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Magic take Aaron Gordon out of starting lineup for violation of team rules

DALLAS — The Orlando Magic held Aaron Gordon out of their starting lineup Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks because of what team officials labeled “a violation of team rules.”

A source said Gordon arrived late for the Magic’s flight to Dallas following practice Monday.

Coach Frank Vogel started Mario Hezonja at power forward in Gordon’s place and Vogel employed a starting lineup of Elfrid Payton, Jonathon Simmons, Evan Fournier, Hezonja and Bismack Biyombo.

Gordon first checked into the game with 5:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Entering Tuesday, Gordon had started all 31 games he had been healthy enough to play this season.

Seeing Smith

On Tuesday night, the Magic encountered the point guard they could have taken in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Dennis Smith Jr. started his 34th game of the season when the Mavericks hosted the Magic at American Airlines Center.

The Magic had their chance to select Smith last June but instead used the sixth overall pick on forward Jonathan Isaac out of Florida State. The Mavs scooped Smith up with the ninth pick.

Smith worked out for the Magic once in Orlando before the NBA Draft Combine in mid-May and later interviewed with new Magic executives Jeff Weltman and John Hammond after Weltman and Hammond were hired.

Vogel said he interviewed Smith on one lengthy occasion during the pre-draft process.

“I really enjoyed talking to the young man and getting to know him,” Vogel said. “He’s got what it takes. We were very high on him.”

Vogel added: “He’s very confident. He’s got a great self-confidence about him. He knows how good he can be. That’s part of what it takes.”

The Magic are high on Isaac even though he has now missed 25 games because of an ankle injury. Isaac will remain out until his ankle fully heals from a sprain he suffered on Nov. 11.

Smith, meanwhile, entered Tuesday averaging 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. One of the biggest criticisms about his game during the pre-draft process was his outside shooting, and so far, he hasn’t proven he can consistently knock down the 3; he entered Tuesday shooting 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.

“Dennis has learned an awful lot in 41 games,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said as Tuesday’s tipoff approached.

Coaching talent

Carlisle is high on Smith, and he also was high on Vogel back when Vogel was in his mid-30s.

In the mid-2000s, Carlisle reached out to Vogel to see if Vogel had any interest in joining Carlisle’s Indiana Pacers coaching staff if a job opening arose. Carlisle wound up not hiring anyone at that time.

In early 2011, when the Pacers elevated Vogel to their head-coaching job, Carlisle — along with Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy — reached out to Vogel and offered support.

“He became a little bit of a mentor for me, an advisor,” Vogel said.

On Tuesday, Carlisle said: “I love the way he coaches his teams. The job he did in Indiana over that three- or four-year period where they got to the conference finals multiple times after a long, arduous rebuild — that was phenomenal coaching. And he was doing it with a team that was not built necessarily for today’s game, but they were still thriving.”

Running again

Nikola Vucevic has joined his Magic teammates on the road for the first time since he fractured his left hand on Dec. 23 and underwent surgery on Dec. 26.

Vucevic did conditioning drills Tuesday morning.

“He’s going to keep working and try to stay in the best shape that he can, so that when the hand heals up he’s ready to go,” Vogel said.

jrobbins@orlandosentinel.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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