Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac has no regrets—none about returning from his knee injury to play in the NBA bubble and tearing his ACL and meniscus cartilage, nor about standing for the national anthem as protests for social justice spread around the league.
Isaac, who suffered a posterolateral corner injury in his left knee on New Year's Day, returned for the Magic inside the bubble, playing in their last scrimmage and their seeding game, before he went down again with an injury to the same knee in his second game back. In an interview with The Athletic's Josh Robbins, the 23-year-old said he doesn't think he returned too quickly, having spent more than six months rehabbing his first knee injury before returning to play:
"In retrospect, no, I don't think I came back too soon. I really was ready to go. I didn't have any doubts about where I was in terms of moving or playing. I mean, you can watch from the clips of when I was playing—I was fine. I was in great shape outside of just my wind getting back. But I was in great shape. I think I was jumping my highest that I've done so far in my career. So I have no regrets about coming back or the timing that I did. I trusted the staff, and we came to a decision: 'I'm ready to play.' It was my decision at the end of the day, and I went with it. And I'm glad I did."
As the league joined in on the social justice movement that was growing nationwide, with players choosing to boycott games, wear jerseys with social justice messages and kneel for the national anthem, Isaac's decision to stand for the anthem was judged as a protest against the movement, according to Robbins. But the former sixth-round pick said his decision was rooted in his religion:
"And I went about [the protest] in my own way. I know firsthand what it is to submit yourself to God because I've done it myself. I know what it is for hearts to be changed because I see it every day. I minister to people and I see people’s lives turned around, from drug dealers to business owners, from crackheads to people who change their lives around. I've seen it firsthand. And so I know the power of God. I know God's heart in terms of wanting us to be in a relationship with Him. So I'm saying, 'I respect your answer, but I'm giving my own. I'm going to give another answer to the situation and to the problem, and I believe that this answer is the correct one, and you can respect it or you can say it's the right one or not. But I'm free to say it.'"
Even though he will miss the entirety of the upcoming season to heal his knee, Isaac told Robbins that while his opinion on playing this season would have changed if he had known how it would play out, his bubble experience was full of "opportunity" that he wouldn't have had otherwise, both on and off of the court:
"Hindsight is 20-20. If you tell me now do I think I should have played knowing that an ACL (injury would happen), I would maybe have a different opinion. But it wouldn't be an automatic one. With being in the bubble, I got the opportunity to stand for my faith. I got the opportunity to speak. I got the opportunity to be around my teammates again. And I wouldn’t give that stuff back."