5 NBA Stars (Returning from Injury) To Watch
The NBA season is here and Team Sterett couldn't be more excited to see the best athletes in the world get back to doing things the best athletes in the world do. If this last off-season is any indication, 2017-2018 is going to be one of the most exciting on record.
So who are some of the top players bouncing back from injuries that we expect to see patrolling the hardwood this year? Glad you asked! Let's take a look.
1. Joel Embiid - Left Knee Injury (Meniscus Tear)
The NBA pundits all agree that the Philadelphia 76'ers tantalizing center Joel Embiid has the chance to be a transcendent talent. Blessed with a scintillating combination of size, athleticism, and positional awareness, Embiid's presence on the floor makes Philly an immediate contender in any game that he's a part of.
Unfortunately, Embiid hasn't been part of many games since being drafted third overall in the 2014 NBA draft. Having suffered from a slew of injuries, Embiid spent much of his time on the team so far rehabbing, cheering on his teammates, and hoping to get back onto the floor. Additionally, the team has been beyond careful to limit his playing time in the hopes of mitigating the chance of additional complications.
For those keeping track at home, here's a list of the surgeries Embiid has already undergone during his short career:
- Back surgery
- Foot surgery (twice)
- Torn meniscus surgery
Even though it's an understatement to say Embiid has been injury-prone, fans of the Sixers have reason to be optimistic about his return. After experiencing a bout of swelling to the knee after this last surgery, Embiid has thus far avoided additional problems with the knee in question. Here's a quote from a recent article from the Philadelphia Enquirer:
He said he hasn’t experienced any (swelling) since. Embiid added that he had the knee scanned two or three times after the surgery.
“Everything looks perfect,” he said. “So we just got to keep managing it."
Although it's likely we won't be seeing Embiid on the floor for the full 82 games in 2017-2018, the prospect of watching him play often is tantalizing for Sixers fans who have waited so long to see their team contend. Hopefully, Embiid will be a big part of that for years to come.
2. Ben Simmons - Foot Injury (Jones Fracture)
Why not keep this in Philadelphia, because that's also where the second player on our list is. Ben Simmons hasn't played a game for the 76ers, but he already has Philly fans drooling at the thought of seeing this point-guard-in-a-centers-body run the show.
Who cares if Philly just used the #1 pick to draft another point guard, Markelle Fultz. Trust the process!
The reality is that nobody quite knows what Simmon's game is going to look like in the NBA, because the sample size has been very limited. After suffering a Jones Fracture in his foot, Ben missed what would have been his rookie year.
The good news: we'll see him on the floor this year for certain. And that foot looks like it's fully healed:
We can't wait to see what Simmons will bring the the team this year. The Sixers will definitely be a must-watch if you've got the league pass in your cable subscription.
3. Isaiah Thomas - Hip Injury
This NBA off-season was full of intriguing trades, stunning free-agent moves, and general drama of a highly entertaining nature. And the most dramatic move of the off-season was the blockbuster trade which sent explosive point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.
What you may have missed (if you were chilling under a rock somewhere) was the extra sub-plot involving Thomas's much- talked about hip injury. Evidently, the Cavaliers were worried enough about Isaiah's hip to request that the Celtics include an additional draft pick in the trade. Boston complied, and the deal was done.
Injuries are often the "wild card" that wreaks havoc when it comes to professional sports, and that factor is definitely at play with Thomas and the Cavs. If the explosive guard can replicate his success with the Celtics, the Cavs may well be an unstoppable force, mowing through the Eastern Conference like a Mack Truck running late for a delivery.
On the other hand, the trade could be just another ultimately-futile move on what some people believe will be Lebron James's exit tour of Cleveland. Will The King be bouncing out of town or dancing with joy when this season ends?
Our prediction: Isaiah channels his ultra-competitive nature, heals up, and Cleveland makes another trip to the finals to give the Warriors the fight of their lives.
And hey, whether we are right or wrong, you have to admit Isaiah Thomas is the type of guy you just can't help rooting for.
4. Kawhi Leonard - sprained left ankle
San Antonio Spurs
If you're an NBA fan you already know that Kawhi Leonard is a man you definitely don't want to see in the playoffs. (Unless you are a Spurs fan, in which case you want all the Kawhi you can possibly get.) Why? Kawhi is the type of player who can single-handedly win a series with his unique combination of versatility, scoring prowess, and ability to lock down the opposing team's star on the defensive end.
Simply put, Kawhi is a basketball monster who will rip out your teams' heart with a smile on his face and make you respect him for it, and he's become the new face of one of the classiest and winningest sports franchises we have.
That's why it was so bummerrific to see him go down in the Western Conference Finals last year after getting tangled up with Warriors player Zaza Pachulia, a play which caused him to re-aggravate an ankle sprain.
The sprained ankle resulted in Leonard sitting for the rest of the series in question. The Warriors easily moved on to the Finals, but Spurs fans couldn't help thinking "what if" after watching their star player bite the dust in a play that may or may not have been "dirty". In the NBA, winning can be a fleeting thing, and you've got to take all the chances you can get, which makes a play like that all the harder to swallow
Here's the good news: as our colleague Dr. JP Elton would tell you, an ankle sprain doesn't require surgery, and, by all accounts, Kawhi has fully recovered from this minor injury. Which means that we'll be seeing quite a lot more of his hyper-efficient play over the upcoming season.
5. Jabari Parker - ACL Tear
This is a big season for Parker. As we've mentioned before on the site, he's currently recovering from re-tearing his ACL.
We've also mentioned here that in this day and age, it's fully possible to bounce back from multiple ACL tears and pick right back up where you've left off. However, Professional basketball is a sport that takes no prisoners. With the quickness, speed, and power of the modern game, losing a step (or a couple of inches on your vertical leap) can be the difference between stardom and being bench-warming material.
However, Jabari's game isn't necessarily built on overwhelming athleticism. We'll stop short of saying that Jabari has "old man" game, but he is known as more of a "skill player" with a solid bag of tricks that he can easily dip into on the offensive end to stay effective. This bodes well for him as he returns from the injury.
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Parker this year. He's up for a new contract, and the Bucks had dreams of pairing him with young Phenom Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo to create a dynamic duo that would terrorize the league for the next decade. Will Parker's injury derail that hope?
We'll see how he looks when he returns in February of 2018. Whatever happens, our wish is that he returns to full strength and is able to enjoy an injury-free career from here on out.
Enjoy the season!