-old, who missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle, collected 41 points on 14-of-18 shooting and hit all five of his 3-point attempts to set career highs in points, made field-goals and 3-pointers. “I just shot confidently, it was a quick shot and it felt good coming off my hands,” Gordon, who also hauled in 14 rebounds, told reporters. “I just feel really good with my shot. I’ve put in a lot of work, so it feels good to have a game like this. So, I’m going to continue to shoot the ball.”
1. Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) will miss his fifth straight game and PF Joffery Lauvergne (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s game and is day-to-day.
2. Magic PG Elfrid Payton (hamstring) missed the last two games and is questionable for Friday.
3. San Antonio took 11 of the last 12 in the series, including a 107-79 drubbing in its trip to Orlando last season.
PREDICTION: Spurs 116, Magic 109