The Orlando Magic will be without starting center Wendell Carter Jr. for at least three weeks after he fractured the third metacarpal in his left hand during the team’s win over the Utah Jazz on Nov. 2. Carter will undergo surgery to repair the fracture, and the team will issue an update on his status after the initial three-week timetable, the team announced on Saturday.
Carter suffered the injury in the closing seconds against the Jazz. With the Magic clinging to a one-point lead in that game, Carter started sprinting towards Talen Horton-Tucker to close out on his potential go-ahead 3-pointer, but decided instead to circle back to crash the glass. That was a wise decision, as Horton-Tucker’s attempt clanged off the rim and Carter was there to soar for the rebound. However, he was knocked off balance in mid-air by Kelly Olynyk, and was unable to brace himself as he fell.
It was immediately clear that something was wrong, as Carter couldn’t even stay in for the final 1.3 seconds. Further evaluation later revealed the fracture, which will force him to miss at least 11 games, starting with the Magic’s 120-101 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
There’s never a good time to lose your center, but this is a particularly rough patch of the schedule for the Magic, who will now be without Carter against some of the league’s best big men in Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis.
Though Carter hadn’t been at his best through the first five games — 9.4 points and 8.6 rebounds on 37.8% shooting from the field — he is still a significant loss on both sides of the ball. The Magic turned to Goga Bitadze in the starting lineup on Saturday, and both he and Mo Wagner figure to see more playing time in Carter’s absence.
The Magic, hoping to push for at least a play-in spot this season with this up-and-coming roster, are now 4-2 after taking down the Lakers, which is good for a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference.