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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jalen Suggs’ availability for Magic this season has been his top improvement

Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs drives past Miami’s Kyle Lowry on Dec. 20 at the Kia Center in Orlando, Fla.  (Tribune News Service)
By Jason Beede Tribune News Service

For former Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs, the best part of his third year in the NBA so far hasn’t been the early season success by the Orlando Magic or his array of career-high numbers.

Sure, the wins have come more quickly and in larger quantity than any of his first two years in Orlando – the Magic are 22-18.

And yes, Suggs is averaging a career-high in points (13.2), field-goal percentage (46.1%), 3-point percentage (39.3%) and steals (1.4) in 36 games played.

But for the No. 5 pick from the 2021 draft, it’s been his ability to be on the court alongside his teammates through the ups and downs of the season that’s brought the guard the most joy.

“There are definitely areas of growth but I’ve been available, which is the best part,” he said last week. “However well everything is going, I’ve been available and I’ve been able to play with these guys. That’s something that I was missing for two years.”

As a rookie, Suggs missed 34 game due to various injuries, including 20 due to a fractured right thumb. Last season, he wasn’t available for 28 games, including 19 with right ankle soreness.

Over the 164 regular-season games for which Suggs could have been available during his first two seasons, he played in just 101, or 61% of the total.

So far this season, he’s missed only four.

Suggs didn’t play Nov. 17 at Chicago due to a sore left knee, sat out Dec. 8 vs. Detroit due to a right ankle strain and missed two games (Dec. 21-23) due to a left wrist sprain.

While he has remained healthy for the majority of the season so far, the same can’t be said for some of his teammates. A handful of rotation players have missed a variety of games in recent weeks.

Suggs said the number of injuries isn’t taking a toll on himself or the rest of the Magic, who’ve seen an increase in workload due to the various absences.

“I mean, I haven’t gotten to do this,” he said. “For as tough as this is, for the days that you’re tired, you can’t take it for granted because I’ve had the days where I couldn’t get on the court. I couldn’t get better. I couldn’t be around the team.

“So, no, it’s not taking a toll. It’s part of life. It’s part of battling every day and [you] just have to stay at it.”

Suggs has done more than just battle this season. He’s thrived on both ends for the Magic. He’s led (or tied) the team in scoring twice, in rebounding once and in assists three times.

“To be available, to keep playing, to keep growing and having the chance to get better has been a blessing,” Suggs said.