It is time for Orlando Magic to unleash Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac

Dec 23, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) warms up before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz (20) warms up before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have reached the All-Star Break and have the roster they are going to have to finish the season. They are going to the lottery once again and look to focus on development for the rest of the year.

Development for players individually, but development as a team too. And there is still one big missing piece to the puzzle. A piece that the Magic have said were essential to the team’s progress this season.

To have Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz miss the whole year would make this season a failure.

The Orlando Magic have had one big piece of their rebuild missing. As the season gets closer to its end, Orlando needs to get Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz back on the court.

Both Fultz and Isaac have missed more than a year since their respective injuries, Fultz tearing his ACL on Jan. 6, 2021, and Isaac tearing his ACL on Aug. 2, 2020.

The normal timeline for an ACL injury is generally eight to nine months. Fans have certainly been impatient in waiting for the two to return. The Magic have been playing with one arm tied behind their back with two starters out for the entire season this year.

With only 22 games remaining in the season and both players being past the general recovery time, it is important to get both players on the court if healthy.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman made it clear before the season that one of the team’s overarching goals was to reintegrate these injured players back into the fold.

There continues to be no official update other than players commenting how players look in practice. With no knowledge, other than Fultz practicing with the Lakeland Magic, there is no way to know how close both players are.

The latest update came from Jalen Suggs during the latest episode of Orlando Magic Pod Squad where he said both have looked good on practice and that Suggs worked with Fultz one-on-one while Suggs was recovering from his own injury. But Suggs cautioned that the player might feel good but might not have the full clearance of the medical staff.

It is still a waiting game.

However, if the Magic want to start to build toward next season and begin to take steps forward, Isaac and Fultz need to be on the court.

There is no way in knowing what version of these players the Magic are going to get back. Isaac was elite on the defensive side of the ball before his injury, but after missing this extent of time, Isaac may have regressed in certain areas. Fultz was able to get to the rim whenever he wanted, but there is a chance he could be less effective in that area.

There have been indications from players to the front office that both players have improved offensively.

Michael Carter-Williams said earlier in the season Markelle Fultz looked different in practice. The front office stated Isaac’s shot has improved during his time out. While these statements may be true, there is no telling how they will translate on the court with a new team without reps.

With that being said, the ACL injury is not considered to be an injury that will end a career anymore. But it does take time to heal. In all likelihood, Fultz and Isaac will come back strong.

However, it will start to become worrisome as time continues to go on without updates and as the team continues to grow without two important pieces to the team.

The Magic have no reason to wait for their returns. They have reached a perfect time — if one exists — to bring them back if they are cleared to play. Fultz has been practicing since December to varying extents. There is certainly an antsiness for his return.

The Orlando Magic will come out of the All-Star Break with a practice Wednesday and Thursday before starting a three-game homestand next Friday against the Houston Rockets. That feels like a good window to bring a player like Fultz back.

But plenty of those windows have passed before. Orlando just needs to get these players on the court and see how they respond to game action. That is a critical part of a player’s recovery too.

The Magic have a 13-47 record, but no one believes the Magic are this bad when fully healthy. The problem is the Magic up to this point has zero sample size healthy. And, more importantly, they do not know how to build this team out without seeing these two key players on the court.

There is no indication where they are in the rebuild process the Magic are without assessing the team play when having a healthy roster. It is going to be a problem when the Magic have decisions to make but lacks the data to make those choices.

Despite that, the Magic seem to be going in the right direction in this rebuild. Orlando is likely better than their record shows as they once again lead the league in games missed due to injury.

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But if this season is about the development of the team and individual players, then it is time to get Isaac and Fultz on the court.