By John Denton Dec. 23, 2017
ORLANDO – In lieu of asking for gifts this Christmas, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac – someone who is serious and quite candid about his Christian faith – said he simply wants everyone to ``realize what (the holiday is) for.’’
If Isaac were to ask for a gift this holiday season, a clean bill of health for the rest of the season would likely be something that the 20-year-old rookie would be interested in.
Isaac missed his second consecutive game on Saturday in Washington after re-injuring his right ankle three nights earlier. He missed 17 consecutive games from Nov. 12 through Dec. 16 with a sprained ankle suffered when he landed on the foot of Denver guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Isaac returned last Sunday to play 16 minutes against Detroit and he made it through 13 minutes on Wednesday in Chicago before hurting his foot again and limping noticeably.
This injury, Isaac stressed, is dramatically different and nowhere near as severe. He didn’t need a walking boot this time around and worked out pregame on Saturday with little restrictions.
``It’s completely different and just a little re-aggravation,’’ Isaac said. ``Feeling OK and it’s the same thing – day to day – and hopefully I’ll get back soon.’’
Isaac is just one of the players that a Magic team decimated by injuries are missing. Evan Fournier (ankle sprain), Aaron Gordon (calf strain) and Terrence Ross (knee sprain) also continued to be out for an Orlando team that came into Saturday having dropped seven straight games.
Isaac, the No. 6 pick from last June’s NBA Draft, is hopeful that the two off days between Saturday and Tuesday’s game in Miami will allow him to make a speedy recovery.
``They’re just taking their time this time and trying to make sure everything is perfect,’’ Isaac said of the Magic’s training staff taking extra precautions. ``I feel good and I’m in good spirits because I know it’s not as bad as the first time.
``I’m happy we get two days off and I’ll get treatment and figure out what I can and can’t do,’’ Isaac added. ``I want to try and see what I can do in these next few days to get back for Miami.’’
``I DREAMED ABOUT THIS PROBABLY A MILLION TIMES: Saturday’s game served as something of a homecoming for Magic forward Jamel Artis, a native of Baltimore. In an attempt to keep his focus on the game against the Wizards, Artis limited his ticket request to eight – foremost among that group, his father, Kevin Artis.
``It’s a special moment, 45 minutes away from home and I’ve got family and friends who always thought I could be in the NBA and now I’m here,’’ Artis said. ``You know, I dreamed about this probably a million times.’’
Artis, designated as a two-way player, opened the season in the G League with the Lakeland Magic, but he was called up to Orlando on Dec. 13. He came into Saturday having played in four games, averaging 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in 8.4 minutes per game.
The University of Pittsburgh product said he talks to his dad daily and this NBA moment means everything to the family.
``I talk to him mostly every day and I know he’s very excited,’’ Artis said. ``He knows I belong here (in the NBA), too, so just for him being here for this moment in the Wizards arena, I know he’s going to be happy.’’
MO SHOTS: In theory, Marreese Speights seemed to be the perfect choice to step in and start at power forward since the Magic needed 3-point shooting and size against New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins on Friday night. After all, it was Speights who burned Cousins for six 3-pointers – five of them coming in a game-turning, fourth-quarter stretch – in a Magic victory.
However, adding Speights to the starting lineup did little to help the Magic, who suffered through a dismal 111-97 loss to New Orleans. Speights did show signs of breaking out of a major shooting slump by making two of his six 3-point shots, however he had all kinds of trouble with Cousins, picking up four fouls and surrendering 26 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to the all-star.
Speights came into Friday having made just two of his last 18 shots from 3-point range. Much to his relief, he matched that total of makes in six attempts against New Orleans.
``In my situation, it’s harder to get myself because of the role that I’m in,’’ said Speights, who has been used as a break-glass-if-necessary reserve most of the season. ``It’s a long season and everyone goes through slumps. Sometimes it’s mental and it’s about being mentally into the game and focusing on your shot. I’m glad I hit two threes on (Friday) because I haven’t hit two threes in a long time.’’
UP NEXT: The Magic were slated to return to Central Florida immediately after Saturday’s game. The team will have Christmas Eve off and it will have most of Christmas Day to spend with family before flying to Miami on Christmas Night. The Magic face the Heat in South Florida on Tuesday. Orlando beat the Heat 116-109 in the season-opener for both teams on Oct. 18.
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