Anticipation for Jonathan Isaac’s return is growing

It has been well longer than a year since Jonathan Isaac's surgery. And Orlando Magic fans are eager to see him back. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
It has been well longer than a year since Jonathan Isaac's surgery. And Orlando Magic fans are eager to see him back. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been so long since Jonathan Isaac last played it is hard for even his teammates to remember the last time they played him.

After all, only two players remain on the Orlando Magic’s roster from the last time Isaac took the floor. And the team is so young that there are enough players who may not have even been in the league when he last played.

Wendell Carter, the veteran of the Magic’s roster in his fifth season, said he was not sure he has played against Jonathan Isaac in his career — he has, playing against him three times in the 2019 season and once in the 2020 season. Their runs in practice are certainly the first time Carter has played alongside Isaac in the few opportunities they have had.

It has been a long wait. Increasingly, that wait seems to be nearing its end. Although nobody will yet say when that end will be.

Jonathan Isaac, alongside guard Jalen Suggs, was a “full-go” at practice Monday. The significance of that was that it was likely among the first times Isaac has been able to go through a practice with five-on-five action involved since getting clearance to return to practice without restriction in early December.

Jonathan Isaac has increased his workload as he nears his return for the Orlando Magic after a more than two-year absence recovering from a torn ACL.

Knowing how the NBA season goes, there are only so few opportunities for the team to get up and down and play actual scrimmaging with teams trying to preserve bodies. With Orlando coming off a two-day break for New Year’s Day and having a pair of practices before the team’s next game Wednesday, this may prove to be a big step.

And it is growing the anticipation for Isaac’s return — both externally from fans but also within the team eager to see their teammate finally make his return from the torn ACL he suffered on Aug. 2, 2020.

"“He looked good,” Carter said after practice Monday. “We haven’t seen him play in a while. If it was up to me, he should play next game. Obviously, it’s a process for him. But he looks phenomenal.“Just watching him, he’s just so versatile on the court. He’s so special. I’m just excited for him to get back out there and do what he does best.”"

That line from Carter is one that has been echoed even by Isaac. He told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel back in November that he felt comfortable enough then to give 10 minutes. The question with Isaac’s return has never really been about his ability to contribute or his readiness mentally to play.

To this point, it has been about rebuilding his conditioning so that when he does return to the court, he will not have to stop and reset. The Magic have always made it clear their goal is that when Isaac returns he will return will good.

The organization has also made it clear that they are aware of the difficulties that might come from a player returning after being out for so long. That too is leading to the delay and caution in bringing him back.

As Isaac put it when he was cleared for practice back in December, the goal each time he goes out is to push himself beyond where he was the previous outing. Eventually that will lead him back to the court.

For now, Orlando just wants to monitor and make sure he is recovering steadily and taking it day to day and practice by practice.

"“I think it is just monitoring how he responds to things,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Monday. “As you give him a little bit more, how do they respond to each piece that you are going into. I think that’s very important versus just saying this is a time we want to get him. Everybody’s body is different.”"

Fans have been plenty patient waiting for Isaac and the team has shown extreme patience in waiting to get him back on the floor. That day is coming soon.

And judging by how Carter felt when he played with him Monday, it seems like his on-court skill is nearly ready to go — even if his game conditioning and day-to-day recovery might still have some room to go.

Right now, Isaac’s teammates are eager to get him back on the court. And the coaching staff is eager to get him back up to speed.

"“I think it is a matter of knocking off the rust, being comfortable out there with different lineups and different groups,” Mosley said after practice Monday. “His instincts are still the same. His defensive ability to know when and where things are happening, his rebounding, obviously asking him to do certain things with rolling vs. popping. Just finding what his rhythm is going to be important.”"

Next. Paolo Banchero goes through his first slump. dark

Until then, the waiting will continue. But the anticipation for this long-awaited return is growing as it gets closer and closer.