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Isaac optimistic he will return for NBA’s re-start

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Jonathan Isaac isn’t sure if he will be back on the court when the NBA re-starts in just under two weeks. But he feels good. And feels optimistic after suffering a knee injury in January.

“I have no reservations in my mind,” Isaac said on a conference call with reporters. “If I’m ready to play and if I get the clearance, I’m ready to go. That’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m definitely optimistic about my chances.”

Isaac was off to his best start in three NBA seasons, averaging 12 points and 6.9 rebounds while making 51 percent of his shots from the floor. The forward had scored in double figures in 22 of 32 games this season.

But Isaac was sidelined after playing on Jan. 1 and it looked like his season was over. Isaac was a leader off the bench and, during the break in games due to the coronavirus pandemic, he led fundraising efforts to help provide breakfasts and lunches to Orlando youth.

Isaac was also working on his return to the court, not knowing when he or the Magic would be able to return. As it turned out, the Magic went into the NBA’s “bubble” in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and Isaac was ready to practice. Magic coach Steve Clifford said it may be another week before the team can determine if Isaac is ready to play in games, but he is pleased with his progress over the past few months.

“He’s a terrific worker, so I couldn’t say enough good things about him,” Clifford said. “It’ll be difficult to know for a couple more weeks if he’ll be able to play. He’s a great person, a great teammate and he’s a guy who brings a lot of positives to your group – even when he can’t play.”

Isaac’s minutes will likely be limited, especially at first. But even if he can provide a good spark off the bench, a few minutes here and there, Isaac will gain confidence in his knee and contribute as the Magic look to make the playoffs.

At FSU, Isaac was a major piece of the 2016-17 team that rejuvenated the program and put the Seminoles back in the NCAA Tournament. Isaac averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds, starting all 32 games and earning a spot on the All-ACC freshman team. He fondly recalled playing alongside Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Terance Mann and achieving a 26-9 record as well as a perfect 18-0 mark at home.

“It’s extremely special,” Isaac said of his year at Florida State. “I give all the kudos to our coaching staff, the teammates that I was there with … To be able to come in and work with those guys, work with the coaching staff and be able to kind of put Florida State back on the map as a tournament team, and to watch how they have just taken what we did and continued to blow the doors off the program, it feels great to be an alumni. I try to get back anytime I can.”

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