Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac displayed brilliance during the NBA’s scrimmages in the bubble. In a seven-minute stretch against the Denver Nuggets, he scored 13 points, grabbed 7 boards and stole the ball twice. After more than 7 months of rehabbing an injured left knee, it looked like the Magic forward was finally blooming.
That is until his knee became a problem again. As he drove to the basket against the Sacramento Kings on August 7, his knee gave out. In that moment, his season gave out.
Isaac’s combination of offensive utility and defensive awareness is rare. For the Magic, it’s been an absolute blessing. While Isaac isn’t going to be your leading scorer on a nightly basis, his game has improved exponentially through these past three years that he’s been in the league.
This season built upon last. Isaac increased his scoring average a solid two points, attempted and converted more two-point shots than he ever has and posted a very solid 1.1 VORP, or value over replacement player. For a team struggling to find an identity outside of Aaron Gordon, Isaac is a sign that the team is heading in the right direction.
However, his knee is a major issue. The injury he suffered back in January no doubt hampered growth. In fact, one of COVID-19’s rare blessings has been the time it’s given injured players to recover. That said, more than 160,000 people are dead and the current administration seems more content banning an app than fighting a pandemic.
But Isaac used his time off the court to recover. And recover he did. In his only full game in the bubble, Isaac posted 16 points and grabbed 6 boards back in July against the Brooklyn Nets. That’s pretty comparable to his play prior to his injury in January. In fact, those numbers are better than his total average for the month of November.
At the end of the day, you can only really blame Isaac’s knee for failing him. He’ll be back in recovery mode soon enough. Until then, however, we wait. We wait like we waited for three years for Isaac to blossom. And we hope that despite the Magic’s incredibly shitty luck with young players (looking at you Penny Hardaway), Isaac can make the comeback he deserves.
This isn’t the end of the road for Isaac, but a hurdle. Now Magic fans just need to hope that his knee can allow them to make that jump.
BANNER: Bryan Horowitz//Flickr