The Orlando Magic signed Jonathan Isaac back to the NBA after a delay of more than two and a half years. Isaac played in his first NBA game since Aug. 2, 2020, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while competing in the NBA “bubble” at Disney World, winning 113-98 over the Boston Celtics at Amway Center.
Before the game, coach Jamahl Mosley remarked, “We’re all excited for him.” “You talk about the number of days he’s been out — years. His ability to come back and stay the course the entire process with his faith, work ethic and the support system he has behind him has been tremendous.”
After the team’s pregame walkthrough at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Isaac was upgraded from doubtful to available. The time between his last NBA game and his return was 904 days. He hadn’t played since tearing his ACL, missing half of this season as well as the 2020–21 and 2021–22 seasons.
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Isaac had an 8–10 minute playing time limit, according to Mosley. He made the most of his time and had a beneficial influence, particularly in the second half. After two five-minute halves, Isaac finished with 10 points (4-of-7 shooting, 2 of 3 on three-pointers), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist in 10 minutes.
A standing ovation greeted his official comeback as he replaced Franz Wagner with seven minutes left in the first quarter. In his first possession on the floor, he missed a layup while quickly trying to establish his offensive rhythm. The Magic took an early 15-8 lead after Isaac’s 12-foot turnaround jumper over Jaylen Brown on the following possession for his first points.
In his brief first-quarter appearance of 4:25, he recorded 4 points and 3 rebounds. During his second stint on the field in the third, Isaac appeared particularly at ease. After intercepting a pass from Brown with a quick weakside rotation, he made a pull-up three to put the Magic ahead 71-68.
With 2:04 left in the quarter, Isaac picked Brown’s pocket for a steal and assisted Paolo Banchero on a slam in transition that put the Magic ahead 86-73. Isaac then replaced himself.
“There [are] no words to describe how great he is defensively,” Mosley said. “He just sees the game differently. His activity, length, knowledge and anticipation of things happening defensively. What I didn’t know walking in was how much work he’s put in offensively to look a different way than the traditional style of basketball — the way he handles the basketball, shooting. He’s done a tremendous job improving all of that.”
Following that, the Magic (18-29) kept command of the match and defeated the Eastern Conference champions to earn their third victory of the year. Midway through December, Orlando swept the Celtics (35-13) in Boston. With 23 points on 7 of 13 shooting and 5 rebounds, Banchero was the Magic’s top scorer.
The Magic received a boost in the first half from Cole Anthony, who finished with 18 points (8-of-12 shooting), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in 23 minutes off the bench. The double-double of Wendell Carter Jr. was 21 points and 11 rebounds. Wagner scored a total of 15 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists, including 7 in the fourth.
52 points total were scored by Jayson Tatum (26 points) and Brown (26 points). Marcus Smart (right ankle strain), Robert Williams III, and Malcolm Brogdon were absent from the Celtics due to personal reasons (left knee injury management).mPrior to the game, Isaac shirts were worn by Magic players, coaches, and basketball operations personnel.
Mosley declared, “I love it” Isaac’s first game at Amway Center since December 30, 2019 and his first away from the league’s “bubble” since January 1, 2020, were both on Monday. Mosley advised Isaac to “Embrace it” in his message.
“For what he’s been through, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, his ability to stay resilient, faithful and continue to work, you can only embrace these moments. As he gets acclimated to being back on the court, just play the game he knows how to play. Having fun and enjoying it with his teammates. That’s what it’s all been about.”
Prior to getting hurt, the Magic’s No. 6 overall choice in the 2017 draught, Isaac, was having a breakout season. In 34 games for the 2019–20 season, he had averages of 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 1.6 steals. Before Monday, Isaac was back on the ground.
He participated in three games over the preceding two weeks with the Lakeland Magic, the organization’s G League franchise, averaging 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 assists in 17.7 minutes.
“The great part about being with the G League is that he got to feel the levels of emotions and situations he’s going to be in,” according to Mosley. “Coming back with us here, he’s already felt a little bit of that. Now it’ll probably be at a different level. Just communicating with him, and understanding how to settle himself down. Just embrace all of it. He has to. After being away for this long, you don’t want to shy back from that.”