Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac humbled by defensive accolades, hungry to return

Jonathan Isaac's most impressive performance came against the Dallas Mavericks in November. It proved the Orlando Magic forward can make a leap. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jonathan Isaac's most impressive performance came against the Dallas Mavericks in November. It proved the Orlando Magic forward can make a leap. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is eagerly awaiting his return. The defensive accolades keep coming as he sits down with The Full 48 podcast.

In early November, the NBA was left a little gobsmacked by what they had just seen.

Jonathan Isaac had filled a stat sheet in a way few players had. Against the Dallas Mavericks, he posted 13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and four steals. It was a stunning showing that included four blocks on 7-footer Kristaps Porzingis.

Jonathan Isaac dominated the game showing the full range of his potential. It was a building block for a year that already had Isaac getting All-Defensive team buzz.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was effusive in praising the young forward. A rare sight from one of the steeliest coaches in the league — and also one of the leaders among coaches.

As much as any game, that game was proof of Isaac’s defensive capabilities. It was the start of what was feeling like Isaac’s breakout season. Awards were on the way and fans became — and still are — irrationally excited for Isaac and what he would become.

Isaac still seems humbled by all of the praise and hungry to get back there again. That is the message coming from Isaac as he and everyone else waits to return to play.

He spoke to Howard Beck on The Full 48 podcast and still seemed humbled by the compliments for his defense:

"“I want to be the best defensive player in the league. I want to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year. I want to help my team win to the best of my abilities. If I am out there and I can affect the game on both sides of the floor. I want to be a great two-way player. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to break records and break things in the league. That’s where my mind is at.”"

Isaac, despite his quiet and humble nature, indeed has ambitions for his career and for the Orlando Magic. He wants to be the best at his position and one of the best defensive forces. As one scout told Josh Robbins of The Athletic, he might already be there (subscription required).

He definitely took the compliment from Carlisle in stride. He said when he heard those comments originally — and even now seven months later — he was humbled by them. It is still seemingly amazing that he is in those circles.

And that is only making him eager to get back to work.

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Isaac updated Beck on his status. He is still running on the alter-G treadmill, trying to lessen the impact on his left knee. He said his left leg is still catching up to his right leg as he tries to rebuild strength.

His aim right now is to take everything day by day. And if it works out that he will be ready to play when the season resumes, he will be happy to play. But it does not seem like he wants to rush his own process.

Now that it appears we have a firm date in July 31 for the league’s return, we will see if Isaac picks up his pace to try to return. Knowing the magic, they will remain fairly cautious with his progress and prognosis.

But Isaac’s ambitions are a bit bigger.

He told Beck that he, Markelle Fultz, Mohamed Bamba and others have talked about where they want to take the team. They understand that soon the team will ask for more from them and that they hold responsibility for the franchise.

For a lot of fans, this is one of the questions that the team faces in the near future. Everyone senses the team has to consolidate some of its talent and begin mapping out a longer-term future.

Isaac is certainly a part of that.

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It is good to get a reminder of just how good everyone believes he can be on defense. And how hungry Isaac still is to reach those lofty goals.