Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac started running again when facility reopened

Jonathan Isaac is making progress in his return from injury as the NBA's hiatus bought the Orlando Magic forward some time to recover. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Jonathan Isaac is making progress in his return from injury as the NBA's hiatus bought the Orlando Magic forward some time to recover. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

Jonathan Isaac suddenly may return for the Orlando Magic with the league’s months-long hiatus. He started running again now with the facility open.

The biggest question facing the Orlando Magic for whenever the season resumes is whether Jonathan Isaac will be able to return for the abbreviated restart of the season.

Jonathan Isaac has been out since Jan. 1 with a posterior lateral corner injury to his left knee. It was a freak injury, resulting when his Euro step wrapped around Bradley Beal’s leg and he collapsed on the floor.

It was a damaging injury that halted a promising season. When Isaac went down, it really did feel like the season collapsed with it. The year lost some of its purpose, at least. The team’s most promising young player was on the shelf.

The initial prognosis of the injury had him getting re-evaluated in early March. But it still seemed like his return to the court was unlikely.

But as the season went on hiatus in March and has dragged on now into May and likely into June, the question still lingered whether Isaac would return. Whether Isaac could return.

Isaac has not given a ton of updates. There have only been scattered reports.

Before the season went on hiatus, Isaac was traveling with the team again and taking set shots. It was a small sign of his progress. But it was clear he was not close to a return.

Now that some time has passed, Isaac has ramped up his rehab — as much as he can. And with access back to the Magic’s training facility and closer observation, Isaac has seemingly stepped up his rehab.

At an event Friday where he delivered Papa John’s Pizza and other food to local families through J.U.M.P. Ministries, Project Life and his other charitable endeavors, he confirmed to the media he had started running again in the Alter-G treadmill — a lower-gravity treadmill that is meant to alleviate the pressure of running by reducing the amount of weight and pressure a runner puts on their leg.

Isaac said his knee was feeling stronger and he had squatted more than he had squatted since the injury recently. He also said he is putting up shots still, although the intensity is not clear.

The way Isaac spoke, it sounded like he only started running in the Alter-G a few days ago and that was the first time he was running.

That could mean he is still a long way away from getting back onto the court — and nobody is going through contact right now, so it is hard to say whether he could go through that phase of his recovery.

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Isaac has left the door open before for his return. And he did not completely close it still.

Isaac seems willing to cross that bridge when he gets there and when the league is ready to reopen rather than speculate on his readiness for the start of the season. If he is ready, he will play. If he is not, he will sit and prepare for next season.

"“With the league talking about coming back, we don’t know (what will happen) and they might be talking about (playing in) Orlando, I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m going to take it one day at a time,” Isaac said (h/t John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com). “If it crosses up that I’m good to go, then I’m good to go. If not, then it’ll be too bad, and I’ll be back next season.”"

That is about the best anyone can hope for after months off.

Jonathan Isaac and the Orlando Magic were gifted time

For sure, the hiatus bought the Orlando Magic — and every team — some time with injured players. The potential for players with season-long injuries to return became readily apparent once it became clear the pandemic was not going to be some short-term fix.

The original timeline the Magic gave after Isaac’s injury on Jan. 1 was they would re-evaluate him in 6-8 weeks. That took the team to early March. Isaac spoke to the media around that time and that seemed to serve as the sort of update.

As the Magic have done since Jeff Weltman took over as President of Basketball Operations, the Magic went fairly quiet — and fairly cautious.

There was always that glimmer of hope with Isaac’s recovery. The team opted not to go with surgery and that gave at least the chance he could get back before the end of the season.

But clearly Orlando was prepared to play the rest of the season without him. The Magic have played it cautious with several injuries to the young players on the roster that they have invested their future in.

Still, the promise of what Isaac could bring to the team was still tantalizing. He averaged career-highs with 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2.4 blocks per game. His defensive playmaking and rim-protection especially stood out. It was exciting to watch Isaac play.

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  • On top of that, Isaac started asserting himself more offensively. Not all the time, but he was more willing to take shots and try to create for himself, although it was still a rare occurrence he did so.

    In a Playoff series especially, having a potentially elite defensive presence would have value. That is the promise Isaac has.

    The hiatus from the coronavirus put Isaac back in play to return.

    That has been a question other injured players have also had to answer — including Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Durant. Players have gotten healthier when they otherwise would not — Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin and Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker appear healed from injuries that kept them out two months ago.

    Of course, everyone is in the same boat. Nobody has been able to do much. And individual workouts only started about a week ago.

    The schedule ahead

    The schedule ahead is uncertain. The NBA is expected to present its return to play plan to the teams by June 1.

    Rumors are circulating the NBA could have teams return to practice for a training camp by mid-June and the season would start at either one or two central locations — including potentially at Disney — by mid-July.

    That is the timeline the Magic and the rest of the league are reportedly working on. And whether a player like Isaac will be ready is dependent on a lot of things.

    Like everyone else, Isaac has had to put a lot of his rehab on hold. He was not able to go into the facility and get examined by team trainers and use the facility for his rehab.

    While the Magic’s trainers gave Isaac (and every other player) workouts to do at home, that undoubtedly slowed his ability to get back onto the court. Isaac very well might have been ramping up his basketball activity at this point had the world not stopped for the coronavirus.

    That is a question that is impossible to answer.

    The one thing we know is the Magic will not rush his recovery. They know Isaac’s value to them comes from his future and his development. There is no reason to throw him out there if he is not physically ready.

    Next. Chuma Okeke was shooting jumpers before hiatus. dark

    And so only time will tell. But Isaac has confirmed he has made some real progress. Now we will see whether that progress continues heading into the end of this hiatus and training camp before the season ends.