We're not exactly sure when Jabari Parker will be back playing NBA basketball again, but that doesn't mean he's not making real progress in his rehab from ACL surgery on his left knee.
On Wednesday, Bucks.com posted photos and videos of his recent workouts with the team's coaches and training staff in Vegas, including footage of him casually driving and dunking during a routine drill (see above). Considering Kendall Marshall is also dunking again, I'm guessing this isn't a super-new phenomenon for Jabari -- after all, Marshall tore his ACL a month later and isn't exactly known for his athleticism. Still, it's encouraging to see Parker making basketball plays and otherwise showing he's making progress, and we've seen increasing evidence of it latelythanks in large part to the Twitter account of Bucks strength and conditioning specialist Suki Hobson. Some recent highlights:
As for when Jabari is back on the NBA hardwood? Great question. While there have been some media reports that he would be "ready" for training camp, it seems unlikely that he'll be thrown into the fire immediately, with some recent hints from Hobson suggesting that it might be a couple months into the season before he's back playing major minutes. That might disappoint people expecting Parker to be an instant impact addition, but bear in mind that even a healthy Parker wasn't exactly helping the Bucks win games last season. That isn't meant as an indictment against Parker's abilities; while some rookies like Parker and Andrew Wiggins can put up solid raw numbers, it's a big leap to actually make your team better on both ends of the floor. And considering that he didn't get the full benefit of the rookie experience last year, this year figures to bring the dual challenge of playing rookie catch-up and re-acclimating to his rebuilt knee.
In other words, be very careful if you're banking on Parker to be the magical missing piece that propels the Bucks to 50 wins this season -- no matter when he returns. While the Bucks have generally had a very productive summer in the grand scheme of things, I'd categorize that sort of leap as a big lift for any young team, especially one that dealt away three key veterans from last year's overachieving 41-win team.
I hope that doesn't make me out as a pessimist; I wouldn't put anything past Jason Kidd at this point, Greg Monroe will certainly help, and you'd certainly hope for major improvement from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, and hopefully (at some point) Parker. But the training wheels are now off, so we should probably expect a fair number of wobbles, too. Interestingly, that might delay the Bucks' chances of making a major leap by a year, but that doesn't mean the short term won't pack its share of fun.