One thing has been clear during the Orlando Magic’s recent stretch of losses: They miss Wendell Carter Jr.
The Magic (5-17) have lost six straight and seven of their last eight after Wednesday’s 125-108 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Amway Center in large part because their defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) and defensive rebounding rate have plummeted in Carter’s absence.
Their lone win in the last two weeks came against the Bulls in Chicago on Nov. 18, the only game Carter has played since his first absence in the Nov. 16 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves because of strained right plantar fascia — the soft tissue under the foot.
Carter will miss his eighth game in the last nine because of the injury in Friday’s road matchup vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers (14-8). It’s the front end of a back-to-back, with the Magic playing at the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) will sit Friday.
Harris exited Wednesday because of right hamstring tightness. Okeke will miss his fifth consecutive game while Suggs will sit for his fourth straight game.
Mo Bamba (back spasms) is questionable.
Carter told the Orlando Sentinel ahead of Wednesday’s loss that his foot is feeling better as he rests, adding he hopes to return within 1-2 weeks — a fluid timetable that’ll be impacted by how the injury progresses.
He would at least miss Saturday and Monday’s game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks at Amway Center, which kicks off a five-game homestand, if he’s out for another week.
The Magic play the Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 7), Raptors (Dec. 9 and 11) and Hawks (Dec. 14) at Amway before a four-game road trip that starts with a baseball-style series against the Celtics in Boston on Dec. 16 and 18. The road trip ends with matchups against the Hawks (Dec. 19) and Houston Rockets (Dec. 21).
If he misses two weeks, he’ll sit for the matchups against the Clippers and Raptors. The Dec. 14 game will be exactly two weeks from when Carter spoke with the Sentinel.
Carter’s averaged 16.6 points (51.5% shooting — 59% on 2s, 34.6% on 3s), 9.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the 15 games (32.9 minutes). He’s the only Magic player with a positive individual plus/minus, with plus-0.3.
He told the Sentinel on Nov. 18 he had played through the injury for 5-6 games before being sidelined for the first time against the Timberwolves, meaning he had been dealing with it for most of November.
Carter said the injury got “really bad” after the home loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 14 in which he had 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 32 minutes, resulting in him sitting vs. Minnesota.
He said he aggravated the injury trying to play through it in that win vs. the Bulls, comparing his symptoms to feeling like walking on glass.
Carter’s not worried about further injuring the foot but doesn’t want to hurt something else by compensating for it.
“Knowing my body, knowing when I got pain I’m going to start favoring stuff, I didn’t want to end up hurting something else because I’m favoring something on my foot,” he said. “There’s really no specific thing you can put on it to stop it from hurting. It’s just about tolerance, putting heat on it and stuff like that.”
Carter is wearing a boot and doing cardio that doesn’t force him to bear weight on the foot, such as using an exercise bike.
How he responds to treatment will be the guide.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.