Weltman Confident Jonathan Isaac’s Positive Attitude and Strong Work Ethic Will Help Him Get Through Latest Setback

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO -- Jonathan Isaac returning to game action was one of the NBA’s most compelling stories during the first week of the season restart at Walt Disney World. His hard work and perseverance following injuring his left knee on New Year’s Day made his comeback possible.

Also uplifting was his outstanding play. In his first game back against the Nuggets in a scrimmage game, the 6-foot-11, 230-pound forward scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in only seven minutes. Then, in the Magic’s first seeding contest against the Nets, he compiled 16 points in 16 minutes.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for Isaac when things suddenly took a dark turn during Orlando’s victory over Sacramento on Sunday night. With 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, the 22-year-old’s left knee buckled as he drove through the lane before collapsing to the floor in excruciating pain.

Inside the Wide World of Sports’ HP Field House, players and coaches on the Magic and Kings as well as NBA staff working at the arena looked on with enormous concern. Just before 1 a.m., about five hours after the injury happened, what everyone feared was announced; Isaac had torn his ACL.

“This is a very unfortunate injury at a very inopportune moment, but Jonathan knows that he has the support of the entire organization behind him and we know through who Jonathan is and through history how he’s going to approach his rehab and I could tell you today in his mind is day one of his rehab,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said.

Although incredibly distraught about the news, Isaac’s teammates and coaches along with the Magic’s front office staff are confident he will rebound from this setback and be even better on the other side. They saw just how hard he worked to come back from his original knee injury and believe his positivity, faith and fortitude will help him get through this difficult circumstance.

As Isaac was leaving the Disney campus, head coach Steve Clifford and others shared some words of encouragement to lift his spirits and give him confidence as he begins his journey back to full strength.

“He’s the right kind of person. He’s a great worker. He’s very mature and he’s got great support here. And I think he understands that. It’s incredibly unfortunate. Yet for him it’s important that we turn the page and move on quickly and work towards him getting back on the court again,” Clifford said about Isaac.

Isaac’s first left knee injury from earlier this season, unrelated to the current one, caused him to miss the Magic’s last 31 games before the hiatus. That injury was a posterior lateral corner injury and medial bone contusion, and was going to keep him out for the remainder of the season had it not been paused due to the pandemic. But the four-month layoff gave him enough time to recover, and he was cleared to return for the season restart at Disney.

Just as he was while rehabilitating the past few months, Isaac will be well taken care of. The Magic’s medical staff has already started developing a treatment and recuperation plan.

“We have a cracker-jack performance staff,” Weltman said of the Magic’s high performance medical and training staff. “I think what they’ve done here has been terrific. They’ve gained the trust of all of our players. They’ve ramped up a lot of areas where we needed to get better. Unfortunately it is kind of a strange dynamic right now being in the bubble and not being able to kind of traverse the bubble. That’s part of the next steps is figuring out exactly what Jonathan needs and then understanding our own personnel and how we are going to attack that.”

What we’ve learned about Isaac, who averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals this season, is that he refuses to give up. He overcame a lingering ankle injury during his rookie campaign, which limited him to 27 games that year. He tirelessly worked to get back for the season restart, and now he promises to do the same from this latest setback.

On Twitter Monday morning he posted, “IT IS WELL!!! 2 Kings 4! Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns I’m encouraged. Remember our God is not just a God of the hills but a God of the valleys! (2 Corinthians ch 4 vs 9!) MY COMEBACK WILL BE GREATER THAN MY SETBACK!!!! I STILL STAND IN JESUS NAME!!!!”

While it won’t be easy mentally, moving forward without Isaac is something the Magic will have to do as they continue their mission to try and secure the seventh spot in the East. They are currently a half-game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams have six seeding games remaining.

“Especially the veteran players, they’ve been through this before in different stops,” Clifford said. “This is a Van Gundy-ism but adapting to change is one of the biggest keys for anybody in the NBA. Players get traded. Players get injured. Coaches get fired. And you have to turn the page quickly and be able to adapt and make the changes necessary so that you can play well as a group. It’s an unfortunate part of our league. But a part that’s critical for all of us – players, everybody – to embrace so that we can get the most out of every day.”

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