Usually when a professional athlete suffers a season-ending injury, it takes not only a rough physical toll on the player, but also an emotional one. Eight days removed from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Phoenix against the Suns, Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker was the opposite, looking like his normal upbeat self early Tuesday evening.
In his first public comments since suffering the injury that will force him to miss the remainder of his rookie season, Parker made it clear that he doesn't need anyone to have sympathy for him.
"This is not a time off for me, it's more like me learning a bit more," Parker explained. "Getting a chance to look outside the mistakes that I used to do, and hopefully make it better. This is definitely a big opportunity for me.
"I don't want people feeling sorry for me. Things happen, we get tossed some bumps in our roads, you just got to pick up and learn from them."
Parker suffered the injury while attempting to euro-step around P.J. Tucker of the Suns in transition. His knee buckled inward after planting his left foot, leaving him on the ground for minutes before teammates helped carry him to the locker room. On Tuesday he wore a black brace over a pair of dark blue jeans while he spoke, noting that he is more focused on the impact the injury will have on his long-term health.
"It wasn't frustration at all, it was just more like questioning. Questioning myself and seeing how I'm going to come back from this. I want to challenge myself a little more now that I got to take it day-by-day.
"I wasn't in agony, I just felt the twist," Parker said, "and I thought it was hyperextended but, it was a clean break (tear).
Through it all Parker hasn't lost his sense of humor either.
"One of the positive things is I get a brand new knee, so that also helps," he joked. "You got to look at longevity, hopefully this will be just a short-term thing, and I'll be able to return for the career that I want to have and look ahead."
The 6-foot-8 rookie from Duke shut down his cell phone after the injury occurred, but made to sure to send a message of thanks to all who have wished him well, including friends, family and fans. That included thousands of fans who signed a "Get Well Soon" banner before Tuesday night's game against the Hornets.
"I just want to thank everybody for all of their concerns and reaching out to me." Parker said. "This past week I shut down my phone completely, so whoever was trying to get in contact with me, I just thank you for the wishes."
Before the injury, Parker was averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for October/November. Even with the strong start to his first season, he didn't grade his pre-injury performance too favorably.
"I think it was like a 'C'. I assess myself as a 'C' because I'm more hard on myself, the things I can do to prepare myself in my control. I don't think that I did too well, but that's for me to make up."
Parker will now join John Henson and fellow-rookie Damien Inglis on the bench to cheer on his teammates.
"Now my role has changed, I'm going to be on the sidelines being a cheerleader so that'll be good for me."
Surgery has not been scheduled for Parker until the swelling in the knee goes down. Once it does, we will find out more information on when he'll begin basketball-related activities again.