The Orlando Magic are getting closer to getting healthy as Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic return to practice. Their returns are coming soon.
Ask Orlando Magic general manager John Hammond, and he will tell you injuries are the reason the team’s season went so far off the rails. The team was 8-4 at one point and things started to fall apart. In his estimation, or at least as he said in his interview, the team is down four of its six best players.
Injuries have been a recurring story for the team throughout the season. The year started heading south when Jonathan Isaac sprained his ankle in Denver. The team was 8-4 and began a slow descent into chaos, losing the next nine games.
The injuries have kept piling up since then. Terrence Ross is out with a fracture of his tibial plateau. Nikola Vucevic is still out with a fractured hand. Aaron Gordon has missed time with a hamstring strain, a concussion and now a strained hip flexor. Evan Fournier missed some time with a sprained ankle of his own.
Those are all rotation players. And this team, even by Hammond’s own admission, had a small margin for error. Losing those players hurt the team and any chance of success. It seems like most of this season has been spent waiting for players to get healthy.
It appears the Magic are getting closer to realizing that goal. Their returns will be too late to save the season. The Orlando Magic are not about to go on a run to make the Playoffs — the Magic are 21 losses or 21 Philadelphia 76ers from Playoff elimination. If the 76ers make the playoffs at 41-41, the Magic would have to go 26-5 the rest of the way to match.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported both Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac returned to contact practice on Friday, although coach Frank Vogel warned they are both still far away from playing.
Robbins also reported from practice Friday that Terrence Ross is doing some light jogging, a sign that he is inching closer to a return.
"“I’m excited to see all these guys doing a little bit more and definitely progressing,” Vogel told the Orlando Sentinel. “We’ve missed Terrence this year. He’s a heck of a two-way player. I’m just happy for him because I know he’s got to be going crazy the last couple of months not being able to do anything.”"
Undoubtedly the team needs all three of these players to compete at a consistent level. That is something that has eluded the team ever since Isaac went down in November. And was only made worse with each injury piling on.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders added this on Isaac’s recovery:
Isaac’s ankle injury has been bothersome. After a false start in his return from the ankle injury, the Magic decided to hold him out indefinitely and ensure his ankle was fully healed before testing him on the court again. It has been frustrating over a seemingly minor injury.
The hope is that it will make him healthier and stronger for the long run. The intention appears to be to have him play the last quarter of the season. That should salvage something from his rookie season.
Both Isaac and Vucevic seem set to return shortly after the All-Star Break. That would give them a week or two of practicing before hitting the floor again.
Aaron Gordon is still day-to-day with a strained hip flexor. The team does not expect Gordon out for long. Vogel said the team would evaluate him again Sunday (the team was scheduled to practice, but the team canceled it Saturday) and determine if he would play in the upcoming back to back against the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Orlando could certainly use the boost. And it seems like reinforcements are finally on their way back.