The Orlando Magic enter their hometown bubble looking to improve on their current standing as the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference, hoping to vault to seventh and set up a rematch of last year’s first round series with Toronto.
One of the biggest questions facing Orlando’s bubble roster was the status of budding star big man Jonathan Isaac, who has been sidelined since January 1 with a sprained knee. When entering the bubble, the Magic said Isaac would be brought along slowly, and the expectation was that they’d err on the side of caution with the 22-year-old. However, it appears as though Isaac has shown the Magic’s medical staff he is recovered enough to get back on the court in game action, as The Athletic’s Josh Robbins reports he will play in Orlando’s final scrimmage game.
“It’s been a very long time since he’s played,” Magic president Jeff Weltman told Robbins. “As always, we will take a very cautious approach, and his playing time will be placed under a very limited minute restriction as he gets reacclimated to the NBA game.”
Even if only playing in short bursts, Isaac’s return bodes well for the Magic and their chances of vaulting the shorthanded Nets for the seventh spot in the East (and avoiding the Bucks in the process). Isaac averaged 12 points and 6.9 boards per game this season, but his impact is most felt on the defensive end where he is truly one of the league’s best and most versatile players. He has the length to disrupt shots at the rim and the quickness and agility to stay with players on the perimeter when he gets switched in pick-and-roll, and averaged a robust 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game this season before his injury.
The Magic’s long-term success rides on their ability to build around a player like Isaac, and that is the reason they will remain cautions with his minutes in his return. Still, getting his presence back for the season restart — and, most importantly, a playoff series — is big for his continued development and is a good sign for Orlando.