Orlando is rebuilding and just drafted Jalen Suggs will be at the heart of that effort with players such as Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, and others playing roles.
Then there is Jonathan Issac. The power forward and defensive force seemed poised to, if not break out, at least take a step forward on the offensive end two seasons ago and cement his role as a franchise superstar to rebuild around, averaging 11.9 points per game, grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game. Then he tore his ACL in the bubble, a huge setback, and missed all of last season recovering.
Isaac will return this coming season, although the Magic are being very careful not to put an official timeline on when. So when Isaac was at the Orlando J.U.M.P. Ministries Global Church Seafood Festival — an event he and his fiance, Takita Thomas, helped organize — Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel asked Isaac if he would be ready to go opening night.
“We’ll see,” Isaac said about being ready for the season opener, which is 45 days away. “I’m on the court. I’m weaning out of the brace. I’m jumping. I’m finishing around the basket and such. I’m easing my way. … I’m getting there…
“I feel good. My knee is doing great. I’m making strides, I’m getting stronger and I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Isaac said.
That doesn’t sound like a player who will be ready in about seven weeks for NBA action.
However, he should be back this season. The question is not just when but also how long it will take him to get all the way back, trust his knee, and regain his All-Defensive Team level form? That is the end of the court when Isaac will be transformative, anchoring the Magic defense as they continue to add talent for new coach Jamahl Mosley to mold and turn into a dangerous team in a few years.
The Magic will not rush Isaac back, they gave him an $80 million contract extension while he worked on that recovery and there is no reason to push him. Orlando needs to think big picture. But a lot of eyes will be on Isaac’s return because he was at the heart of what was next in Orlando before they traded all their stars and went all-in on the rebuild.