Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu’s rehab continue with Orlando Magic return still possible

The Orlando Magic continue to leave the door open for Jonathan Isaac to return when the season resumes at Disney. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic continue to leave the door open for Jonathan Isaac to return when the season resumes at Disney. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu are continuing their rehab from knee injuries. Both appear set to join the Orlando Magic with a small chance for return.

July 1 is usually the day free agency opens. It is the busiest day on the NBA calendar when the quiet parts are said out loud — finally. The league shifts and changes dramatically.

This July 1 was not a beginning, but a deadline. The NBA went on hiatus for three months and is only now ramping up to begin again.

Coaches have gotten back on the court with players only last week. And teams will begin making the trip to Disney next week — the Orlando Magic reportedly are set to check in to the Grand Floridian on July 7.

July 1 at midnight was the NBA’s deadline for teams to sign new players in their temporary transaction window. Soon, teams will need to submit their travel roster for the resumption of play.

The Magic allowed this deadline to pass without signing any new players or converting their two-way contracts to full contracts. The Magic are expected to head to the campus setting with the same 15 players they finished the season with along with two-way contract signees B.J. Johnson and Vic Law.

This was always going to be the case unless the Magic got two more roster spots by declaring the injured Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu ineligible to play.

But that is not what happened. Both Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu remain on the active roster. And the door for their return remains slightly ajar.

That is enough to get people’s hopes up. But the chances of them playing are still pretty slim.

"“They are both in here working every day,” Steve Clifford said during a ZOOM conference with the media Tuesday. “I think it’s really hard to make any determination until they get to the point they can do contact. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying they could do that today. And then, it’s how do they feel after they go through two or three or four tough days of practice where there is a lot of contact. I think it’s really early to try to make an intelligent decision on anything like that.”"

Like everything else, nobody knows how players are going to react to resuming play or how quickly they will be able to ramp up to contact. Being in shape is different than being in basketball shape.

That goes double for players who have not played since December and January.

Whether they can play or not depends on factors beyond just what every other player is dealing with.

But there is an eagerness to see both Isaac and Aminu back. As president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond both said during the trade deadline, the Magic essentially lost a position. It was a big loss the Magic were still trying to recover from.

Losing Isaac especially hurt. He was having a breakout season, averaging 12.0 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. But he made his mark on the defensive end, averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. He was a true defensive playmaker.

Isaac suffered a posterior lateral corner injury to his left knee on Jan. 1 when his knee wrapped around Bradley Beal’s leg while trying to make a Euro step move in transition. The injury was not as catastrophic as it could have been — it did not require surgery — but the sprain was severe.

And the Magic have acted cautiously.

More from Orlando Magic Daily

Isaac was originally supposed to be re-evaluated 6-8 weeks after the injury. There was a small chance he could have returned by late March or early April. Indeed, he had started traveling with the team and taking set shots, but still wearing a balky knee brace, when the season got put on hold.

Undoubtedly getting locked out of the AdventHealth Practice Facility slowed down his rehabilitation and recovery.

He was still able to do exercises on his own. But getting back in the Amway Center and having the chance to work out there certainly could help speed things up.

Isaac said the Magic’s plan was for him to join the team at Disney. But Weltman has continued to say it is very unlikely Isaac will be ready to play.

Orlando is trying to protect a long-term investment. A lot of the Magic’s hopes are tied to him.

But getting him back would suddenly make the Magic a much more difficult team to face, especially as they try to get their defense back under control.

The same might be said for Aminu.

Aminu has built his reputation in the NBA as a strong defender. He gave the Magic that and the ability to maintain size at the power forward spot off the bench.

But he struggled to score, averaging only 4.3 points per game and posting a 34.3-percent effective field goal percentage.

After 18 games, he tore his meniscus. He was on track to return without surgery until January when he suffered a setback. He had the surgery this time.

But through it all, Aminu hoped he would be able to play for Nigeria in the 2020 Olympics. Those would have started July 24.

That would suggest Aminu could have been closer to returning to play, even though the Magic essentially ruled him out for the year once he had surgery. Of course, like Isaac, the hiatus and closing down the practice facility probably slowed his recovery.

There has been no real update on either player’s prognosis. The Magic do not really give timetables for their players’ return. And they have acted cautiously in the past with any kind of long-term injury.

Clifford said in his media availability he will be working closely with high-performance director David Tenney to monitor injuries and health for every player considering the compressed schedule in the seeding round — and the ramp-up of training camp starting July 9 after so long away from basketball.

Clifford’s update was not even an explicit up or down on whether they could even remotely be available. We can only infer from the way Clifford spoke about their rehab and their work that both will join the team at Disney even if they cannot play.

But like everything else, nobody really knows what things will look like until the team hits the ground at Disney and starts real practices again.

dark. Next. Markelle Fultz understands what it means to stay ready

The door seems slightly open for now.