Exclusive: Gordon keeps grinding, looks to build on Magic’s run

Magic forward Aaron Gordon is eyeing a return to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Aaron Gordon and the Orlando Magic are coming off a banner season. The Magic made the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and Gordon’s 16.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game were undoubtedly big reasons why.

This summer, Gordon has spent a lot of time working out and traveled to China for a Jr. NBA event. But today, he is back in Orlando.

“It’s my home now,” Gordon told Amico Hoops during a phone interview.

Gordon, 23, is 6-foot-9 and capable of playing either forward position. He really has come into his own, rising to the level of some All-Stars. Last season, he averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds during the regular season (78 games).

Still, Gordon isn’t satisfied.

“I definitely want to be better in the post, just with my footwork,” he said. “Continue to make better decisions on the floor, handle the ball really well, just do better than we did last year. Advance, get a series win in the playoffs.”

Gordon is also aiming to continue expanding his range from the perimeter.

“Hopefully one day (I will) be in the three-point contest,” he said. “Just one day at a time, one game at a time, one shot at a time.”

Gordon isn’t the only member of the Magic hanging around Orlando this summer. Teammates such as Terrence Ross, Jonathan Issac and Wesley Iwundu are some of the people Gordon sees.

The Magic re-signed Ross, as well as standout center Nikola Vucevic in free agency.

So there is a lot of continuity with a young team — which can be considered a positive, since the Magic have already gotten a taste of the postseason.

“We’re definitely looking to build on what happened last year,” Gordon said. “Get out of that first round and progress in the playoffs.”

Making the playoffs was no easy task for the Magic. As late as March and April, it was still hard to know if they would even qualify. They were one of several teams separated by just a handful of games. They eventually willed and won their way to the seventh seed.

They even beat the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of their first-round series.

“It just reaffirmed that we can play with anybody in the league,” Gordon said. “We have that potential, we have that capability, so we’re gonna come out guns blazing ready to go next year.”

MAGICAL GOALS

Last year marked the Magic’s first playoff appearance since 2012. Now, they want to keep a good thing going.

“I think if we had that expectation (last) year we might have been a fifth or fourth seed,” he said. “We’re going to go in just expecting to play a brand of basketball that wins.”

Gordon is the type of talent who could put up huge numbers on a regular basis if that were his focus. Instead, he’s keeping the Magic as the priority.

“I’m putting my individual goals aside,” he said. “My only goals are to progress in the postseason, help my team win and just win for my team. That’s really what it comes down to. I don’t really have too many individual goals these days.”

Following an offseason of great change across the NBA, most people seem to believe the Eastern Conference is wide open. But not many of those people are mentioning the Magic as a true threat.

Still, there is something to be said for familiarity.

“We’re the same team pretty much,” Gordon said. “Just better, more mature, with the same coaching staff. So we’re definitely going to surprise some people this year.”

DUNKING DREAMS

As for the rest of the league, Gordon said he thought all along that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would team up in New York — just not with the Brooklyn Nets.

“I thought they were going to go to the Knicks, but they didn’t get the No. 1 pick,” Gordon said.

While he enjoys the drama of free agency and how the top talent has been spread across the entire league, Gordon said he just wants to play and win with the Magic.

“I’ve been here for five years now, going on six years,” he said. “We’re getting better.”

One of the things that got NBA fans to love Gordon was his infamous dunk contest battle with Zach LaVine in 2016. This season during the 2020 NBA All-Star break in Chicago, Gordon would be interested in participating again.

“If I can go do it in Chicago, that’d be great,” he said.

For now, though, his thoughts are clearly on continuing to rise with the promising Magic.