ORLANDO -- It didn’t seem like anything could go wrong for the Orlando Magic through the first 38 minutes of their blowout win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. The offense, as it has been since early February, was clicking on all cylinders. The defense was locked in, too.
And then unexpectedly, things took a devastatingly dark turn with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter when Jonathan Isaac’s left knee buckled and the 22-year-old forward collapsed to the floor in excruciating pain.
As feared, an MRI revealed that Isaac, playing in just third game after injuring the same knee on New Year’s Day, has sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The injury on Sunday occurred as the 6-foot-11, 210-pounder drove into the lane and attempted to split two defenders as he approached the basket. Isaac was untouched on the play and immediately started clutching his knee as he was in the middle of his hop step. After being attended by medical staff for several minutes, he was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.
What makes it even tougher to deal with is that Isaac had worked incredibly hard just to put himself in a position to return to game action for the NBA season restart. Isaac missed the Magic’s final 31 games before the hiatus as he recovered from a posterior lateral corner injury and a medial bone contusion to the same knee.
“That was tough man, that one brought me to tears instantly, just because I know how good of a guy J.I. is and I know how hard he works and how hard he has worked to get back since hurting himself in D.C.,” Magic teammate Aaron Gordon said. “That one is tough.”
Isaac’s first game back was last Monday when he scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just seven minutes of playing time during a scrimmage against the Denver Nuggets. He tallied 16 points in 16 minutes during Orlando’s win over the Brooklyn Nets in the Magic’s first seeding game on Friday, and then had four points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals against the Kings before the injury.
“He was looking great actually and we were all very happy for him, mainly because he’s a great guy, a great teammate and we all have a lot of respect for him,” Nikola Vucevic said. “For him to go down like that was very difficult to see, especially when you know he just came back (from an injury).”
Numerous players reached out offering prayers and support to Isaac on Twitter, including former Magic players Tobias Harris and Kyle O'Quinn, as well as Sacramento's Richaun Holmes and Harry Giles III.
Giles, who tore both of his ACLs in high school, briefly spoke to the Magic forward as he was being wheeled off the court to try and lift his spirits.
"Just kind of telling him to stay up, stay positive," Giles said. "I just hate to see that because it's tough. I don't really like speaking on that too much. It's just unfortunate, man, because he's been working and with the brace on. You hate to see him get hurt again."
Isaac’s return will depend on how he responds to treatment. Isaac had played in 34 games (32 starts) this season for Orlando, averaging 11.9 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 1.4 apg., 2.29 blkpg. and 1.56 stlpg. in 28.8 minpg.