Welcome back Jonathan Isaac: How injured players did in their returns

Jonathan Isaac is set to make his triumphant return to the court Monday night for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Isaac is set to make his triumphant return to the court Monday night for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Last February, everyone associated with the Orlando Magic felt this rush of excitement.

Markelle Fultz announced on an episode of the Orlando Magic Pod Squad a few days prior that he would return the next Monday against the Indiana Pacers. It was finally happening for the young guard.

The excitement was growing after the All-Star Break that Fultz’s return was imminent. He had been practicing with the team for a few weeks. There was just this final step of getting him onto the court and playing in an actual game.

For Fultz, it was a mere 13 months since he tore his ACL in the largely empty Amway Center during the early parts of the 2021 season. It was another disappointing setback in a career that had been full of too many of them in his career.

But everyone was excited to see Fultz make it all the way back. Players wore his “shirsey” to celebrate. He received a standing ovation when he first entered the court as he acknowledged the crowd.

Then. . . then he wowed the team with an impressive return performance.

Markelle Fultz impressed with his return game last year from a torn ACL. What is in store with Jonathan Isaac’s return tonight against the Boston Celtics?

Fultz did not look like he missed a beat, making an immediate impact and looking comfortable as he fed teammates he had largely never played with before with ease. The Magic won that game easily in an emotional evening for the team.

It did suddenly feel like the team had its future and its point guard in place. At the very least, it felt like the Magic had reclaimed some of their future again after so much of it was taken away.

That same moment is going to happen Monday night against the Boston Celtics. The team will likely walk into the Amway Center wearing Isaac’s No. 1 across their chest in celebration. Isaac will get his standing ovation when he checks into his first NBA game in more than 900 days.

And then, most importantly, Isaac will play. He will step onto the court and play basketball. A simple but important act for him. And from there he will be off to the races through the difficulties and trials of the NBA season.

There will be time to get to that. The focus for this day is on his return. That first important game back.

It is not exactly a harbinger of things to come. But there is definitely more energy and adrenaline in this kind of debut game. Nobody knows quite what to expect from Isaac directly in this one. Nobody knows quite what to expect from him for the rest of this season.

It is probably best to temper expectations though. The Magic’s biggest concern in bringing him back onto the court was the long layoff for him. It is the fact that he has not played in more than two years — and really nearly three years.

His initial showing in the G-League for the Lakeland Magic was impressive enough. He averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game in that three-game run.

But the NBA is a different animal.

So what can the Magic expect from Isaac in his return? Perhaps it is best to look at how other players — both in Magic and recent NBA history — looked in their first games back for a clue of how much Isaac can hit the ground running.