It's been almost four months since Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker has played organized basketball. After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 15 in Phoenix against the Suns, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft has been largely out of the spotlight while his team continued their surprise turnaround this season.
For only the second time since the injury, Parker spoke with reporters about his rehab after the Bucks unveiled their new team colors and logos Monday night. Still just three months into his rehab, Parker is still a bit unsure whether or not he'll be ready for the start of training camp next fall.
"I don't know what my timetable is." Parker said. "I'm just getting better and improving.
"I don't measure myself to where I was last year. I think I want to go far ahead, so who knows the ceiling to that. It's going to be a while of course, so I don't have any timetable."
In only 25 games, Parker averaged 12.3 points on 49 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds, and he was beginning to come into his own in the weeks leading up to his injury. On April 1, Parker took part in very light work before the Bucks played the Chicago Bulls, participating in shooting, passing and dribbling drills. It was the first time anybody was visibly able to see his progress.
"I just wanted to get that touch (for a basketball) that I wanted to have." Parker said of the work he did that day. "I'm making really good progress, I'm staying positive and not looking too far ahead so I over-limit myself."
Parker has been in attendance for the majority of the Bucks' home games, sitting next to fellow rookie Damien Inglis on the bench most nights. Inglis has missed the entire season because of a broken foot suffered in pre-draft workouts last summer. Both players watched their team clinch a playoff spot by defeating the Brooklyn Nets 96-73 on Sunday. That crossed off one of the goals Parker set for himself before the season started.
"Man, it was special." Parker said, smiling. "That was something I wanted to accomplish regardless of any individual accolades. That was what I wanted to bring to the team, so I accomplished one of my goals."
Even sitting at the end of the team's bench, his teammates haven't made him feel like an outcast. The No. 6 seeded Bucks face Boston tomorrow to conclude their regular season.
"They make me feel like I'm part of something. It's easy to be distant and not have the same relationships like I'm playing or traveling, but they never look at it that way. They still think I'm a part of it and I'm glad they do that." Parker said.
Over the past two months, a brace and a pair of crutches have helped Parker maneuver around. Now that he's physically able to walk under his own power, he's hoping he can start sprinting pretty soon. And mentally? Parker hasn't had any trouble dealing with that portion of his setback, something that has been pretty obvious from the start of the whole process.
"It hasn't been real difficult because I know my journey. I know where I want to go, I know that my timetable and journal of my life is going to be in a different direction. So I just have to deal with it."