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In the Magic’s season opener in Indiana, Andrew Nicholson was a human blowtorch. He lit up the Pacers for 18 points (all in the first half) and set basketball Twitter ablaze with his scoring prowess. Nicholson unleashed his full arsenal of moves — some old, some new. A lefty hook here (old), a corner 3 there (new!), and midrange jump shots (old) everywhere. It appeared that Nicholson was primed to build off his impressive rookie campaign.
Through the first month of the season, Nicholson looked every bit like a player that was naturally progressing in his second year in the NBA. He added a 3-point shot (specifically from the corners) and he was improving as a rebounder. His defense still had a long ways to go, but that’s the case for almost any youngster in the league. Nicholson included.
Then something unexpected happened after that first month. Nicholson regressed.
One of the biggest factors is that Nicholson stopped getting steady minutes. For players in a developmental stage, consistent playing time can have transformative effects and can help them reach their potential. And Nicholson was deprived of that.
After missing 21 of the Magic’s first 22 games of the season with a high ankle sprain, Tobias Harris returned from injury on Dec. 13 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Five days later, he was reinserted into the starting lineup at the small forward position.
At first, Nicholson was still coming off the bench as the back-up power forward. But in late December, Harris began soaking up minutes as a stretch four with the second unit. Bit by bit, Nicholson’s playing time waned.