NBA Up-and-Comers: Orlando Magic

The Magic lost in a tough overtime battle to the Nuggets at home on Wednesday.

And while a loss is a loss, it’s apparent that the Magic are a competitive ballclub this season.

They played neck-and-neck with a very good Denver team (sans Gary Harris) on the second night of a back-to-back.

Having Terrence Ross healthy is making a big difference for their offense. Jonathan Isaac is still coming in to his own, but having him healthy is a boon defensively.

Nik Vucevic is playing out of his mind, and Aaron Gordon has clearly taken another step.

All due respect to DJ Augustin, but Orlando has arguably the worst point guard rotation in the League, and they’re still playing good basketball.

This is a team that could hover around .500 this season, and if a few things go their way, could be in the hunt to make the playoffs.

A postseason berth would be huge for this young team. While the prospect of adding another lottery pick next season sounds enticing, this long-suffering franchise needs to prioritize building a winning culture this season.

#byHOPZ: Jonathan Isaac is on the rise‼️

Back in mid-August, I had the opportunity to speak with Magic second-year forward Jonathan Isaac over the phone.

Isaac was forced to sit out 55 games during his rookie season due to various injuries. Orlando ended up in the great tank race to the bottom, finishing the year with a forgettable 25-57 record.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen Isaac play much his rookie season, but I knew with his size, agility, defensive instincts, offensive potential and youth, Isaac could eventually develop into an elite two-way player.

After speaking to Isaac and Magic player development coordinator Kevin Tiller for the story, it was clear that Isaac has the mentality and work ethic that will eventually help him fulfill his immense potential.

Here’s an except of the story, which ran on today:

Wearing his blue plaid draft-day jacket, palms sweating and visibly nervous, Jonathan Isaac walks to the podium to give his first sermon.

“This season is the best season of my life, but I’m not playing right now,” the 20-year-old Magic rookie tells the audience on a Sunday morning in mid-January.

Isaac injured his right ankle just three weeks into the season and hasn’t been fully healthy since. To say his rookie year hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement.

“There’s insecurities, and there’s doubt in my mind,” he continues. “Like, what are people thinking about me? Are people calling me a bust behind my back? Are my teammates, like, When is Jonathan going to play?”

“And I’m in the best season of my life because I’m growing [spiritually],” he says as the church erupts in applause.

The jitters quickly melt away, and Isaac delivers a message—quite naturally and authentically—about receiving God’s blessings in 2018.

The sermon, streamed on YouTube, would later headline the NBA news cycle. Viewers commented, saying they were confused—what was this? And why?

Not playing and now misunderstood, on this mid-January morning, Jonathan Isaac is the most content he’s been in his life.