Isaac Sits Out Against Spurs With Sprained Ankle

by John Denton

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic took a hit on Friday when third-year forward Jonathan Isaac – the NBA’s leader in total blocked shots – missed the game against the San Antonio Spurs because of an ankle injury suffered away from the basketball court.

Isaac, 22, injured his right ankle on Thursday night when Magic players were at the NBA Experience at Disney Springs to unveil the franchise’s new orange-trimmed ``City Edition’’ uniforms. Isaac, who modeled one of the new jerseys during the ceremony, was injured later while playfully joking around with teammates on a basketball court.

``I didn’t think it was bad … it was at our appearance (Thursday) night … it was just being on the court, messing around and shooting and stuff and I got a little tweak,’’ said Isaac, who noted that he had his shoes untied because of the lighthearted nature of the appearance. ``I thought I was OK. I went home and put on a brace and then I woke up and went through shootaround and didn’t feel 100 percent, so I got with the training staff and they decided about what we wanted to do moving forward.’’

Isaac reported the injury to the Magic on Friday, and he was withheld from the game against the Spurs when the ankle didn’t improve as the day progressed. Isaac underwent an MRI prior to Friday’s game and the determination was that the ankle is sprained and there is no other structural damage.

``He just rolled it, tweaked it and we’ll know more …,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said. ``Look, it can happen … when you’re a coach, you laugh when somebody says, `You’re up 12 with a minute left and take (a player) out because somebody could get hurt.’ Somebody could get hurt – and I mean this and not joking – they could get hurt walking down the hallway there. It happens all the time. It’s unfortunate and that’s why we’re fortunate to have good depth.’’

Veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu, an offseason signee in free agency, started in place of Isaac on Friday. The availability of the nearly 7-foot forward in the coming days will depend on how he responds to therapy on his ankle. Orlando plays next on Sunday when it hosts the Washington Wizards.

``I feel much better about this (ankle injury) just because it was in a controlled environment and it wasn’t like I rolled on somebody’s ankle where it was a big incident,’’ said Isaac, who has battled ankle issues throughout his two-plus seasons in the NBA. ``I feel OK, much better than I did last night already with the treatment that I’ve done. … I don’t want to say yet (about playing on Sunday), but I do feel a lot better. I’ll just continue to move forward with the training staff and see where we’re at (by Sunday).’’

Isaac has been plagued by ankle injuries throughout his young NBA career. He played just 27 games as a rookie in 2017-18 after missing 17 games with a right ankle sprain, 24 games with soreness in his right ankle, six with a left ankle sprain and another three because of a left foot strain. Last season, he missed six games with a right ankle sprain, but he seemed to have shaken the issue after switching to ankle braces worn by Golden State superstar Stephen Curry, who battled various ankle injuries early in his career before blossoming into a two-time NBA MVP.

``I would say a huge part of it is our training staff with everything that we’ve been through with the whole ankle (injuries) and how we’ve worked to get it right,’’ Isaac said. ``And the braces are definitely a part of their recommendation and it’s worked out.’’

Isaac came into Friday ranking first in the NBA in total blocks (31) and second in blocks per game (2.8), trailing only Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar forward Anthony Davis. He swatted at least one shot in Orlando’s first 11 games, he blocked two or more shots nine times and he stuffed a career-best six shots on Nov. 6 in Dallas. Also, Isaac is tied for the team lead in steals per game at 1.27 a night.

``Obviously some things are different (with Isaac out), but the basic intent and purpose of how we play will stay the same. But he does so many things for us,’’ Clifford said. ``I met with (Director of Basketball Analytics) David Bencs (on Thursday) and in the last five games our offense has been a ton better and the reasons are we’re running more and we’re getting more offensive rebounds. And (Isaac) is right in the middle of those things.’’

UP NEXT: Orlando wraps up its season-long 10-night, five-game home stand on Sunday when it faces the Washington Wizards.

The Magic dropped three of four games against the Wizards last season, including a 100-90 defeat on March 13 that nearly cost them a shot at making the playoffs.

After Sunday’s game, the Magic won’t play again until Wednesday. The team departs on Tuesday for a nine-day, four-game road trip with stops in Toronto (Wednesday), Indiana (Nov. 23), Detroit (Nov. 25) and Cleveland (Nov. 27).

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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