Jonathan Isaac Expected to Play for Magic Wednesday vs. Raptors

Magic rookie is with team in OKC
by John Denton

OKLAHOMA CITY – Following a successful two-game stint in the G League, forward Jonathan Isaac rejoined the Orlando Magic in Oklahoma City prior to tonight’s game against the Thunder.

Isaac’s full return to game action, however, will have to wait until Wednesday as the Magic continue to proceed with caution with their prized rookie.

Isaac, the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft, won’t play tonight when the Magic (18-41) face the Thunder (34-27) in Oklahoma City. Isaac met the Magic in OKC on Sunday so that he could work out with the team’s Strength and Conditioning staff and be around the team’s veteran players and coaching staff. The 6-foot-10, 222-pound forward is on track to play Wednesday when the Magic are back at the Amway Center to face the Toronto Raptors.

``Wednesday is the day I’ll get back and (head coach) Frank Vogel said it will be the same kind of deal … with managed minutes and I’m just ready to be back on the floor with these guys,’’ Isaac said. ``I would say it is tough (being patient), but it’s not as bad as you would think. I’m OK where I’m at right now and when they tell me I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go. I’m just ready to play basketball.’’

Orlando won three games in a row from Feb. 5-8, but it has since dropped its last five games. The Magic have lost to New York and Philadelphia since the break for the NBA All-Star Game.

One of the Magic’s finest wins of the season came against Oklahoma City on Nov. 29 in Orlando. Behind 40 points and 15 rebounds from Aaron Gordon and 59.2 percent shooting as a team, the Magic whipped the star-studded Thunder 128-101.

Russell Westbrook finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five steals that night while leading the Thunder on a furious fourth-quarter rally. Westbrook has long been a thorn in the sides of the Magic, and last season he averaged 49 points, 13.5 assists and 12.5 rebounds in two games against Orlando.

``He leads the league in assists, too, and that’s something else we have to keep in perspective,’’ Vogel said. ``We have to try to cool down his scoring without letting everybody else getting going too.’’

Vogel can’t wait to get a defender like Isaac back because of his immense versatility on that end of the floor. When the Magic drafted Isaac, they envisioned him being someone quick enough to guard on the perimeter and also big enough to swat shots and challenge players at the rim on the inside. What Vogel saw of Isaac in his two games in Lakeland did nothing to dissuade that thinking.

``I watched the games and he showed some offensive rust, which is to be expected from anybody being out that long and it’s typical from a rookie,’’ Vogel said. ``But he looked pretty darned good to me on the defensive end. His length is legit, his hands are legit and his defensive instincts are legit. He had a strong performance and his length at the rim is legit and he looked pretty good. It was kind of what I what I shared back with him in terms of my feedback to him.’’

Isaac’s promising start to his first pro season was interrupted by a severely sprained ankle suffered on Nov. 11 in a road loss to the Denver Nuggets. He’s played just three games with the Magic since then because of lingering pain and weakness in the ankle. The Magic shut him down indefinitely on Dec. 30 so that he could focus on his strength and conditioning.

Isaac’s return to game action came on Friday and Saturday in the G League with the Lakeland Magic. In limited minutes over his two games with Lakeland, Isaac scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds, swiped four steals and blocked one shot.

``I felt good, but I wasn’t happy overall with the turnovers and stuff like that,’’ said Isaac, 20. ``I know it’s all a process and there are progressions and small milestones along the way. I’m going to get to where I want and I’m not discouraged.’’

Isaac said that while there was some disappointment in not playing better, he took great delight in being on the floor for an actual game for the first time in two months. He said his favorite part of the weekend came on Saturday when he and the starting unit buckled down defensively in the second half and were able to make a spirited run where they cut a 20-point deficit in half. Feeling those nerves again and getting reps at game speed when he eventually returns to game action on Wednesday at the Amway Center.

``That was honestly the best part about going down there – just running around again and having fun with my teammates on the court,’’ he said. ``I was just being me again and playing basketball. That was the biggest part and I’m really glad that I spent that time there.’’

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