LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Jonathan Isaac would routinely be inside the Orlando Magic’s AdventHealth practice facility by 7:15 a.m. most days this spring when the facility was open, putting in hours of work to rehabilitate a serious injury to his left knee.
And now another, longer rehab regimen awaits the young forward.
Isaac left the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World on Monday for more tests on his left knee, to determine if additional damage was done when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament on a jump-stop Sunday night. Magic President Jeff Weltman went to visit Isaac before he left, with plans to cheer him up.
No need: By then, Weltman said, Isaac was trying to comfort him, not the other way around.
“He was chipper and kind of looking at this as Day 1 of his recovering,” Weltman said.
ACL tears can take many months, perhaps even a full year, to recover from in most cases — and given the timing of this injury, it raises the possibility that Isaac could miss much of the 2020-21 season no matter when it starts.
“I hate to use the word crushing, but this is not an easy one to deal with. … I can’t lie, it’s particularly difficult to handle when it’s someone like him,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.
Isaac was hurt on Jan. 1, suffering a bad sprain and bone bruise and he didn’t play again until the restart at Disney. He wore a large brace to protect the knee, plus had it wrapped — and still couldn’t avoid another injury.
Weltman said doctors told him the brace that Isaac wore might have kept a terrible situation from getting even worse, and that any player who landed the way Isaac did on that play would have likely faced serious injury.
He also stressed the January injury had nothing to do with this one.
“It was completely unrelated,” Weltman said. “There were no structures in the knee that were damaged in the first injury that were impacted in this most recent injury whatsoever. It was completely unrelated. Absolutely, unequivocally, not brought back too early.”
The Magic have won five consecutive games, scoring at least 120 points in each, and are battling Brooklyn for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. Orlando plays Indiana on Tuesday, the third of eight games for the Magic in the bubble.
Isaac finished the season averaging 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.4 assists — all career-highs for the third-year forward, who has seen two of those seasons marred by injury issues. He appeared in only 27 games as a rookie, mostly because of problems with his right ankle.
He made headlines last week by being the first player during the restart to not kneel for the national anthem, saying he chose to stand because he did not believe the gesture of kneeling and wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt — as virtually all players and coaches have since games resumed Thursday to call more attention toward the problems of systemic racism and police brutality — actually equated to helping Black lives.
He is also an ordained minister and has been honored by the Magic for his charitable and civic work.
“You’re talking about a guy who has just put so much work into getting back in time to join his team here and to see him go through that, to see him experience that, it’s just a gut punch for him,” Weltman said. “It’s a setback for Jonathan. It’s a setback. We will move forward. We will live to fight another day.”