The Orlando Magic lost a big opportunity by sitting Jonathan Isaac

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is eager to return to the practice facility and the court. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is eager to return to the practice facility and the court. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Months of frustration of hearing next to no update on Jonathan Isaac’s fitness finally came to an end last week, but it was not the news that Orlando Magic fans were hoping for.

The team has announced Isaac will not return this season from an injury he first suffered all the way back in August 2020, when he tore the ACL in his left knee during a game against the Sacramento Kings in the Orlando Bubble.

It means the versatile forward will have missed two full seasons as a result of the injury. One of the team’s goals of reintegrating both of their players out with long-term injuries will fall short. But the team can only go as fast as Isaac’s recovery would allow. As Isaac put it, this is just taking longer than anyone anticipated.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman insisted there was no setback in Isaac’s recovery. But with the season nearing its end, the team had run out of time to ramp up his recovery before returning to competitive action.

"“I understand this can be frustrating to our fans, but Jonathan has worked extremely hard and he is eager to return to game action, which is why we must continue to manage his rehabilitation with the big picture in mind,” Weltman said. “Quite frankly, we are just out of time to ramp him up to play in games this season.”"

Many Magic fans have already turned their attention to the Draft Lottery and increasing their odds. Some may not lose a ton of sleep in seeing the Magic’s defensive specialist back on the floor. Still, the Magic are missing a great opportunity to re-integrate Isaac when the pressure is off.

Orlando Magic fans will have to wait a bit longer to see Jonathan Isaac return to the court, and the team is missing a big opportunity by acting over-cautiously.

It is understandable why the Magic are being extra careful with Isaac. He had only just returned from a prior injury to his left knee during a New Year’s Day game against the Washington Wizards when he tore his ACL and while the team claims the two injuries were unrelated, clearly there is a weakness there.

Obviously, the Magic do not want to do anything to jeopardize the future of a player they have committed to $69.6 million over four years to. But you would be forgiven for feeling like this is a little bit over the top, given just how much time he has missed.

It is certainly a difficult one to take for fans.

In what has been a dreadful season on the court, the returns of Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac at least gave us something to look forward to. Knowing one will not happen, when all the signs suggested it would, is tough.

For now, everyone has to take the Magic at their word that Isaac is not ready to play. Whether he had a setback that halted his recovery or that his recovery is just going too slowly to have him ready to play is something they will have to live with.

Weltman has made it clear the Magic will always put their players’ long-term health first. And so if he says Isaac is not ready to play, he is not ready to play.

For now, the Magic would only confirm Isaac is doing contact work in the half-court. He has not built the conditioning to go full-court and get through a whole game.

From the team’s perspective, it feels like a big missed opportunity still. Seeing Isaac play in low-pressure games would have helped him ease into his return — much as Fultz has done.

It has been so long since Isaac played that the team has completely changed since he last appeared. He will have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to understanding his teammates.

The rest of the season presented the perfect chance to do that. Isaac could have played with little pressure while beginning to get an understanding of where he can fit in on the team, while his teammates could start to realize how they could get the best out of Isaac.

Related Story. Orlando Magic need to feature Franz Wagner more. light

It would have given the coaching staff an idea of what this might look like with a key piece of the puzzle in place. Isaac’s elite defensive ability and versatility is a powerful tool that needs to be a key focus. These remaining games would have given head coach Jamahl Mosley a good chance to work out how to make the most of it and how to fit him in alongside the team’s other talents.

Now is the time when the Magic are working out how best to move forward and what does not work at all. These games represent a really good opportunity to see who is a keeper and who is not, as well as what this current group of players needs to do to be at their best as a team.

Clearly, Isaac is going to be a big part of this team over the next few years given the investment the front office has made in him./ It is a real shame he will not be a part of the figuring-out stage this season.

The Magic might still be way off competing for the playoffs, but a new season always brings new expectations, and bringing him back in an environment with less pressure would surely have been more beneficial?

For Isaac himself, he might have been one of the best defensive players in the league at his best but he still had a lot of development to do on the offensive end. His jump shot needed a lot of work prior to his injury problems, and bringing him back would have given him the chance to work on his weaknesses in a game environment heading into next season.

This is an opportunity lost for sure. It may not be an opportunity the Magic ever had. They were always going to move slowly and be 110-percent sure Isaac was ready to step back on the court before approving his return.

He clearly has not gotten there.

All anyone can do is trust the Magic’s medical staff in his recovery and hope things pick back up again and he progresses in the offseason so he will be ready for training camp.

Bringing him back to get injured again would have been a disaster, but no one expected Isaac would have to miss two full years when he went down with his ACL tear in the bubble.

Next. Wendell Carter putting his stamp on Orlando Magic. dark

But knowing we will not see Isaac in a Magic uniform until at least August is a disappointing end to what has been a hugely disappointing season. We just have to hope Isaac can get back to his best when he does eventually return.