For Orlando Magic second-year guard Jalen Suggs, the past couple of weeks — especially the previous two days — have been encouraging.
Suggs has taken significant steps forward in returning to the court recently, being sidelined since exiting the Nov. 25 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers with right ankle soreness.
For the time since sitting with the injury, he fully participated in practices Monday and Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s home game vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. Monday’s practice involved more five-on-five scrimmaging and live-action drills while Tuesday was a less intense session.
“I’ve had the biggest smile on my face these past two weeks, just being able to do more every day, ramping up,” Suggs said after Tuesday’s practice, his first time speaking with reporters since missing time with the injury. “Going from the weight room to actual on-court workouts to 1s, to 3s to now playing 5s. All of it’s been great.”
Suggs won’t be available Wednesday.
Coach Jamahl Mosley didn’t rule out Suggs or Jonathan Isaac — who also fully participated in practice Monday and Tuesday — for Thursday’s home game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, the second night of a back-to-back. Mosley said Monday there wasn’t a timetable yet for the returns of Isaac or Suggs.
“I’m going to give it some time to see how they respond,” Mosley added, “obviously, to how the practices have been and move forward from there.”
When asked if there’s a timeframe he’s targetting to return by, Suggs responded “ASAP [as soon as possible]. I feel great.”
Suggs’ absence on Wednesday will be the 19th consecutive game he’s sat because of the injury.
He said the soreness started to flare up leading up to the home games vs. the 76ers on Nov. 25 and Nov. 27. Suggs played 19 minutes in the first game vs. Philadelphia and sat the second for his first absence.
“That last Philly game, we had talked about to go, not to go, seeing what we could play through,” Suggs said. “And after that, came to the decision ‘let’s just take care of it’ and kind of dead the issue.”
Suggs also sat five games (Oct. 22-30) earlier in the season because of a sprained right ankle.
He played in November’s first 12 games before sitting because of ankle soreness.
Suggs had surgery to address a stress fracture in his right ankle — the same ankle he’s sidelined because of now — early in the offseason, limiting how much he could participate in basketball activities.
“We did the surgery to take care of all the problems,” Suggs said. “It just kind of ended up coming back, so making sure the issues are put to rest and it’s not something we have to worry about anymore before it becomes a bigger issue.
“Things don’t always work out how you want it to. Now that it came back, taking our time, making sure we’re deliberate with it, and making sure when I do come back, there’s no soreness.”
The Magic (13-24) have gone 8-10 in Suggs’ absence, including 8-7 during a December in which the Magic won six consecutive games from Dec. 7-18 and won eight of 10 games from Dec. 7-Dec. 23. They close out December on a three-game losing streak, dropping games to the Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 27), Detroit Pistons (Dec. 28) and Washington Wizards (Dec. 30).
“It was an excellent December,” Suggs said. “Obviously a bit tough coming to the end with the suspensions and we dropped the last couple, but we’re playing excellent as a team and we’re very selfless.
“But also when we were on that run, we had a swagger and confidence. Going into this new year, getting everybody back after being banged up, getting that groove back and just coming into it ready to rock. We’re ready to make this run and do what we have to do. We’ve shown that it’s possible already. That standard is set. Now it’s about matching that every day.”
Suggs, the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft, had an up-and-down rookie season in part because of injuries that limited him to 48 games. The same has so far been the case this season.
He’s averaged 12.4 points (41.9% shooting, 29.4% on 3s), 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 28.9 minutes (14 games).
Suggs was sidelined for 20 games from early December 2021 through mid-January 2022 after fracturing his right thumb and dealt with injuries to his right ankle that sidelined him for 13 of the final 18 games last season.
Being away from the floor for another extended stretch has tested his patience, but he understands the process.
“It’s definitely been difficult,” Suggs said. “Especially not being able to go on the road with the guys. When we were playing well and things were going great, I wanted to be a part of that. When you’re not able to be a part of that and have to see it from a distance, you know they still love and care for you but just being away definitely is tough.
“Definitely been a test of patience, but every time [I’ve been sidelined], I’ve grown as a player and a person. Sometimes you have to take these things for what they are, learn from them, look at it glass half-full and keep it pushing.”
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.