Less than two weeks from the start of the NBA regular season, two of the most intriguing rookies are dealing with bothersome injuries.
Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis – taken No. 3 by the Philadelphia 76ers and No. 4 by the New York Knicks, respectively, in this year’s draft – have missed preseason games and have been limited in practice.
Okafor has been dealing with a sore right knee while Porzingis has been dealing with a quad strain. Neither are serious injuries, and neither should keep them out for a long time, but there is some cause for concern for both sides.
It’s never encouraging for big men (Okafor is 6-foot-11, 275 pounds, Porzingis is 7-foot-3, 240 pounds) to be dealing with lower-body injuries.
For Okafor, this is already a setback, as 76ers’ coach Brett Brown noted. Brown told Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:
“It’s not fair to him, it’s not fair to put him in that situation (to be fully ready by opening night). The end game, I hope, will be about 32 minutes [per game], maybe even more. But it’s really based on his fitness. He has no right to come out and be fit right from this injury. So I have to be smart with the minutes I give him.”
Brown was slightly pessimistic in his prognosis, adding:
“I think he arrived [in good shape]. He arrived good. … He’s been tremendously set back now. … I think that his fitness is not that far away in regards of we know how to do it, but because he hasn’t played, it’s just not at a stage right now where we can talk about that volume of minutes.”
Philly Mag’s Derek Bodner agreed:
Biggest problem with Okafor's sore right knee is how it sets back his conditioning, IMO. Could see limited minutes early in year.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) October 15, 2015
This is troubling news for Sixers fans, who have seen several big-name big men succumb to injuries early in their arrival to the team. All-Star center Andrew Bynum was traded to the team in 2012, and never played a game as he sat with injuries. 2013 No.6 pick Nerlens Noel missed his entire rookie year to recover from a knee injury, and 2014 No. 2 pick Joel Embiid has yet to play a game as he recovers from multiple foot injuries.
Clearly, Okafor’s situation isn’t as bad as the above, but it’s something to monitor, especially if the team already feels he’s going to be limited to start the season.
For Porzingis, his quad injury is becoming a slightly concerning trend. Porzingis has sat out of practices and will reportedly miss a second preseason game this Friday. Porzingis said he’s healthy and the Knicks are just being cautious, but the nagging quality to his leg injuries is also something to be monitored.
Porzingis apparently went through the same type of quad injury in his pre-draft workout with the Knicks, which forced him to end it early, according to New York Post’s Marc Berman.
During training camp, Porzingis missed some time with a non-contact knee injury, which can often be a scary sign. He clearly recovered enough to play in the Knicks first preseason game, but again, for a player of his height and frame, lower-body injuries can be scary.
Both teams seem to be taking the proper precautions with these injuries. While there’s no need to panic over either since both players seem on track to play early in the season, the bothersome part is if these issues are nagging and limit both players throughout the year.
Okafor and Porzingis are both poised to play big roles in their respective teams’ future growth, and entering their rookie seasons, nobody wants to see their development slowed because of nagging injuries.