Jonathan Isaac made an emotional return to the court after fearing he would never play in the NBA again.
The Orlando Magic power forward came back during the team’s 113-98 win over the Boston Celtics on Monday night, his first action in over two years following an ACL injury. The 6-foot-10 player scored 10 points on his return, which saw him get nine-and-a-half minutes of play during the game.
Getting any time on the court was not something Isaac had imagined during his extended layoff. Speaking on Monday night, he said: “I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t [have doubts] with this injury. That’s a part of coming back from an injury like this and taking as long as it did.”
He continued: “I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to keep going.’ But then again, God gave me a purpose. I was made to play basketball…so I was going to continue the process no matter what anybody was saying.”
Isaac received a standing ovation as he entered the game, with both sets of players clapping him onto the court.
On January 1, 2020, the Magic star injured his knee and took seven months to return to playing. Just two games later, though, he tore his left ACL while playing in the NBA bubble at Disney World.
Just three Magic players who played with Isaac before his knee injury are still on the roster, and this was the first time he had played under coach Jamahl Mosley.
The coach said after the game: “We are all excited for him. You talk about the number of days that he’s been out, years…. His ability to come back and stay the course through the entire process, with his faith and work ethic and the support system he has behind him, has just been tremendous.”
Mosley went on: “For what he’s been through, the up and downs, the ins and outs, and his ability to stay resilient, faithful and continue to work no matter what, you can only embrace these moments. Enjoy the moment.”
Boston Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was equally impressed with Isaac’s durability and the mental strength to come through such a challenging time away.
“The league can be unforgiving,” he said. “Guys with injuries go through ups and downs. For him to battle through for the last two years, and mentally and physically work at it each day, that’s a win.
“There’s so much going on in the league all the time,” Mazzulla continued. “Guys are getting stronger and bigger and faster all the time, and so to be able to play at such a level with such adversity, I think, is impressive.
“You have to be able to embrace that in this league, because there is a lot of change going on constantly,” Mazzulla said.
After 211 games away from the team, Isaac will be used in short stints so he can see how his knee responds and also how to play with his teammates, who are new to him on the court.
Magic guard Cole Anthony said having Isaac back will be a huge boost. “He’s going to help us tremendously, man, especially on the defensive side. We need that.”
Before returning to the NBA, Isaac played three G League games with tjhe Lakeland Magic, in which he saw 52 minutes of action across the games.
Speaking about his return to the Magic, Isaac said: “It felt fantastic. Tonight is barely scratching the surface of what this team is trying to be. I really do believe the sky is the limit.”
Do you have a tip on a sports story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about the NBA? Let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org.