Isaac Has Now Played in 28 Straight Games, One More Than All of Last Season
ORLANDO – For an extended period of the season now, the focus surrounding Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Issac has been on his jump shot, his difference-making defensive abilities and how he has meshed in the starting lineup alongside fellow forward Aaron Gordon.
The focus, however, hasn’t been on Isaac’s ankles – and that’s a very good thing considering the trouble that he had last season as a rookie.
Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics was Issac’s 28th straight game of the season – one more than he played all of last season because of various ankle sprains. He worked hard all summer to grow his game and strengthen his ankles and it has paid off to the point that after Saturday he will have played in 35 of the team’s 42 games.
``It feels great to string together more games than I played the entire last year,’’ said Isaac, Orlando’s No. 6 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft. ``It’s exciting, I’m glad to be healthy and I’m glad to be out on the floor.’’
Magic coach Steve Clifford, who often compares Isaac to former Magic great Rashard Lewis because of his lengthy body and willingness to sacrifice for the team, has averaged 7.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.11 blocks in 24.5 minutes a night. Shooting has been an issue as he’s made just 40.4 percent of his field goals and 28.4 percent from 3-point range. He seemed poised to come out of his shooting slump on Wednesday in Utah by drilling two of his four 3-point attempts.
All of it has been possible thanks to a team effort by Isaac, the Magic’s front office and their medical team to help get his ankles strong and steady again. Other than a minor sprain in the preseason and another one in the first month of the regular season that cost him six games on the sidelines, Isaac has been healthy and growing for the Magic.
``Really, the summer was huge, getting my foot right and I haven’t had many issues,’’ Isaac said. ``Other than early in the season with a couple of light sprains I haven’t had any issues because I’ve been focusing on it. Our training staff and our management team are doing their best to make sure I’m taken care of and it’s been great. It allows me to just get my mindset ready to play and not have my ankle in the back of my mind. It’s just about the game now.’’
MAGIC PROTECTING PLAYERS FROM GERMS: For the Magic, defense extends well beyond the parquet floor of the Amway Center when it comes to protecting their players.
The Magic have partnered with Violet Defense, an Orlando-based germ-killing company with patented UV technology, to bring the first-known deployment of hospital-grade UV cleaning to the NBA.
Utilizing the full spectrum of ultraviolet light, Violet Defense’s products deliver germ-free protection throughout the air and onto any contact surface that is exposed to UV light. Their technology, which can be used or installed in a mobile format, has been proven to kill 99.9 percent of key bacteria and viruses, including E. Coli, Salmonella, Norovirus and even superbugs like MRSA.
``The Orlando Magic are committed to winning and the innovations that provide the best opportunities to do that,’’ Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. ``We are thrilled about what this partnership with Violet Defense could bring to our team, and most importantly, ways to keep a healthy locker room.’’
The Magic will deploy a variety of products Violet Defense’s surface and air germ elimination (S.A.G.E.) UV line in their locker rooms, training rooms, weight rooms, dining areas and medical areas. The Magic also plan to add this technology to their family area to disinfect the nursery, children’s play areas and bathrooms.
``We are always looking for opportunities to keep our players healthy,’’ Magic High Performance Director David Tenney said. ``And by keeping our players healthy and on the court, that gives us the best chance to win. With this exclusive partnership, we now have another tool available to help us do that.’’
Added Terrance Berland, Chief Executive Officer of Violet Defense: ``The Magic have demonstrated a real commitment to being very innovative in their pursuit of improved player performance. We are excited to have the opportunity to not only help protect our home team’s athletes from infection, but also to work closely with the Magic to identify additional opportunities specific to high performance athletes that will advance the science of infection control in the future.’’
HOME IS WHERE THE SUCCESS IS: Through the first 41 games of the season, the Magic actually played one more game as the home team than they did as the road team. However, it probably doesn’t feel that way considering that two of their games – both of which were stirring victories – were played in Mexico City.
If the Magic are going to make a playoff run over the final 41 games of the season, they are going to have to be significantly better than the 10-11 at home that they came into Saturday with, head coach Steve Clifford said.
Again, taking into account that two of those victories were in Mexico, the Magic came into the weekend just 8-11 at the Amway. For whatever reason, some of Orlando’s most lopsided losses of the season have come at the eight-plus-year-old Amway Center. To put together a second-half run the Magic will have to play more like the squad that has beaten Toronto, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Amway Center, Clifford insisted.
``I’ll say this, and we have to be honest, but we have a frustration that we have try and get rid of,’’ Clifford said of Orlando’s home struggles. ``We’ve played some clunkers and more of them in this building (in Orlando). You go back to Clippers here, Portland here, San Antonio here, where we have lacked energy and didn’t give ourselves a chance to win.’’
UP NEXT: After facing the surging Boston Celtics on Saturday, things won’t get any easier on Sunday when the Magic host superstar guard James Harden and the Houston Rockets. It will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Tipoff is just after 6 p.m.
Houston smashed Cleveland 141-113 on Friday thanks to a Harden’s 43 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Not only was it his 15th straight 30-point game, but it was the 12th 40-point triple-double of his career. Last season, Harden set the NBA record for most points (60) in a triple-double in a game against the Magic.
``I watched a little bit of (the Houston-Cleveland game) and he’s just on a roll,’’ Clifford said of Harden. ``We’ll deal with that (on Sunday).’’
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