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Preview: Hornets finish off road trip against hobbled Magic

Down six players and all but one guard, the 0-5 Magic are in rough shape already.

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (2-2) at Orlando Magic (0-5)

When: 7:00 pm EDT

Where: Amway Center; Orlando, Fla.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets-Association (white), Orlando-Icon (black)

Injury report

CHA: LaMelo Ball (left ankle sprain), OUT; Cody Martin (left quad soreness), DOUBTFUL; Terry Rozier (right ankle sprain), DOUBTFUL.

ORL: Cole Anthony (oblique), OUT; Markelle Fultz (toe), OUT; Gary Harris (knee), OUT; Jonathan Isaac (knee surgery), OUT; Jalen Suggs (ankle), OUT; Moritz Wagner (midfoot), OUT.

The Magic are the fourth-youngest team in the league and have opened the 2022-23 season with five-straight losses, though the results so far may not accurately reflect the quality of this Orlando squad. Paolo Banchero has acquitted himself quite well, averaging 24 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 blocks per game in the early-going, and Franz Wagner appears primed for the sophomore leap that many in NBA circles were predicting he’d make. Of course, Wendell Carter is good for a nightly double-double at 13.8 points and 10 rebounds per contest.

As we can tell from the injury report above, the Magic roster is decimated for tonight’s game. Fultz has yet to make his debut this season after fracturing his left big toe in late-September while Suggs suffered an ankle sprain in the team’s second game that will sideline him indefinitely. It was reported yesterday that Anthony is also out indefinitely with an oblique muscle injury. Isaac hasn’t played in a game since August 2, 2020.

Orlando has been able to make the best of the situation by feeding minutes to Caleb Houstan, Chuma Okeke and others into whom they’ve invested draft resources, but there was hope this squad could fight for a play-in berth. Appearances in all five games and 17.2 minutes per night for Bol Bol in 2022 is probably not going to help achieve that goal. Hopefully, they get healthy soon and the NBA universe can see what this promising group has in the tank.

Meanwhile, the Hornets — and how contributors are spread so evenly throughout the roster — are an unheralded surprise in the first week-and-a-half of the NBA season. Down Ball, Martin and Rozier, Charlotte beat Atlanta and brought the Knicks to overtime at Madison Square Garden on the backs of Gordon Hayward, Jalen McDaniels, Kelly Oubre Jr., Nick Richards, Dennis Smith Jr., and more. Who had “Théo Maledon dropping 15 points and four assists while sparking multiple runs to keep the Hornets alive in the FOURTH (4th) game of the season” on their bingo card? I’ll wait.

We’ll have to wait until the trio of injured guards have returned — and also until at least, like, November — to truly gauge the potential of this team, but until then, we can enjoy the feel-good stories. Smith has a chance to revive his career with a strong season. Oubre has shown a renewed commitment to defense with 2.3 steals per game. McDaniels simply cannot miss from three (9-12 3P) to start the year. James Bouknight bounced back from a tough start to score 10 and 13 points in the last two games. Maledon and Bryce McGowens have played meaningful minutes! It’s gone pretty well in this opening stretch, all things considered.

Let’s see if the Hornets can get back above .500 with a win against the shorthanded Magic tonight.