Jonathan Isaac Suffers Non-Contact Knee Injury

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac left Sunday’s game against Sacramento after suffering an apparent non-contact knee injury, as Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details.

Isaac was driving to the basket early in the fourth quarter of Orlando’s blowout win over the Kings when his left knee buckled and he went down, clutching the knee in pain. He was eventually taken off the court on a wheel chair.

A severe left knee sprain and bone bruise had sidelined Isaac from January 1 until the season went on hiatus in March, and there was uncertainty about whether he’d be ready to return this summer. After participating in practices and scrimmages in July, the 22-year-old was given the go-ahead to play in the Magic’s seeding games. However, it appears likely that his comeback effort has come to an early end.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Isaac is undergoing an MRI on his knee at the Orlando campus on Sunday night. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated adds (via Twitter) that the team has fears that Isaac suffered a torn ACL. While such an injury would likely sideline the former lottery pick for most or all of the 2020/21 season, there’s no formal diagnosis yet.

For his part, head coach Steve Clifford expressed hope that the injury wouldn’t end up being that serious, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays (via Twitter).

“I’m hopeful. It looked bad, obviously, but until you hear anything I’m just hopeful, that’s all,” Clifford said. “… It’s all conjecture and you just have to wait and find out.”

As a first-round pick in 2017, Isaac will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason. It’s not clear if the two sides’ chances of getting something done this fall would be adversely affected if the knee injury turns out to be significant.

Draft Notes: Garza, Mike, Thompson, Ross, Crutcher

Iowa star Luka Garza has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and is set to return with the Hawkeyes for his senior season, he announced on social media Sunday.

Garza is an early frontrunner for National Player of the Year, with the 21-year-old center hoping that his team can compete for a championship next season. He averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this season, leading the Hawkeyes to a 20-11 record.

“My heart is in Iowa City,” Garza said in a statement. “I love this place too much to leave it. I love my teammates, coaches, community, fans and university. I don’t care how many games we were able to play, I want to be here and wear IOWA across my chest one more time. It would have been too hard to close the book without the last chapter. I have decided to return to the University of Iowa for my senior season.”

Here are some other draft-related notes tonight:

  • SMU junior Isiaha Mike has signed with Chemnitz in the German BBL, agent Adam Papas told Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Mike will decide on October 6 whether to stay in the 2020 NBA Draft, Goodman notes. “Isiaha has a child that he was ready to provide for,” Papas said. “He feels like a year of pro development gets him closer to a NBA roster next season either via a draft and stash this season or being in next year’s draft. There’s too much uncertainty with the G League/2-ways.”
  • Oregon State swingman Ethan Thompson has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and is set to return to school, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. Thompson averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season.
  • Pepperdine guard Colbey Ross is withdrawing from the draft, he told Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Ross held per-game averages of 20.5 points and 7.2 assists last season, shooting 40 percent from the field and 35% from deep.
  • Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher will return for his senior season and withdraw from the draft, as relayed by David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News (Twitter link). Crutcher averaged a career-high 15.1 points this past season, raising his shooting percentage to 47%.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Crawford, Lowry, Walker

Raptors coach Nick Nurse isn’t worried about his team being forgotten as they look to repeat as NBA champions this year, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

The Raptors, who were overlooked at times before defeating the likes of Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and an injury-riddled Golden State team last season, beat the Lakers 107-92 on Saturday for their first victory in Orlando. The Lakers, headlined by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are naturally one of the league’s most feared contenders.

“Yeah, maybe,” Nurse said on whether onlookers are listening to the team’s confidence this season. “I don’t think anybody’s going to pay much attention, they don’t ever seem to, but it’s OK.

“Seriously man, we love to play the games and we like to compete, we know we’re tough to beat, we really do, and I think there’s a ceiling we can get to yet.”

The Raptors currently hold the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 47-18. They trail the No. 1 seed Bucks by 6.5 games, leading the No. 3 seed Celtics by four contests. It’s no secret they’ve outperformed expectations this season, a sentiment backed by James himself.

“That’s a great team,” James said. “No ifs, ands or buts. Exceptionally well coached and championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ballclub if you win a championship. And even before that, they just got playoff-tested guys. Guys that played not only here in the NBA in big games, but also in FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life pretty much it seems like.

“So, that’s just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi [Leonard] is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Nets guard Jamal Crawford will work out Sunday and Monday with hopes of getting his conditioning up to speed, interim coach Jacque Vaughn said, as relayed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link). Crawford, a respected veteran across the league, has yet to appear in a game with Brooklyn due to his conditioning issues.
  • Kyle Lowry makes the Raptors a legitimate threat for an NBA Finals berth, Mark Medina of USA TODAY opines. Lowry recorded 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the team’s win against the Lakers on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor. “He seems to get himself into incredible shape, and he seems happy,” Nurse said. “He seems focused and is really excited and ready to play. It rubs off on the other guys. That’s what makes him a great leader.”
  • Celtics star Kemba Walker looked good in his first action in Orlando on Friday, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. Walker scored 16 points in 19 minutes against the Bucks, shooting 5-of-9 from the floor in limited time as he bounces back from a knee injury. “I thought [Walker] looked great,” teammate Gordon Hayward said. “Definitely showed good spurts there. Definitely brings some pace to our team. Another threat, another ball-handler, another guy that’s a competitor and a winner, and we’re happy to have him back.”

Western Notes: Wiggins, Nurkic, Daniels, Davis

Warriors coach Steve Kerr sought input from Tom Thibodeau after the team acquired Andrew Wiggins back in February, Marc Berman details in a story for the New York Post.

Thibodeau, who coached Wiggins in Minnesota from 2016-19, gave Kerr advice on how to maximize Wiggins’ game and playstyle. Golden State traded for Wiggins in a deal that shipped away D’Angelo Russell, acquiring a wing they hope can succeed alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

“We had just traded for Andrew Wiggins and he was really helpful,’’ Kerr said. “I had a long conversation with [Thibodeau] about Andrew. He gave me some good advice on ways to connect with Andrew, how much he enjoyed coaching him and why. We’ve gotten to know each other over the years. [Thibodeau has] been very helpful to us.”

The Timberwolves fired Thibodeau in January of 2019 after he reportedly failed to connect with a number of his players. Wiggins didn’t appear to be one of these players, however, as Kerr explained. It’s a vital reason why Kerr was elated to hear Thibodeau’s advice, along with how he’s a proven, veteran NBA coach.

“He showed some X’s and O’s and went over some actions they ran for [Wiggins],” Kerr said. “Some of the things they were trying to do. The thing with Tom is he’s a workaholic, loves the X’s and O’s, loves breaking down film and takes great joy in it. Our staff values his opinion.’’

“What is apparent is he and Andrew had a great relationship and Andrew said that as well. I know Andrew told me he really enjoyed playing for him and appreciated his commitment. When a coach knows his stuff and gets along with his players, he’s got a great chance to succeed. I think Tom’s got a great shot.’

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • The Blazers are rallying around Jusuf Nurkic as his grandmother battles COVID-19, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. Nurkic learned the news last week and immediately urged his grandmother to visit a hospital. “I think people don’t realize that s— is real out there, man,” Nurkic said. “We’ve been fortunate to be here and in a safe environment, being tested every day, but please … take care of yourself. Wear your damn mask … if you are outside, by yourself, do what you got to do. But if you are inside … protect people.”
  • Nuggets guard Troy Daniels discussed his time with the Lakers, his path to Denver and more in an interview with Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Daniels was waived by the Lakers on March 1 and signed with the Nuggets four days later. “Early in my years, my agent used to tell me, he said it’s always good to be wanted,” Daniels said. “It’s good to feel wanted, and I want to be where I’m wanted.”
  • The Lakers could benefit from keeping Anthony Davis active by ensuring that he gets plenty of shots, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. Davis scored just 14 points in the team’s loss against Toronto on Saturday, shooting just 2-of-7 from the field. However, he believes he made the right decisions based on how the Raptors were guarding him. “We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well tonight at all from the field or from 3, which kind of let them continue with their game plan of doubling me,” Davis said. “I think if we had made a couple of shots, then they would’ve definitely changed a little bit.” 

Pacific Notes: Payne, Lecque, Kokoskov, Len

Cameron Payne recalls a brief conversation during his rookie year with Thunder assistant Monty Williams that led to his latest NBA opportunity, writes Gina Mizell in her Valley Tales Newsletter. Williams, now the head coach of the Suns, decided to take a chance on Payne when the team had a roster spot to fill prior to the restart.

“That (discussion) played into … my talks with (general manager James Jones about signing him),” Williams said. “I saw a young man who’s really talented, comes from a really good family and he takes coaching well.”

Payne’s career has featured a lot of disappointment after Oklahoma City made him a lottery pick in 2015. He battled through injuries and ineffective performance with the Thunder and Bulls, and had been out of the league since signing a pair of 10-day contracts with the Cavaliers last January. He had a brief stay in China this season, then joined the G League to help get his game back on track.

“I don’t want to see myself outside of this league again,” Payne said. “And the biggest way for me to do that is to be consistent, be on time and outwork the next guy. My whole thing is I want to leave on the court that I played my hardest. I gave my all. I never want to take no shortcuts anymore, because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth being on the outside looking in when you feel like you should be in there.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jalen Lecque participated in practice Saturday, giving the Suns a full roster for the first time since arriving in Orlando, Mizell tweets.
  • Assistant Igor Kokoskov left the Kings Saturday to begin his duties as head coach of Fenerbahce in the EuroLeague, the team announced in a press release. The former Suns head coach joined Luke Walton’s staff last summer. “I’d like to congratulate Igor on his promotion to head coach of Fenerbahce and thank him for his dedicated time with the Kings,” Walton said. “He has been a valuable member of my coaching staff and his natural ability to guide our players will continue to inspire the team as we move forward in Orlando. We wish him all the best.” 
  • Kings center Alex Len won’t play in Sunday’s game against the Magic because of conditioning issues, tweets Sean Cunningham of KXTV. Len was late reporting to the Walt Disney World campus after contracting COVID-19.

Central Notes: Warren, Oladipo, Felicio, Drive

With most of the NBA’s top scorers gathered in Orlando, it’s somewhat surprising that T.J. Warren has the highest single-game total so far. After the Pacers forward exploded for a career-best 53 points in Saturday’s win over the Sixers, teammates told Eric Woodyard of ESPN they have always recognized what a dangerous shooter he can be.

T.J. Warren been scoring his whole life. Since his AAU days to N.C. State,”  Victor Oladipo said. “He’s been a scorer since as long as I’ve known him. I’ve known him for a long time. … He was born to get buckets, so it’s no surprise to any of us that he was able to do what he did tonight. It’s great to have him on our team. It was amazing to watch, and we’re all happy for him. That was incredible. Things like that don’t happen often.”

With Oladipo sidelined for most of the season, Warren has emerged as the leading scorer on a team that needed a boost on offense. Indiana picked him up cheaply in a three-team trade last offseason, sending cash to the Suns and second-round pick KZ Okpala to the Heat in exchange for Warren and three future second-round picks.

“It doesn’t matter the environment, you’ve just got to come with it every game,” Warren said. “Every game I feel anxious and nervous at the same time, but it’s full of excitement. Tonight was one of those special nights.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Despite being a game-time decision, Oladipo played nearly 32 minutes Saturday and scored 15 points. However, the Pacers guard explained to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files that his status hasn’t changed. “It’s a day-to-day thing,” Oladipo said. “I wish I could tell y’all I’m going to play all eight games, but again, I can’t say that. I have to take it one day at a time. I’m sorry, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to say one thing and do another thing because you know how you guys acted the first time I did that.”
  • Bulls center Cristiano Felicio may be fighting for his future in the NBA next season, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Felicio, who appeared in just 22 games this year, will be entering the final season of a four-year, $32MM contract.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press examines the status of the G League’s Grand Rapids Drive now that the Pistons have an agreement to buy the Northern Arizona franchise from the Suns.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Burke, Doncic, Harden

Zion Williamson played just 14 minutes in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Clippers, and his time is expected to remain limited in Monday’s showdown with the Grizzlies, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Williamson was barely a factor yesterday, making 3-of-7 shots and committing three turnovers in the 23-point defeat. The Pelicans came to Orlando with hopes of reaching the playoffs, but have now dropped to 12th place with six games remaining.

The team was heavily criticized for not using Williamson down the stretch of its opening loss to the Jazz, but vice president David Griffin explained yesterday that the star rookie didn’t have much practice time to get back into game shape after the four-month hiatus. Williamson briefly left the Walt Disney World campus to tend to a family matter and was quarantined upon returning.

“It makes sense to me that there’s so much attention — obviously, he’s a phenom,” Griffin said. “The league office itself takes as much interest in this as the fans do, and I’m grateful, frankly, that the fans take as much interest as they do. What I’m frustrated by is that there has to be a conspiracy theory involved when literally there’s not one thing different that’s being done with him than was done for every player on this roster when we got here, and he missed 13 days of what those guys got. Now all of the sudden, because the stakes are raised and because, unfortunately, we were selected for seven national (television) games, we’re supposed to reinvent the wheel.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Trey Burke had a memorable debut with the Mavericks, scoring 31 points and hitting eight 3-pointers Friday night, but barely played in the fourth quarter as Dallas saw a big lead slip away, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “I think some of the guys on the side were wondering the same thing,” Burke said, referring to his teammates. “I just got here. I know Coach has a lineup at the end of the game that he trusts at this point.” Coach Rick Carlisle explained that Burke, who was signed as a replacement player for Willie Cauley-Stein and has only been in Orlando for about a week, was tired late in the game.
  • The Mavericks feature an offense that statistically ranks as the NBA’s best ever, but they have trouble holding onto leads, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Luka Doncic believes that will eventually change with experience. “We’re a young team. We’ve got a lot to learn,” he said. “We’ll get better for sure. I know we’re going to get together when it matters most in the playoffs, so I’m not worried about that.”
  • Ahead of their meeting tonight, McMahon examines the history of the feud between Rockets star James Harden and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, which began with last year’s MVP race.

Clippers Tell Montrezl Harrell To Take Time To Grieve

The Clippers are slowly getting their full roster together in Orlando, but they may have to wait a while for Montrezl Harrell, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

The backup big man received permission to leave the Walt Disney World campus two weeks ago because of the death of his grandmother. He doesn’t appear ready to focus on basketball yet, posting on Instagram last night that he doesn’t know when he “will stop crying.”

“I don’t know how to feel right now,” Harrell wrote. “I feel lost empty you are my queen, my best friend, my light in all darkness. I never had you leaving my side. I don’t know how I’m do it but I got to find some way but losing you today isn’t going to make any day I wake up easy.”

Coach Doc Rivers told reporters today that the team will give Harrell as much time as he needs to deal with his grief. He said the league needs to recognize the importance of mental health and treat those situations as seriously as it does physical injuries.

“I’ve talked to him … From others I get asked from inside like, ‘When is Trez coming back’ and my answer’s been the same — when he’s ready,” Rivers said. “When he’s ready, he’ll come back. You can’t play if you’re not right mentally and because of the emotional part of it. His grandmother is very tight with him, so all I told him is ‘I love you and take your time. We’ll be ready with open arms when you come.'” (Twitter link from Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times)

Harrell, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley all left the Clippers for personal reasons over the past two weeks. Williams and Beverley have both returned, but Williams is on an extended quarantine, while Beverley is playing under a minutes restriction.

Victor Oladipo Will Start Pacers’ Opener

Victor Oladipo will be in the starting lineup as the Pacers begin their reseeding schedule tonight, the team announced on Twitter. Oladipo, who wasn’t sure if he was going to play at all in Orlando because of concerns about his quad tendon, had been listed as a game-time decision.

“He is in the lineup, he’ll be starting tonight,” coach Nate McMillan said. “So yes, he’s playing and ready to go.”

Oladipo has appeared in just 13 games this season after recovering from surgery that kept him sidelined until late January. He averaged 13.8 points in 25.9 minutes per night, which are both career lows. He also shot a career-worst .391 from the field and .304 from 3-point range.

Oladipo reportedly decided in early July to skip the NBA’s restart, but he remained on the Pacers’ roster and accompanied the team to Orlando. He had second thoughts once he went through a couple of practices at the Walt Disney World campus.

“This is very, very rare so right now I’m trying to figure things out just like everybody else had to figure what situation they were in,” Oladipo said, per Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “… Essentially this is my knee and my body, my leg and I’ve got to listen to how I respond because everyone responds differently.”

The news isn’t as good for backcourt partner Malcolm Brogdon, who will sit out tonight’s game because of a neck injury, the team announced in a separate tweet. This marks the 18th game Brogdon has missed this season with eight different ailments, notes Nat Newell of The Indianapolis Star.

New York Notes: Nets, Crawford, Thibodeau, Forbes List

The Nets were overmatched in their first reseeding game Friday against the Magic, and it’s a trend that will likely continue throughout their stay in Orlando, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. Brooklyn started out strong in the 128-118 loss, which dropped the team into eighth place in the East, but a lack of proven NBA talent was too much to overcome. The Nets are missing seven members of their regular roster.

“We need to embrace that stuff a little bit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We’ll have to be extremely gritty, put a body on someone every single possession. That gave us more than 40 opportunities to shoot 3s and when teams do that you have to make them pay.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford was held out of Friday’s game and may not make his debut with the Nets tomorrow, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Crawford is listed as questionable for the contest with the Wizards because of conditioning issues. Brooklyn holds a six-game lead over Washington and can effectively clinch a playoff spot with a win.
  • Now that Tom Thibodeau is officially the new head coach of the Knicks, Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated looks at five of his former players who could potentially play for him in New York. He notes that when Thibodeau was hired in Minnesota, he brought in several of his ex-players from Chicago. In addition to Taj Gibson, who is already on New York’s roster and is waiting for the team to make a decision on his $9.5MM option for next season, Macri’s list includes D.J. Augustin, Zach LaVine, Jeff Teague and Dario Saric.
  • The Knicks are this year’s highest-valued NBA team on the annual list from Forbes. Despite seven straight losing seasons, the Knicks are third overall at $4.6 billion, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. The Lakers rank fourth at $4.4 billion and the Warriors are fifth at $4.3 billion.