Jonathan Isaac plans to join Orlando Magic in bubble, leaves door open for return

Jonathan Isaac is not closing the door on his return. He said the Orlando Magic plan to include him in their traveling party to Disney to finish the season.

The Orlando Magic are not at the center of many of the on-court storylines as the league prepares to resume its season at Disney in late July.

Yes, the Orlando Magic will have to fight to stay in the Playoff field with the potential for a play-in series with the Washington Wizards.

But the eighth seed is not exactly attention-grabbing. Most of the time, the league pays attention to the eighth seed only to see if there are young players that will help the team grow in the years to come.

So the biggest story for the Magic and the biggest question they face entering the restart of the season centers on Jonathan Isaac.

Magic executives have tamped down any expectation that Jonathan Isaac will return from the injury he suffered on Jan. 1. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman did the media rounds after the league announced its return to play plan and said he did not anticipate Jonathan Isaac being ready to play.

The door was always slightly ajar. And Isaac appears to be leaving it open too.

This weekend on The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com, Isaac said the team plans to include him in their traveling party into the bubble. That does not mean he will play. Isaac said he will continue to work with an eye on coming back, but he would not rush the process.

“I think as of right now, I’m going to the bubble. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be in the bubble. Will I be able to play? I can’t put my finger on it now. I’m going to continue to work every single day like I’m getting there [and] like I’m going for it. Hopefully, that crosses paths the right way that it’s able to happen. If not, it sucks. But we’ve got time to get back and be completely ready for next season. I’m excited about it. I’m intrigued about what this bubble is going to be like. I’m looking forward to it.”

That is a good mindset to have for Isaac. He wants to push himself and his recovery to try to be ready to play. He did not seem to think the door was completely closed. But Isaac is clearly going to listen to the Magic’s performance staff.

Like coach Steve Clifford did with Mohamed Bamba last year, Jonathan Isaac has sat down and studied tape of opponents with the coaching staff and provided them some scouting reports. The Magic have tried to keep him engaged and active with the team in some way.

Jonathan Isaac’s rehab derailed, delayed

Jonathan Isaac also said the pandemic completely derailed his rehab.

At the time the season went on hiatus, Isaac was shooting set shots and traveling with the team. But the pandemic closed down the gym and kept him away from the Magic’s training staff.

He was able to work out on his own with some guidance from the Magic’s performance staff but it was at home with a makeshift home gym. It was not the full facility the Magic can provide.

It was not until the facility reopened that Isaac was able to ramp up his rehab again. And this was not even touching a basketball or doing a ton of basketball moves.

No doubt, Orlando is missing Isaac. He is the most intriguing player on the roster.

No player on the team has more elite potential than Isaac. He was on track to be named to the All-Defensive Team and possibly get votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Isaac was having a career season in almost every statistical category and he was bursting with confidence just as his season turned.

He has been out with a posterior lateral corner injury in his left knee since Jan. 1. In that game against the Wizards, he suffered a freak injury when his leg wrapped around Bradley Beal’s leg as he tried to Euro step through the lane in transition.

Isaac did not need surgery, but it did not look like he would return for the season, despite some initial optimism.

But as the hiatus has worn on, the chance of his returning seemed to increase. Naturally, he would recover and while he could not work on basketball skills as extensively, he could follow a basic rehab plan to get himself healthy.

Isaac is still along that rehab path. But it is a long and winding road.

There is plenty to play for when the season resumes. But not enough to risk Isaac’s long-term health — even if it means Isaac will go more than 11 months without playing in a NBA game.

What else Jonathan Isaac has been up to

Jonathan Isaac has spent much of his hiatus rehabbing, but also helping raise awareness around the community — and getting engaged.

He told Warmoth more about the work he is doing alongside Project Life Now and J.U.M.P. Ministries. The two groups have helped provide meals for students in Orange County who would normally rely on schools for low-cost meals.

Isaac also provided his thoughts on the current protests against racial injustice going on around the country.

He is still very busy. But he is eyeing the NBA’s trip to Disney to finish the season in late July. It appears Isaac will be a part of the Magic in some form.

Next: Where we left the Magic: Defensive inconsistency

And there is still an outside chance he will play.

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