Jonathan Isaac

Magic’s Isaac, Fultz Won’t Be Ready For Opening Night

Young Magic cornerstones Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz, who are both coming off ACL tears, won’t be ready to play in the team’s regular season opener next month, sources tell Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

As Robbins explains, the Magic’s organizational policy is to avoid setting specific timelines or return dates for players who are recovering from injuries. However, Robbins has heard that the team will exercise significant caution with both Isaac and Fultz. The front office views getting the two players back into games and getting them through the 2021/22 season without any new health issues as two of its top organizational priorities, Robbins adds.

“Both of those guys have been, as you would expect if you cover our team, relentless in their approach,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said of Isaac and Fultz. “They’ve been working daily grinding. They both look really good. I will not elaborate on timelines. To me as a layman, this is where I just don’t want any setbacks. … But right now, they continue to progress through their rehab right on course and they’re making progress.”

As Robbins observes, Isaac is about 14 months removed from his ACL injury, while Fultz underwent surgery on his ACL only about nine months ago, so the forward may be on track to return a little sooner than the former No. 1 overall pick.

The Magic will also be missing veteran guard Michael Carter-Williams to start the regular season, putting point guard duties in the hands of youngsters Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Isaac confirmed on Monday that he has yet to take the COVID-19 vaccine, but suggested that a recent Rolling Stone report misrepresented his views. “I am not anti-vax,” Isaac told reporters, including Robbins. “I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science. I didn’t come to my current vaccination status by studying Black history or watching Donald Trump press conferences. … But with that being said, it is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice, and completely up to them without bullying, without being pressured, without being forced into doing so. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m uncomfortable with taking the vaccine at this time.”
  • Suggs and fellow lottery pick Franz Wagner are both candidates to begin the season in the Magic’s starting lineups, but new head coach Jamahl Mosley isn’t prepared to speculate about the makeup of his starting five quite yet, according to Robbins. “I think it’s a little early to tell which way we’re going to go with lineups and the roster and rotations,” Mosley said on Monday. “We want to get that first part of training camp started just so we can see what the different combinations look like.”
  • Chuma Okeke won’t be participating in full-contact drills at the start of training camp, since he recently sustained a right hip bruise during a voluntary workout, per Weltman (via Robbins).
  • The Magic are expected to have “thorough” discussions with Wendell Carter Jr.‘s reps about a possible rookie scale extension before opening night, says Robbins. “I would love to be here for a long time,” Carter said. “I love Orlando. I love the city. I love my teammates. I love the people here, the weather, everything. So I would love to be here, but right now, I’m just focused on training camp.”

Jonathan Isaac On Playing In Season Opener: “We’ll See”

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, who missed the entire 2020/21 season while recovering from a torn left ACL, remains unsure of the exact timetable for his return to action this fall, writes Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel.

As Hays details, Isaac addressed his recovery briefly during a community event in Orlando on Sunday. The former lottery pick confirmed he’s getting closer to returning to action, but wasn’t ready to guarantee he’ll be in the lineup for the Magic’s regular season opener on October 20.

“We’ll see. That’s all I can say about that is: we’ll see,” Isaac said when asked if he’d play on opening night. “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.”

Although Isaac’s injury technically occurred during the 2019/20 regular season, he hasn’t had as long to recover as he would during a typical NBA year due to the league’s compressed schedule since the coronavirus stoppage. He tore his ACL last August during the 2020 summer restart at Walt Disney World.

Even if Isaac is cleared for action prior to opening night, the Magic figure to proceed with caution. The 23-year-old forward, who has displayed All-Defense talent early in his career, is a key part of the club’s future, having been locked up through the 2024/25 season with a four-year extension last December.

Orlando is also in full-fledged rebuilding mode and likely won’t be in the mix for a playoff spot this season, so there’s no reason to bring back Isaac until the team is certain he’s back to 100%. However, for his part, the former Florida State standout is feeling optimistic about his ability to return to the court soon.

“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 on Sunday, per Hays.

Southeast Notes: Bertans, Magic, Kreutzer, Murphy, Hawks

Having acquired Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma in a trade with the Lakers and used their first-round pick to draft Corey Kispert, the Wizards should have a few more outside shooting threats in 2021/22 than they did a year ago. However, that doesn’t mean Davis Bertans has become expendable, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

As Hughes outlines, the Wizards will still have several players in their rotation who won’t effectively stretch the floor, and there’s no guarantee Kispert will be a reliable contributor right away as a rookie. Throw in the fact that Washington ranked 28th in the NBA last season in three-pointers made, and it’s clear the team isn’t in position to get rid of any shooters — especially one like Bertans, whose contract would be hard to trade, and who made 39.5% of his three-point attempts even in a down year in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • If everyone on the Magic‘s roster is fully healthy to start the 2021/22 season, Josh Robbins of The Athletic thinks Gary Harris and Jonathan Isaac would be the only two players assured of a spot in the starting lineup. Robbins views Wendell Carter as the most likely starter at center, with Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs in the mix for the point guard spot. Both Fultz and Suggs could theoretically start if Orlando is comfortable with a three-guard lineup, Robbins notes.
  • The Magic are retaining Bruce Kreutzer and Dylan Murphy to be part of Jamahl Mosley‘s new coaching staff, reports Robbins (Twitter links). Both Kreutzer and Murphy served under Steve Clifford for the last three seasons in Orlando.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Chris Kirschner addresses a handful of Hawks-related questions, including inquiries on whether Atlanta is a realistic suitor for Ben Simmons, what the team’s chances are of repeating its 2021 playoff success, and what the roles Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter will play going forward. Kirschner likes the idea of pursuing Simmons if the price is fair and he’s willing to play a position besides point guard.

Southeast Notes: Isaac, Wizards, Delany, Okongwu, Hawks

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is making strides in his recovery from a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes.

Isaac, the No. 6 pick in 2017, suffered the injuries during a game last August. When asked when he’d be able to play in an NBA contest again, Isaac laughed.

“I can’t give you that,” he said. As Robbins notes, Magic officials are strict about giving recovery details out. “I really can’t give you that. But I’m feeling good. I’ve been able to really kind of get moving as of late. I’ve been able to get some work done with Coach on the court, so I feel good. I don’t have a specific timeline on anything, but I’m OK. I’m getting there.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • The Wizards are closing in on hiring Pat Delany as an assistant on Wes Unseld Jr‘s staff, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). Delany most recently served as an assistant coach under Steve Clifford with the Magic.
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines what Onyeka Okongwu‘s shoulder surgery means for the Hawks. Okongwu, the team’s No. 6 pick in 2020, is expected to miss roughly six months due to the surgery. He averaged 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 12 minutes per game in 50 contests this season.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Kirschner explores the Hawks’ incredible season — including some behind-the-scenes stories. Atlanta managed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals largely due to Trae Young‘s career year, losing to the Bucks in six games.

Southeast Notes: Crowder, Heat, Mosley, Wizards

The Heat made a key personnel decision that could have adversely impacted their 2020/21 season in letting Jae Crowder walk as a free agent during the 2020 offseason, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The club opted to not sign Crowder to a long-term deal so that it could keep its coffers open for the summer of 2021, when Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was scheduled to be a free agent. Of course, Antetokounmpo then signed a lucrative extension with Milwaukee, and the Bucks would go on to sweep the Heat 4-0 in the first round of the 2021 postseason.

Crowder, meanwhile, signed a three-year, $29.2MM deal with the Suns. Though Crowder’s statistical numbers may be modest, Winderman notes that his toughness and versatility would have significantly aided Miami’s 2020/21 season. Crowder is now bringing those same attributes to bear for the Suns in the NBA Finals. The club is up 2-0 against the Bucks.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Team Nigeria head coach Mike Brown sang the praises of Heat forwards Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala after they contributed to Team Nigeria’s 90-87 exhibition match upset over Team USA in an Olympics tuneup game, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Achiuwa and Okpala’s contributions went beyond their minor offensive output. Their Miami teammate Gabe Vincent, meanwhile, enjoyed a stellar offensive game for Nigeria, scoring a team-high 21 points on 66.7% field goal shooting.
  • Several current and former Magic players expressed their excitement when the news broke today that Orlando would be hiring Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley to be the club’s new head coach, writes Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel. “I’m happy for him,” Magic forward Jonathan Isaac told Hays. “He’s been faithful to the grind and the league for many years.” Former Magic guard J.J. Redick, who was coached by Mosley in Dallas this season, tweeted “Love this!!”
  • The Wizards, who have the No. 15 pick in the 2021 draft, will hold pre-draft workouts for six draft candidates on Monday, per a team press release. Richmond guard Blake Francis, Florida guard Tre Mann, Avtodor Saratov forward Nikita Mikhailovskii, Tennessee swingman Yves Pons, Stanford forward Oscar Da Silva, and Coppin State wing Koby Thomas will all get a look from Washington’s brain trust.

Magic Notes: Lottery, Weltman, Isaac, Coaching Search

Among the teams with the best odds heading into Tuesday’s draft lottery, the Magic were the only one to fall out of the top three. Orlando slipped into the fifth spot and will have a second lottery pick after receiving the No. 8 selection from the Bulls. While president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman was disappointed with the results, he said that he’s glad to finally have some clarity on next month’s draft, as Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel writes.

“I’ll look at it now as we have a lot of work to do, and we get to put a finer point on the work,” Weltman said. “So we kind of are looking just to put this day behind us and really drill down on the two picks that we have now. Knowing that we have two top-10 picks, that part of it’s very exciting.

“And then the other part is the draft, and it very seldom works out in the way that you prognosticate it. You look back on pretty much any draft, and it doesn’t go that way so it’s our job to find the players in the draft and we will. Now that we know where we’re picking and how many picks we’ll have, we’ll be able to kind of get to the next layer of that.”

There’s more from Orlando:

  • In the same story, Parry suggests the team may try to package one of the selections and possibly a veteran such as Gary Harris or Terrence Ross in an effort to move up. “We always explore all options and it’ll be interesting to kind of start to engage with teams (with the Magic) having two top-10 picks,” Weltman said. “Sometimes it ends up in deals that get done and sometimes it’s a lot of close but no calls. So we’ll see how that goes but we will be busy and the busyness starts with evaluating these two draft picks.”
  • Injured forward Jonathan Isaac shared some encouraging news in a recent appearance on The Sixth Man Show podcast (hat tip to Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily). Isaac missed the entire 2020/21 season with a torn ACL and there’s still not a definite timetable for him to return, but he believes he’s making progress. “I’m turning the corner,” he said. “It’s like every day I feel like I’m moving better and I can do more. I’m like a kid in the candy story wanting to run around and do so much. I feel good. I’m getting better every day.”
  • In the search to replace Steve Clifford, the Magic front office wants someone with previous head-coaching experience, Marc Stein of The New York Times writes in his latest newsletter. Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and Clippers assistant Kenny Atkinson are two candidates that Stein has heard mentioned frequently.

Southeast Notes: Goodwin, Reddish, Hunter, Porter Jr., Magic

Hawks guard Brandon Goodwin and forward Cam Reddish won’t play in Game 3 against Philadelphia on Friday, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets. Goodwin is dealing with a minor respiratory condition, while Reddish is still working his way back from right Achilles soreness. Reddish has played 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 in practices, but hasn’t progressed to 5-on-5 yet, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. He hasn’t appeared in a game since February 21.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks have missed De’Andre Hunter‘s defensive versatility against the Sixers, Kirschner writes. Hunter, who is out for the season due to a knee injury, has the ability to guard four positions. Hunter would have been a major upgrade over Solomon Hill, who can’t defend as well and also doesn’t offer as much offensively as Hunter.
  • Otto Porter Jr. didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do for the Magic due to injuries, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Porter was acquired by Orlando from Chicago at the trade deadline to make the salaries match up in the Nikola Vucevic blockbuster. Porter, an unrestricted free agent this summer, was limited to three games with the Magic due to a foot injury.
  • The first step in the Magic’s latest rebuild begins with the return of starters Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz from major knee injuries, Parry writes in a separate story. The draft is another key, since the Magic could have two top-10 picks, if the Bulls’ pick they own doesn’t move into the top four. They could also move Gary Harris or Terrence Ross for more cap flexibility or assets, Parry adds.

Magic Notes: Isaac, Lottery Odds, Porter, Wagner

Jonathan Isaac remains the best young talent on a Magic team filled with players age 23 and younger, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Isaac is sitting out the entire season after suffering a torn ACL last August, but he still has the potential to be the cornerstone of the organization and a future candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, according to Robbins.

The obvious question about Isaac involves durability, as he played just 34 games last season and only 27 in his rookie year of 2017/18. There are also concerns about his development on offense, as Robbins notes that he hasn’t excelled yet as either a shooter or passer. Even so, Robbins sees him as the most valuable asset on the roster.

Markelle Fultz, who has injury issues of his own, ranks second on Robbins’ list, followed by Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony, Mohamed Bamba, R.J. Hampton and Donta Hall.

There’s more from Orlando:

  • A six-game losing streak has the Magic back in line for the best odds for the June 22 lottery, notes Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. The teams with the three worst records will each have a 14% chance to land the top pick, and the Magic have slid into second place, percentage points ahead of the Timberwolves and a half-game in front of the Pistons. Parry examines Orlando’s chances of finishing in the bottom three and finds that the team has the league’s 16th-toughest schedule the rest of the way. You can follow the race for draft position in our Reverse Standings.
  • Otto Porter Jr. continues to get daily treatment on his painful left foot, but the Magic don’t know when he might play again, said interim coach Tyrone Corbin (Twitter link via Parry). Acquired from the Bulls at the trade deadline, Porter has only appeared in three games for Orlando and hasn’t played since April 3. “Some days he’s on the floor, he’ll come out and shoot a little bit and see how he responds,” Corbin said, “and if it’s a positive thing they increase his work a little bit, but if it’s not as good they kind of have to pull him back. But he’s in there every day trying to work it on out and trying to get back on the floor.”
  • Big man Moritz Wagner, who signed with the Magic on Tuesday, could make his debut tonight in Cleveland, according to Parry (Twitter link).

Southeast Notes: Butler, Heat, Ball, Isaac

The Heat are looking to “right the ship” and improve on bad habits created during the absence of Jimmy Butler and others this month, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes.

Butler, who returned on Saturday after missing ten straight games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, poured in 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the contest. It was Miami’s first victory in over a week, snapping a five-game losing streak.

“It’s a start,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just have to continue to forge ahead. Our spirit has been lifted. It feels different than it did two weeks ago.”

Miami has battled COVID-19 and a series of injuries thus far, opening the 2020/21 season with a 7-12 record. The team has upcoming games scheduled against the Hornets on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday and Friday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Heat and Butler mutually missed each other during his absence, David Wilson writes for The Miami Herald. Butler is coming off a season that saw him average 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and six assists per game, leading Miami to its first Finals appearance since 2014.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines whether Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball is ready to make his first NBA start. Ball scored a career-high 27 points in the team’s win over Milwaukee on Saturday, also adding five rebounds, nine assists and four steals on 8-of-10 shooting.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is embracing the grind of his rehab, working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last August, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “I like the work. I like getting in and grinding every day,” Isaac said. “I think most people would think that that’s the hardest part but I take it like I’m out there playing on the court when I’m doing my rehab. This is my game right now. But the hardest part is definitely just being on the sideline and watching those guys fighting and just wishing I was out there with them.

Southeast Notes: Young, Wizards, Westbrook, Isaac

Hawks guard Trae Young says rumors of a dispute between him and John Collins earlier this month were exaggerated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The incident reportedly involved a film session in which Collins criticized Young’s decision making and long-distance shots early in possessions. Young contends there was never a serious dispute with Collins.

“As for the John incident, me and him talked about it as soon as it got out the next day and we were both confused,” Young said. “It just got out and it was over a regular film session. So there’s no beef or anything in there to begin with. There hasn’t been any locker room issues on my side. Anything that people were saying about locker room issues, there hasn’t been one. It’s all about our team and how we’ve been trying to get better in film sessions.”

Young also addressed the controversy that has arisen about his technique for drawing fouls. Nets coach Steve Nash and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau are among those who have complained about how he manages to get to the foul line so often.

“I’ve always been able to know how to get to the free-throw line,” Young said. “It’s little things like that people are pointing out this year, but it’s stuff I’ve been doing my whole life.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN takes a look at the Wizards‘ experiences through nearly two full weeks of contact tracing and postponed games. Coach Scott Brooks said he had little contact with his players, other than waving to them from inside his car as they arrived for their COVID-19 tests each day. “(The NBA is) learning things as we are going. And I am assuming they learned a lot from us,” Brooks said. “I see that more often now, somebody has (the virus) and they shut it down for a couple of games. Because I think it is better to miss two than to miss six.”
  • The Wizards are big losers so far in the trade that brought Russell Westbrook from Houston in exchange for John Wall and a draft pick, contends Zach Lowe of ESPN. Westbrook’s stats are down across the board and he’s averaging 5.2 turnovers per game, which would be one of the worst marks ever if it lasts the entire season.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac provided an update on his recovery from a torn ACL, tweets Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Isaac told reporters he has started jumping while shooting, and the ACL doesn’t feel as stiff as it used to. He wants to strengthen his quad, hamstring and calf muscles before he resumes running. Isaac is expected to miss the entire season.