By John Denton
Oct. 17, 2017
ORLANDO – As Orlando Magic coaches and teammates continue to heap praise on Jonathan Isaac’s maturity, calmness under pressure and seamless adaptability to the NBA game, the rookie forward laughs and flashes a knowing grin.
“I get that (mature reputation) a lot, but I think I’m the opposite and too immature,’’ Isaac said. “I just have to fake it (not being nervous). But it’s always great to hear that.’’
If the 20-year-old Isaac was nervous during his first practices and preseason games with the Magic, he certainly did a good job of faking it and producing on the court. On Wednesday, the prized rookie will come upon another landmark moment in his young NBA career when he plays his first regular season game as the Magic host the rival Miami Heat at the Amway Center.
Tipoff is just after 7 p.m., and Isaac can’t wait to get his career going with the games that matter. He can take comfort in the fact that his mother and three brothers will be in attendance at his first regular-season NBA game.
“I think, definitely, intensity-wise and energy-wise (it will be different than the preseason), but this team is ready to give it. I’m just ready to play and I’m ready to see us play well,’’ Isaac said. “I’ll probably be able to get some sleep (on Tuesday night), but once I wake up I’ll be super amped up.’’
Orlando made Isaac the No. 6 pick in last June’s NBA Draft and promised to proceed slowly with the rail-thin, 6-foot-10, 210-pounder out of Florida State. Still fully aware that Isaac will ride the highs and lows typical of NBA rookies, the Magic somewhat sped up Isaac’s role when they saw how well he played in training camp and the preseason.
Isaac scored a team-high 15 points in his first pro game and contributed 13 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots five days later against Miami. In six preseason games, blocked eight shots, swiped five steals and handed out five assists. He averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds a game, but he impressed with his quick handle of NBA basketball.
Already, Magic coach Frank Vogel pronounced the rookie’s defense as “NBA ready,’’ and on the eve of Wednesday’s season-opener, the coach had this to say about his prized rookie: “I think he’ll have a lot of nerves, but he seems to handle himself really well for his age. He’s young, but mature. I’m sure he’ll be a little jittery, but once the game gets going, he takes his first hit and takes his first shot, I’m sure he’ll just settle into playing basketball.’’
Though he doesn’t find himself as mature and comfortable as some might think, Isaac certainly isn’t lacking for confidence. He said that his lack of bulk and his lack of confidence have done little to break his confidence that he will have a great rookie season for the Magic. For now, he said that his curiosity is more about how the Magic will fare this season than how he will hold up against superstar players he idolized for years while in high school and college.
“I’ve been like that from the jump,’’ Isaac said of his oozing confidence. “From the first game of preseason I haven’t done as well as I wanted to, but I already know that I’m going to be OK.
“I am curious (about the team). In the preseason we had some great showings when we were playing together and running,’’ he added. “I’m just ready to see that in real time and in a regular-season game and see how we match up.’’
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