There has been no shortage of storylines for Duke men's basketball alums in the NBA in the past couple weeks, so the Blue Zone takes a look at how former Blue Devils are faring in the league:
Kyrie Irving scores 60 points against Orlando
Kyrie Irving showed Orlando last week that he’s got the real Magic. The Brooklyn Nets faced the Orlando Magic on the road Wednesday with Irving able to join them. The unvaccinated superstar can only play in road games as New York’s vaccine mandate prevents him from playing at home. With such an on-off season, one might expect Irving to need time to adjust between rest and playing. However, he showed no sign of that in Orlando, dropping 41 points in the first half. That is the most points scored in a half in NBA league history since Kobe Bryant scored 42 for the Lakers in 2003.
Irving was incredibly efficient right out the gate, going 14-for-19 from the field and 6-for-7 from three in the first half, finishing with 64.5% and 66.7% marks from the field and distance, respectively. His 60 points are a career high and tied for league-best this season with Karl Anthony-Towns’ 60-point game a night earlier. They are also the most in Nets franchise history, and Irving and Kevin Durants' consecutive 50-plus point performances became the first by a pair of teammates in NBA history.
Zion Williamson ruled out for the rest of the season
Pelicans and Duke fans will have to wait through the summer to see Zion back in action. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Zion Williamson is not expected to see the court for the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Last year, Williamson became an All-Star for the first time, averaging 27.0 points through the season. Then, over the summer, he fractured his right foot and was projected to miss the start of this season. However, weeks turned into months, and Williamson needed two surgeries in total throughout the year to properly recover.
He rehabbed the injury in Portland, Ore., to make sure he was in better shape before joining the team after the All-Star break. With 10 regular-season games remaining, it seems as though the Pelicans are playing it safe to avoid any more setbacks in Williamson’s lengthy recovery over the past year. Still, Williamson is apparently in good spirits as he joined a New Orleans roster reshaped by the trade deadline. The tricky part is that the Pelicans are now in play-in territory, unlike last year, and they could definitely use Williamson to solidify their playoff standing. Either way, the organization is certainly hoping Williamson will be able to play next season so it can establish itself as a legitimate playoff contender.
Wendell Carter Jr. scores career high
Despite Orlando being a lottery team again this year, one bright spot has been the play of Wendell Carter Jr. this year. Carter was traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Orlando Magic midway through last season, making this season his first full-length one with the Magic. Given that Orlando has several promising young big men, it says a lot that Carter has been such a reliable starter for it. On the season, Carter has averaged 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Sunday, Carter, making his return from an ankle injury, notched a career-high 30 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on 12-of-15 shooting, including 10 clutch points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic win 90-85. At one point in the quarter, Carter scored seven straight to help the Magic take the lead back from the Thunder. His performance put his name alongside other historic Magic players as he joined Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in franchise history to notch 30 points and 15 rebounds on 80% shooting from the field. As the Magic continues their rebuild, Carter has proven to be one to watch in the meantime.
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