Orlando Magic big man Jonathan Isaac left Sunday’s victory over the Sacramento Kings in the fourth quarter in a wheelchair after an apparent injury, and now, sadly, we now know what that injury was. Isaac suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the play, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The recovery timeline for such an injury is typically around one year.
The play came early in the fourth quarter of Orlando’s win on Sunday. Isaac drove into the lane and attempted to split two defenders with a jump stop. Upon landing, his left knee buckled and he collapsed to the ground. He immediately clutched for his knee and was grimacing in pain on the court. The Magic medical staff attended to him for some time along the baseline, and they later took him off the floor in a wheelchair.
Isaac had only just recovered from another major knee injury. On New Year’s Day against the Washington Wizards, he had to be stretchered off the court after landing awkwardly, and was later diagnosed with a “posterior lateral corner injury and a medial bone contusion.” He was initially ruled out for 8-10 weeks, but the Magic later determined he would miss the rest of the season. The delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, however, gave him time to recover and was cleared to go to Disney. Unfortunately, it appears he’ll once again be facing a long spell on the sidelines.
The timing of the injury is particularly brutal for Isaac and his team. Typically, NBA games wouldn’t be played in August. The pandemic forced the league to adjust, and it hopes to play the 2020-21 season on a schedule that is at least somewhat similar to its normal timeframe. If Isaac’s recovery indeed takes a year, he would be likely to miss the entire 2020-21 season. Still, on a rookie contract, Isaac will become eligible for a contract extension this offseason. If he does not sign one with Orlando, he will become a restricted free agent during the 2021 offseason. Given this injury and the ones that preceded it, his bargaining power has been severely reduced.
That is a shame because Isaac was growing into one of the best young players in basketball. The former Florida State standout averaged 12.1 points per game this season on career-best shooting numbers, but his real impact came on defense. His incredible length and athleticism combined with his high basketball IQ made him the rare big man that could defend both the rim and the perimeter at an elite level. Given his improved shooting, he would have commanded a hefty contract this offseason had he been healthy.