The Orlando Magic got some good news that Jonathan Isaac is avoiding surgery. But Al-Farouq Aminu’s surgery likely means his season is finished.
The Orlando Magic can breathe at least a small sigh of relief.
As coach Steve Clifford put it, now the team knows what it is dealing with in the recovery of two key players in Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu and they can start the process of getting them better.
Are they any closer to stepping back onto the court? That part is not likely. But at least they have taken the next steps in their recovery.
The Magic confirmed Jonathan Isaac will not need surgery to treat the severe knee sprain he suffered Jan. 1. He remains out indefinitely and will be re-evaluated in approximately seven weeks toward the end of February.
There is no guarantee Isaac will return at all this year, although there is still time left in the season should the evaluation go well.
Everyone will have to be patient with Isaac. The Magic are certainly taking the long view with him.
The news is not as good with Al-Farouq Aminu.
Aminu, who had a setback a few weeks ago while recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the damage, the Magic announced. He will be re-evaluated in about 12 weeks (around April 1).
That would leave at least the door open that he would return for the final few weeks of the season and the playoffs. But there is no sense in pushing that. Aminu’s season is likely finished.
If it is, it certainly was disappointing for him. He was averaging a career-low 4.3 points per game and shooting 29.1 percent from the floor. He was struggling to get any kind of traction offensively, inexplicably missing a ton of shots right around the basket.
The Magic signed Aminu to a 3-year, $29.2-million contract hoping that his experience as a starter for the Portland Trail Blazers would add some much-needed depth. Defensively he certainly added that. But he always struggled to find his fit with the new group.
After just 18 games, he was still searching for it when the injury struck.
“Obviously he was brought here to be a part of things,” Clifford said before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards. “Very professional, very good player. Unfortunate for him and for us. I think he was in a new place with new teammates and had a very different role here. He was used to starting and was coming off the bench here. I think he was getting more comfortable and finding his way.”
The losses have certainly hit the Magic’s depth even at their strong power forward position.
The team has platooned Khem Birch and Wesley Iwundu to fill the minutes Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu left open. Clifford has inserted whichever player fits the matchup — going with Khem Birch when the opponent starts big and going with Wesley Iwundu when the opponent goes small.
Orlando is still without another key piece to the puzzle.
Michael Carter-Williams is still out with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder. Steve Clifford said after shootaround Wednesday that Tuesday was the best Michael Carter-Williams had felt in a long time but he was still “not even close” to being ready to play.
The Magic are still putting all the puzzle pieces together in the wake of these major injuries to several rotation players. But they still have found some way to win, going 2-1 since Isaac’s injury (3-1 including the game he got hurt).
“It’s not the way it was drawn up in the summer,” Clifford said before Wednesday’s game against the Wizards. “Khem is not a 4 and neither is Wes. There is no other way to do it. Aaron is going to play a lot at the 4. Those guys are too. We’re just going to have to be able to do it. Is it perfect? Not at all. It’s not at all what you want to do. It’s not ideal. And yet it can be done.”
The Magic, as things stand, have climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference in the meantime. They, like the injured players, still have a long road ahead of them.