The Orlando Magic received the gut-wrenching news on Friday that Jonathan Isaac was done for the season after having surgery on a torn left adductor muscle.
A bitter pill for both player and organization to swallow, after only managing 11 games back on the court after over two years out through injury.
Even worse, Isaac had shown in those games he could still be a game-changer on the defensive end, and in those limited minutes the Magic had the best defensive rating in the entire league with him on the court.
Now is not a time to wallow in what might have been and write the obituaries for Jonathan Isaac’s career. No, the Orlando Magic need to ensure this moment does not define them.
A word first on Isaac the player. It must be beyond difficult to want to play a game and know what you are capable of, and to have your body betray you and stop you from doing that.
To tantalize and to show glimpses of what is possible, but not be durable enough to do it on the kind of basis that Isaac, the Magic and their fans would like.
But we also must accept that when players have missed as much time as Isaac has, that playing at the level of the NBA means that his body likely overcompensates in other areas after the knee and hamstring issues he has suffered from before.
We all hope that Isaac makes a full recovery, and that he one day soon helps this franchise to win.
But thankfully for the Magic, they are not in the same position that they once were with him. Formerly seen as a cornerstone member of their roster, that is no longer the case.
Isaac was meant to be the next man up who was going to rise to lead a group featuring Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.
If we are being honest though, anything Isaac could give this team was seen as a bonus this season, and what a bonus it was in the fleeting times that we got to witness it.
This is the mentality that must be taken into the future, because at this point in time the trade value of Isaac is sure to be similar to a player like Ben Simmons.
That is to say, he has none at all after this latest setback. There is not another team in the league who would offer anything of value for the player, so it is safe to assume he is going nowhere.
The Magic now have Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner leading the charge, two players who are already better offensively than Isaac ever was.
Defensively they cannot do what Isaac can, but both are continuing to improve and are showing real durability in their short stints in the league thus far.
The franchise also have a point guard in Markelle Fultz and a center in Wendell Carter who are key to the group moving forward.
Wendell Carter, Moe Wagner and Goga Bitadze as a big man trio are able to do all of the things Jonathan Isaac could on the court. But moving forward, the front office will have to plan for a rotation that doesn’t include him.
This is where the Magic’s lottery pick this summer, as well as one they hope to receive from the Chicago Bulls in the Vucevic trade, will come into play.
The organization will have a chance, or maybe two, to try and find a player to replicate some of what Isaac can do. This will not be easy, on his day he has incredible defensive upside.
But it is now crystal clear the Magic can no longer wait around for Isaac to come back to full strength and help this roster, because it is looking more and more likely that this day will never come.
Isaac was on a heavy minute’s restriction and held out of most back-to-backs, and in the 11 games he played, 16 minutes of action was the most he ever managed in a single game.
That is damning evidence that despite being brought back at a snail’s pace, the load quickly became too much for him.
But at this critical juncture, now is not the time to wallow.
The Magic have their two guys in Banchero and Wagner, and a whole host of young players including Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony who are growing with them.
They have a group of players that other organizations are jealous of, and will have the financial flexibility and draft capital to move in different directions as soon as this summer to get better.
This is no longer a floundering organization, devastated by the news that one of their bright young talents is likely to never reach their full potential.
As painful as the news was to hear, it cannot be the moment that the outlook began to turn dark for the Magic. They need to ride this wave, and be their for their teammate as he again rehabs.
Instead the outlook now has to be that anything Isaac ever gives the Magic from here on out is a complete bonus. Plan every rotation and opponent matchup without him, and let the chips fall where they may.