Isaac Misses Game Against Knicks With Sprained Ankle

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

NEW YORK – Orlando Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac just can’t catch a break these days.

Isaac, the Magic’s prized No. 6 pick from last June’s NBA Draft, missed his 50th game of the season on Tuesday when Orlando played the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Isaac, 20, sprained his left ankle in Sunday’s 94-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks – a game where he scored a career-best 15 points, made three 3-pointers and seemed to finally be building some positive momentum in this injury-filled rookie season.

``(The ankle) feels good, but obviously not where I can play tonight,’’ Isaac said on Tuesday morning. ``Definitely, it feels better than the right one did when it got messed up, so I’m not discouraged at all.’’

Isaac’s many positives this season have been tempered by the numerous injuries that he’s had to battle. He missed one game with an illness and 44 games because of a right ankle injury he suffered on Nov. 11 upon landing on the foot of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. More recently, he missed another three games because of a left foot strain.

On Sunday in Atlanta, Isaac was cutting through the lane late in the fourth quarter and accidentally stepped on a foe’s foot, causing his ankle to grotesquely twist. He remained in the game and felt confident afterward that the injury was not too serious. However, the decision was made on Tuesday to hold the 6-foot-11, 222-pound rookie out of action once again because of the lingering pain in the ankle.

``It is frustrating, but I’m not letting it get to me,’’ Isaac said. ``It is frustrating to be out, in, out, in when you just want to play.’’

Magic coach Frank Vogel is still hopeful that Isaac can use the final week of games to build some positive momentum that can carry over into the offseason. The 15 points scored on Sunday were four points better than his previous NBA high and another sign of offensive progress for the rookie who has averaged 5.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in 27 games (10 starts). Vogel had hoped to start Isaac alongside of fellow forward Aaron Gordon again on Tuesday, but that plan will have to wait until Wednesday at the earliest. The Magic host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

``It’s disappointing, but injuries are a part of the game and you can’t really lose any sleep over it,’’ said Vogel, who made sure to point out that Isaac’s injury was to the left ankle and not the right one that kept him out for most of 3 ½ months early in the season. ``Hopefully, he’ll be back in there (Wednesday) night.’’

Isaac knows that strengthening his rail-thin body – including his troublesome ankles and feet – will be a top priority this offseason. Missing so much time has slowed his development and he knows that he must return next season with more muscle and bulk.

``My body is going to be huge throughout my entire career, staying healthy and working on my joints and things like that,’’ Isaac said. ``So, it’s just about getting stronger and being able to hold my own more. That’s going to be important.’’

PULLING FOR HIS COACH: Magic assistant coach Jay Hernandez had a particular rooting interest in Monday night’s collegiate National Championship – won by Villanova following its thorough defeat of Michigan – because of his ties with Wildcats’ coach Jay Wright.

Wright’s final season as head coach at Hofstra prior to taking the Villanova job coincided with Hernandez’ final season as a player. Wright and Hernandez helped Hofstra capture a NIT berth in 1999 and back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids in 2000 and 2001 (when Hernandez was the team captain). Hernandez said he’s always thought his former coach was destined to be a coaching legend because of his many gifts teaching the game.

``He was special, just in terms of what he was able to do at Hofstra,’’ Hernandez said. ``I always tell the story that in his first season there he had a 10-win season and the second year there he had a nine-win season and he got an extension because they saw the culture and the type of energy that he was bringing to the university and that team. He’s pretty much done the same thing at Villanova.’’

Hernandez said he and Wright still communicate on a regular basis and he sent him a congratulatory message following Monday’s victory. Hernandez said Wright is the reason that he’s in coaching now.

``The reason I’m with the Magic is he got me thinking about coaching years ago. He had offered me a position with Villanova and I said no because I didn’t have an exit strategy with my business at the time and I felt like I was leaving too many people high and dry,’’ said Hernandez, who previously established a basketball training service. ``He really respected my decision in putting other people first and that got my wheels turning and the following year when Orlando came to me I was ready to make the move. So, I’m fortunate that Jay got me started thinking about this profession.’’

Not long after Wright won his second National Championship in three season media talk began to swell about whether he would make the jump to the NBA ranks. Hernandez said there’s no doubt in his mind that Wright would be successful at whatever level he chooses to coach.

``He’s the best regardless of the level,’’ Hernandez said of his former coach. ``(NBA rumors) are something that have been happening for years for him. He’s been offered opportunities in the past and he’s turned them down. He’s had a lot of great success and stability at Villanova and he’s a family-man first, so I think everything will stem from that for him. Whether he decides to (go to the NBA) or not, I think he’s a Hall of Famer. It’s going to be a situation where it’s his choice and it’s a great position to be in.’’

MAGIC MARK FROM THREE: Orlando came into Tuesday night’s game just four 3-point attempts away from breaking the franchise’s all-time record for shots from beyond the arc in a season. At their current rate of attempts per game (29.4), the Magic should blow way past the previous franchise record (2,241 attempts in 2009-10) by the end of the season.

Vogel has worked hard to modernize the Magic’s offense and bring it more into the line with the sweeping trend in the NBA to take and make gobs of 3-pointers a game. Orlando has twice hit 18 3-pointers in a game this season – the third most in franchise history.

Orlando came into Tuesday’s game having taken 166 more 3-pointers than its foes this season. However, opponents have shot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc, while the Magic have connected on just 35.3 percent of their threes this season.

``I think we’re getting there because we always want to be more precise with our shot selection because sometimes we settle too much,’’ Vogel said. ``The league has definitely adopted that style of play and we’ve shifted dramatically from where we were last year. We’ve got to improve our percentages both with the guys who are in uniform and in terms of acquiring more shooters next year.

``You watch the NCAA game and with what’s happened in (the NBA) league-wide, it’s an effective style of play.’’

UP NEXT: Orlando will be back in action again on Wednesday night when it hosts the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks. It will be the Magic’s second-to-last back-to-back set of games of the season. They play in Toronto and Milwaukee on Sunday and Monday for the final two road games of the season.

The Magic lost 114-99 in Dallas on Jan. 9. Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Smith Jr. scored 20 points apiece for the Mavs, while Aaron Gordon and D.J. Augustin led the Magic with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

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.