WASHINGTON, D.C. – Desperate times often call for desperate measures. With that thought in mind, the Orlando Magic are turning to two-time MVP and three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry as a possible source of inspiration for hard-luck forward Jonathan Isaac.
Isaac, who missed his sixth consecutive game on Monday night because of a right ankle sprain, admitted that he recently started wearing ankle braces similar to those worn by Curry. The idea came from the Magic’s high-performance staff and Isaac was very receptive after seeing much of his young career thus far marred by ankle injuries.
Curry was dogged by a series of ankle injuries early in his career, causing him to miss 66 games over three seasons from 2009-12. Curry underwent ligament replacement surgery in one ankle in 2011 and has since worn protective braces that have helped him stay healthy and become one of the NBA’s best players. Over five seasons from 2012-17, Curry missed just 16 games while racking up some of the best 3-point shooting numbers ever seen in the NBA.
Enter the nearly 7-foot Isaac, who had his rookie season marred by a series of ankle injuries that limited him to just 27 games. He then twisted his ankle nine minutes into the first preseason game and hurt his right ankle again on Nov. 2 when he accidentally stepped on the foot of a foe.
``I’m about to wear the ankle brace that he wore on my right ankle when I get back (to game action),’�� Isaac said. ``(Curry’s plight) just tells you quickly things can all turn around and how you have to stay optimistic. I saw the thing that came out about his wife telling him to remember who he was when he struggled with his mental state in that time (while dealing with the ankle injuries). It’s a great story and I hope mine is just like it – except me getting injured anymore. But I’d definitely like to win a championship in two years.’’
The Magic are eager to get Isaac – the No. 6 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft – back on the floor because of his dazzling potential and off-the-charts versatility as a small forward and power forward. In eight games this season, he’s averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks and his best game came against Boston when he racked up career highs in scoring (18 points) and rebounding (12 boards).
Isaac got in an individual workout on Monday morning while wearing the ankle braces made popular by Curry.
``I don’t know how perfectly it is to the ankle brace that (Curry) wore, but I was told that it’s the same brand, the landscape or the style of it,’’ Isaac said. ``That’s what (ankle brace) I have been working out in the past couple of days. It feels pretty good and I’ve been able to get up in the air and cut and everything with minimal pain.’’
Isaac feels that he is close to a return to game action with the Magic, even though that might have to come without the benefit of a full practice session. The Magic played their seventh game in 11 nights on Monday and the squad is scheduled to be off on Tuesday prior to hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
``I am super optimistic about when I’m going to be able to get back, but I’m taking it day-by-day,’’ Isaac said. ``If it’s Wednesday, it’s Wednesday and if it’s after that, it’s after that.’’
THE FUTURE IS NOW: Washington Wizards’ coach Scott Brooks had heard all of the scouting reports and long-range projections on center Mo Bamba prior to last Friday, but he came out of that game against the Magic with a strong feeling about Orlando’s prized rookie.
``I didn’t like what I saw because he killed us,’’ Brooks said after Bamba hung a 15-point, three-assist, two-block on Washington last week.
``You hear all the reports about his length and his potential, but he’s good now,’’ Brooks raved. ``You’re not stepping out and shooting threes unless you’re comfortable doing it and the coach isn’t going to let him do it unless he’s seen him do it successfully in practice.
``He’s a really good player,’’ Brooks continued. ``It’s hard to believe he only had one year in college. It’s hard to believe that because he played against us like he’s a seven-year (veteran). He made shots, made plays, contested shots, blocked a shot and rolled when he had to. He’s just a good player now.’’
T-ROSS IS A BENCH BOSS: Throughout his NBA career, Terrence Ross has split his time as starter and a reserve used off the bench. While he mostly struggled as a member of the Magic’s starting five last season before suffering a devastating knee injury, Ross has thrived this season off Orlando’s bench.
That was the case again on Sunday night in New York when Ross led the Magic in scoring with 22 points. He did the bulk of his damage from beyond the 3-point line, hitting five long-range shots. His shooting off the bench played a big role in the Magic making 11 first-half 3-pointers and 17 for the game.
Ross came into Monday averaging 13.2 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent from 3-point range. That’s a big improvement over last season when Ross averaged just 8.7 points a game and shot poorly (39.8 percent from the floor and 32.2 percent from 3-point range).
Ross missed 57 games from Dec. 1 to April 6 last season after injuring his knee following a mid-air collision at the rim with Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook. He dedicated himself to working on his game over the summer, and he’s seeing big dividends now.
``I didn’t play last year. Well, I played a little bit and it’s unfortunate that (the knee injury) happened, but I’m just playing my game now,’’ Ross said. ``My offseason started pretty much at the end of the regular season and I’ve just been working ever since.’’
UP NEXT: Following road games on Sunday and Monday and an early-morning arrival back into Central Florida, the Magic will get a much-needed day off on Tuesday. Rest is the of the utmost importance considering that the team is in a stretch of eight games over 13 days.
The Magic will be back on the Amway Center parquet on Wednesday when they host the Philadelphia 76ers and newly acquired forward Jimmy Butler. The 76ers’ deal, which involved them sending Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jeryd Bayless and a second-round pick to Minnesota for Butler, finally became official on Monday.
Butler, an all-star each of the past four seasons, had averaged 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals in 10 games with the Timberwolves. It will be interesting to see how the mercurial Butler – who never meshed with Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota – can blend in with ball-dominant players such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. If it works, the 76ers could become one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
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.