Isaac Will Not Need Surgery on Left Knee

by John Denton

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic endured a good news/bad news scenario regarding the knee injuries that have knocked forwards Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu out of action in recent weeks.

First, the good news: The Magic’s medical team has determined that the 22-year-old Isaac will not need surgery on a left knee that was badly sprained and suffered a medial bone bruise last week. While the franchise is relieved that Isaac won’t need surgery and suffered no major ligament damage, his timetable for being fully evaluated again still sits at eight-to-10 weeks. There is a possibility that the nearly 7-foot Isaac – who ranked fourth in the NBA in blocked shots (2.44) and 12th in the league in steals (1.56) at the time of his injury – will miss the remainder of the season because of the posterior lateral corner injury and medial bone contusion in his left knee.

As for Aminu, the Magic learned that they will be without him for at least 12 weeks after he underwent surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee on Tuesday. Aminu, 29, injured his knee on Nov. 29 while attempting to block a shot by Toronto’s Pascal Siakam and has missed the past 20 games.

``Obviously, he was brought here to be a part of things. Very professional and a very good player, but it’s unfortunate for him and for us,’’ Magic coach Steve Clifford said of Aminu’s injury.

Aminu had hoped his knee would heal via rehabilitation and various strengthening exercises, but he suffered a setback with his knee on Dec. 26 during a non-contact shooting drill on the Magic’s practice court. Aminu, Orlando’s top free-agent acquisition last July, is out indefinitely and the team says he will be reevaluated in 12 weeks. That means it would likely be the end of March or in early April before Aminu would be able to play again, if at all this season. Aminu, a 10-year NBA veteran, mostly struggled in his 18 games with the Magic this season. He averaged just 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds and shot 29.1 percent overall and 25 percent from 3-point range.

``He was in a new place with new teammates and he had a very different role here,’’ Clifford said of Aminu, who spent the previous five years in Portland. ``He had been used to starting and he was coming off the bench (for Orlando). So, I think he was just getting more comfortable and finding his way.’’

The injuries to Isaac and Aminu left the Magic shorthanded at the power forward position and forced them to play converted center Khem Birch and small forward Wes Iwundu along the frontline. Birch started last week against Miami and played well while matched up against Heat big man Bam Adebayo (14 points), while Iwundu started against Utah and Brooklyn and limited forwards Bojan Bogdanovic (14 points) and Joe Harris (16 points) with his sticky, long-armed defense.

Aaron Gordon, whose positional size and versatility has long been strengths of his, can play either forward spot based on matchups. Late in games, the Magic prefer to downsize and play Gordon at power forward, alongside of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross and either Markelle Fultz or D.J. Augustin.

``It’s not the way that it was drawn up in the summer,’’ Clifford said of the Magic having to make the best of a short-handed situation. ``Khem’s not a (power forward) and neither is Wes. But there’s no other way to do it. Aaron’s going to play a lot of (power forward), those guys are too and we’re just going to have to be able to do that. Is it perfect? Not at all, it’s not at all what you want to do and it’s not ideal, but it can be done. So, it’s like anything in life: We can talk about all the things that we don’t have. But they’re good players, they’re smart and we’ve got to figure it out.’’

FULTZ’S DAILY MAINTENANCE: That Fultz has played in 37 of Orlando’s 38 games thus far this season after going through two years of major shoulder issues that included a bout with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is quite an accomplishment in itself.

That Fultz came into Wednesday averaging 11.4 points, 4.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.25 steals – including a season-best 25-point performance on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets – is an even greater accomplishment when considering the heavy restrictions that he was still under as late as the end of July.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a series of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and the first rib are compressed and cause pain in shoulders and neck, and numbness in fingers.

As he worked to rebuild the strength, range of motion and full feeling in his right shoulder, arm and hand throughout last season and this past summer, Fultz was limited to shooting jump shots no further than the free throw line as of late July. Voluntary workouts with players started a month later and Magic training camp opened in late September, so Fultz had little time at all to work on expanding his shooting range prior to the start of the season.

``It was still there, and it was still a process,’’ Fultz said of the restrictions that doctors and therapists had on him as late as the end of July. ``I’m able to do more now, but I know where I want to be (with shoulder strength and flexibility), and I know where I can be. What a lot of people don’t know is they think it’s all over, but I’m still working to get to a certain goal. But I’m extremely happy (with the shoulder) because everything has been going positive and that’s all I can ask for.’’

Fultz said he said has to go through a daily rehab regiment to keep the TOS from reoccurring in his shoulder. He said it’s a small price to pay to have basketball back in his life.

``I have to strengthen, do the right rehab and the right amount of on-court work, but it’s a lot of stuff,’’ he said of the daily process he must endure before practices and games. ``It’s a daily maintenance thing. Some days I might feel good, but I’ve still got to do those things. Some days I might be sore, and I still have to do those things. But that’s the price that I’m winning to (pay) because I know where I want to be and where I came from and I don’t want to go backward. Si, it’s all about the daily maintenance to try and keep up.’’

UP NEXT: The Magic leave on Thursday for a six-game, 12-night trip with games ahead against Phoenix (Friday), Sacramento (Monday), the Los Angeles Lakers (Jan. 15), the Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 16), Golden State (Jan. 18) and Charlotte (Jan. 20).

The road trip is the Magic’s longest of the season – both in terms of nights and consecutive games on the road.

The Magic are scheduled to practice in Phoenix on Thursday and face the Suns on Friday (tipoff: 9 p.m. ET). Orlando whipped the Suns, 128-114, on Dec. 4 at the Amway Center. That night, Gordon torched the Suns for a season-best 32 points and five 3-pointers by making 13 of 15 shots. Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, didn’t play that night because of a suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug rules. He is averaging 15.4 and 11.9 rebounds in seven games since returning from the suspension.

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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