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After 904 days, Jonathan Isaac made his return for Magic relying on faith and perseverance

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 ORLANDO Jonathan Isaac had finally been cleansed It had been over three years since he played in front of the Orlando fans over two years since he wore the Magic uniform After 904 agonizing days Isaac had completed his journey back to the floor so his teammates greeted him in the locker room with a water bottle shower to wash away the pain of the past to awaken him to his new reality Isaac is an NBA player once again a promising 25 year old athlete and man whose torn ACL no longer can keep him from doing what he was promised The hundreds of bad days the hundreds of good days the purple people eaters as he called the training staff the teammates the family the church the faith His entire support system that propped him up when it was easy to truly fall down that tangled maze of love was front and center in his mind as he stepped onto the court for the first time in over two years So just trying to bottle all that up in one moment it was surreal Isaac said after the Magic beat the Celtics 113 98 His presence on this stage was surreal Isaac s faith that he could return wavered over a vast span but it never faltered Those who were in the trenches with him the trainers who conducted his rehab the teammates who were stuck in the same predicament they were all blown away by his steadiness Rehab is not easy Markelle Fultz said the hardest part is the monotonous repetitiveness the micro progress it yields and having to tell yourself something promising is happening that you can barely perceive But Isaac was there to promise him it was going to be OK Fultz was stuck there alongside him Taken first in the same draft Fultz hardly got to build a career before a torn ACL robbed him of his success Fultz pointed out that Isaac had a solid year on him by the time Fultz tore his knee and had to join him in rehab but it wasn t like this was the first time Fultz s body kept him off the floor Shoulder issues completely derailed his time in Philadelphia and immediately ruined his status as the top pick in the draft The Sixers traded him to Orlando where he quietly brought his career back on track Then he blew out his knee and all that progress was wiped away Isaac has been a guide for those passing him on the road to recovery showing them how the work is done and the mental battle is won When Gary Harris needed meniscus surgery just before training camp this season he was sequestered to rehab alongside Isaac He never got to play with Isaac before Monday night so this was his chance to witness Isaac up close His faith and perseverance radiate out to those around him But his injury was proof that even the greatest athletes are imperfect There had to be some creeping doubt those moments when even the man who said he was made to play basketball wondered if he could fulfill his destiny But he believed God had him on this journey for a purpose and he was going to keep working It was at this moment he once again thanked that aforementioned list of people who held him down while he was fighting to get back up Now those people can finally lean on him The first drawn up play of Isaac s night culminated with him burying a turnaround jumper over Jaylen Brown sort of as designed Shout out to Coach Mose for drawing one up for me Isaac said explaining it was supposed to be a catch and shoot jumper but the Celtics forced him to go into isolation Isaac last NBA action was on Aug 2 2020 in the bubble But Isaac knew that every missed shot or strained breath was an accomplishment in itself He remembered where he came from at the nadir of this journey The moment he tore his knee in the NBA s COVID bubble on Aug 3 2020 that wasn t quite it There was the cruelty of suffering a setback just hours after the team announced last March he would be out for the remainder of the season and specifically mentioned there were no setbacks A hamstring strain and a minor surgery pushing his hopeful return to the start of this season He didn t make it back until more than the halfway point but nobody seemed to care on Monday He was out there doing his thing everything short of throwing it down over an unlucky defender Don t worry though he s been working on that plenty behind the scenes Isaac has been playing the five at times in practice according to Bamba as if he needs even more competition at his position They just wanted him to be himself again but there is more to Isaac ahead It just may not be ready yet But Bamba is abundantly optimistic considering his pre game prediction for his teammate s box score even though he knew Isaac was barely going to play While Isaac and Fultz have tried to get their once promising careers back on track Tatum has had a meteoric rise to stardom and transformed his team into a serious contender So he can merely sympathize with all the long nights Isaac had to deal with trying to get his body right It was only fitting that Isaac s first task in his return was to walk up to Tatum and try to strap him up Most players wouldn t be given such a tall task so soon but it was easy for Jamahl Mosley to trust Isaac with the assignment This night started as a moral victory but there was a team on the other side trying to spoil that It s not that they want to ruin the good vibes but the NBA doesn t take more than a brief moment to let you find your footing It s why Isaac had to wait so long to come back Hit the ground running or be run over So to be thrown in the fire covering Tatum or for Mosley to call the first play for Isaac the Magic had full faith in him He delivered and helped Orlando blow the game open when he came in during the third quarter doing just about everything that once made him the future of this team and this league before he had to start a new more treacherous journey An NBA game is a hectic cacophony of excitement anger and sometimes pain But after so many years on the sidelines in the dungeons of rehab Isaac is finally back in his peaceful place where he belongs Subscribe to The Athletic for in depth coverage of your favorite players teams leagues and clubs Try a week on us Credit https theathletic com 4120394 2023 01 24 jonathan isaac orlando magic return faith
After 904 days, Jonathan Isaac made his return for Magic relying on faith and perseverance

Jonathan Isaac

ORLANDO — Jonathan Isaac had finally been cleansed.

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It had been over three years since he played in front of the Orlando fans, over two years since he wore the Magic uniform.

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After 904 agonizing days, Isaac had completed his journey back to the floor, so his teammates greeted him in the locker room with a water bottle shower to wash away the pain of the past, to awaken him to his new reality.

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Isaac is an NBA player once again, a promising 25-year-old athlete and man whose torn ACL no longer can keep him from doing what he was promised.

The hundreds of bad days; the hundreds of good days; the purple people eaters, as he called the training staff; the teammates; the family; the church; the faith. His entire support system that propped him up when it was easy to truly fall down, that tangled maze of love was front and center in his mind as he stepped onto the court for the first time in over two years.

“So just trying to bottle all that up in one moment, it was surreal,” Isaac said after the Magic beat the Celtics 113-98.

His presence on this stage was surreal. Isaac’s faith that he could return wavered over a vast span, but it never faltered.

Those who were in the trenches with him, the trainers who conducted his rehab, the teammates who were stuck in the same predicament, they were all blown away by his steadiness.

Rehab is not easy. Markelle Fultz said the hardest part is the monotonous repetitiveness, the micro-progress it yields, and having to tell yourself something promising is happening that you can barely perceive. But Isaac was there to promise him it was going to be OK.

Fultz was stuck there alongside him. Taken first in the same draft, Fultz hardly got to build a career before a torn ACL robbed him of his success.

Fultz pointed out that Isaac had a solid year on him by the time Fultz tore his knee and had to join him in rehab, but it wasn’t like this was the first time Fultz’s body kept him off the floor. Shoulder issues completely derailed his time in Philadelphia and immediately ruined his status as the top pick in the draft.

The Sixers traded him to Orlando, where he quietly brought his career back on track. Then he blew out his knee and all that progress was wiped away.

Isaac has been a guide for those passing him on the road to recovery, showing them how the work is done and the mental battle is won.

When Gary Harris needed meniscus surgery just before training camp this season, he was sequestered to rehab alongside Isaac. He never got to play with Isaac before Monday night, so this was his chance to witness Isaac up close.

His faith and perseverance radiate out to those around him. But his injury was proof that even the greatest athletes are imperfect. There had to be some creeping doubt, those moments when even the man who said he was made to play basketball wondered if he could fulfill his destiny.

But he believed God had him on this journey for a purpose and he was going to keep working. It was at this moment he once again thanked that aforementioned list of people who held him down while he was fighting to get back up.

Now those people can finally lean on him. The first drawn-up play of Isaac’s night culminated with him burying a turnaround jumper over Jaylen Brown, sort of as designed.

“Shout out to Coach Mose for drawing one up for me,” Isaac said, explaining it was supposed to be a catch-and-shoot jumper but the Celtics forced him to go into isolation.

Isaac last NBA action was on Aug. 2, 2020 in the bubble.

But Isaac knew that every missed shot or strained breath was an accomplishment in itself. He remembered where he came from at the nadir of this journey. The moment he tore his knee in the NBA’s COVID bubble on Aug. 3, 2020, that wasn’t quite it.

There was the cruelty of suffering a setback just hours after the team announced last March he would be out for the remainder of the season and specifically mentioned there were no setbacks. A hamstring strain and a minor surgery, pushing his hopeful return to the start of this season. He didn’t make it back until more than the halfway point, but nobody seemed to care on Monday.

He was out there doing his thing, everything short of throwing it down over an unlucky defender. Don’t worry though, he’s been working on that plenty behind the scenes.

Isaac has been playing the five at times in practice, according to Bamba, as if he needs even more competition at his position. They just wanted him to be himself again, but there is more to Isaac ahead. It just may not be ready yet.

But Bamba is abundantly optimistic, considering his pre-game prediction for his teammate’s box score even though he knew Isaac was barely going to play.

While Isaac and Fultz have tried to get their once promising careers back on track, Tatum has had a meteoric rise to stardom and transformed his team into a serious contender. So he can merely sympathize with all the long nights Isaac had to deal with trying to get his body right.

It was only fitting that Isaac’s first task in his return was to walk up to Tatum and try to strap him up. Most players wouldn’t be given such a tall task so soon, but it was easy for Jamahl Mosley to trust Isaac with the assignment.

This night started as a moral victory, but there was a team on the other side trying to spoil that. It’s not that they want to ruin the good vibes, but the NBA doesn’t take more than a brief moment to let you find your footing.

It’s why Isaac had to wait so long to come back. Hit the ground running or be run over.

So to be thrown in the fire covering Tatum, or for Mosley to call the first play for Isaac, the Magic had full faith in him. He delivered and helped Orlando blow the game open when he came in during the third quarter, doing just about everything that once made him the future of this team and this league before he had to start a new, more treacherous journey.

An NBA game is a hectic cacophony of excitement, anger and sometimes pain. But after so many years on the sidelines, in the dungeons of rehab, Isaac is finally back in his peaceful place where he belongs.

Subscribe to The Athletic for in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try a week on us.

Credit: https://theathletic.com/4120394/2023/01/24/jonathan-isaac-orlando-magic-return-faith/

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