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Weltman: Jonathan Isaac’s torn ACL unrelated to prior injury, Magic didn’t rush return

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said Isaac was “absolutely, unequivocally, not brought back too early”

NBA: Orlando Magic-Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of Jonathan Isaac suffering a torn ACL, there was a sense of immediacy to place blame.

Whether it was on the Orlando Magic organization for bringing Isaac back too soon, or on Steve Clifford for keeping Isaac in during a rout, or any other finger-pointing by those who think having a Twitter account is the equivalent of going to medical school.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman spoke with the media on Monday and quickly, and emphatically, cleared the air. After first expressing the organization’s concern and support for Isaac, Weltman, when asked, said the torn ACL that Isaac suffered Sunday was not related to his previous injury, and that the Magic in no way brought him back too soon.

“It was completely unrelated,” Weltman said. “There were no structures in the knee that were damaged in the first injury that were impacted in this most recent injury whatsoever. It was completely unrelated. And absolutely, unequivocally, not brought back too early. As a matter of fact, again, those of you guys that follow us locally know that if we’re ever going to be criticized as to the timing of returning our players to play, it’s at the other end of the spectrum. It’s that we’re too cautious, we wait too long, take too careful an approach. And the approach to Jonathan’s injury was no different than any other injury we’ve had in the last three years.”

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Weltman, when later asked about Isaac’s concerning injury history, added that one doctor told him that Isaac’s landing “would have resulted in this impact, this result for any player in the NBA and he’s actually lucky that he was wearing his knee brace at the time.”

Given the amount of work that Isaac put in after suffering the initial knee injury in January, seeing Isaac on the court grimacing in pain in just the second “regular season” game of his comeback, was difficult to watch.

“It just took the air out of the building,” Weltman said. “It was very emotional for Jonathan, He had invested so much time, so much energy, so much work into getting back to join his teammates expeditiously. And for this to just be such a bang-bang, you know, like that, kind of had an air of shock to it for all of us, I think.”

Added Steve Clifford: “I hate to use the word crushing but this is not an easy one to deal with. Watching how much he’s put into this, how hard he’s worked. He’s always so committed and such a great person and teammate that you hate to see something like this happen to anybody. But I can’t lie, it’s particularly difficult to handle when it is someone like him.”

Weltman said Isaac has left the bubble and, after Sunday’s MRI at the NBA’s mobile unit on the Disney campus, he will get additional images before consulting with the Magic team doctor and other physicians to determine the best course of action.

Knowing Isaac’s work ethic, and with advances made in ACL procedures and recovery, Weltman is confident that Isaac will return to form.

“We fully expect Jonathan to have a full recovery and come back bigger and stronger,” he said. “He’s 22 and he’s going to start filling into his body. He already has, and I think our fans were starting to see some of the impact of that. And we fully expect Jonathan to be stronger for this, a better player, and to be everything that he was going to be and more.”

Weltman wouldn’t address how the injury impacts the Magic’s plans for the offseason. The focus, he said, is on the Magic’s game against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, and more importantly, on getting the best possible care for Isaac.

“You’re talking about a guy who has just put so much work into getting back in time to join the team here and to see him go through that, to see him experience that is just a gut punch for him,” Weltman said. “Obviously, organizationally, it’s a setback for Jonathan. We will move forward. We will live to fight another day. But right now, just kind of thinking about him.”