Summer is a time for eternal optimism in the NBA.
If you hear a player's name in August, it's typically because they're adding 15 pounds of muscle (ALWAYS MUSCLE) or becoming the lethal three-point shooter they've never been previously. And then we go gaga about guys working on their games and bodies over the summer even though...well, that's what they're supposed to do, right? It's sort of silly, but also part of the fun of being a fan.
With that bit of realism-slash-cynicism in mind, another glowing report on Jabari Parker's rehab from a torn ACL -- this time courtesy of Gery Woelfel -- is both encouraging and in many ways expected. Here's Woelfel on the particulars:
Yet, that hasn't deterred rumors that Parker won't be playing again until next year, perhaps until February. When told of that speculation, one Parker associate laughed and said, "Where did they get that junk from? That's not true.''
Rather, the aforementioned individual, along with some other Bucks officials, contend Parker's minutes will be "monitored'' at the outset of the season, with some believing it'll be about 20 minutes a game.
The good news is that this is more good news on top of all the other good news that has dribbled out about Jabari's rehab over the past months. We've been seeing clips of Parker doing physically impressive things for a while now, and we've heard nothing but positive things about his progress in general. Optimism might not mean as much during the summer, but it's waaaaaaaaay better than talk of setbacks and follow-on procedures.
As Woelfel notes, Bucks officials have thus far been mum on when Parker will return to the NBA hardwood, which is in many ways expected given they don't want to put undue pressure on a 20-year-old returning from a major injury. A Parker "associate" anonymously talking him up is also to be expected, though the suggestion that he'll be playing on opening night is a bolder prediction than anyone has been willing to make publicly over the summer. As a fan I'd take it with a grain of salt, but I'd still gladly take it.
As to how good Parker can be once he returns? That's probably the more interesting question, and for a number of reasons also much more difficult to answer. For starters, the history of NBA players returning from major knee injuries suggests there's always some degree of learning curve as players regain both the physical and mental strength required to play at an elite level. Woelfel's suggestion that Parker will be on a minutes limit for some period meshes with what we've heard previously, and reflects the cautious route you'd expect the Bucks to take with a player as valuable as Jabari. He might look great out of the gate, or it might be later in 2016 before he's back to something approximating 100 percent. The fact that he's only 20 should help him bounce back quicker than most from a physical standpoint, and to date everything we've heard has suggested as much. But he also remains a kid with less than a third of one NBA season under his belt, which means we should also be patient regardless of his knee. Remember: being a high-level NBA player at the age of 20 shouldn't be easy even if you're 100% healthy.
The other part of Woelfel's story likely to draw attention concerns Parker's much-discussed physique:
A tad flabby when he reported to training camp last year as a rookie, Parker now has a taut, sculpted body and virtually resembles an NFL linebacker.
One of Parker's teammates recently told me Parker, who was listed at 240 pounds in last year's Bucks' media guide, is now "at least 255 pounds.''
Before we dive headfirst into the "15 pounds of muscle!" stuff, let's start by noting that Parker was probably north of 240 pounds most of last year, too. He reportedly weighed 254 pounds at his pre-draft workout with the Bucks last June, just a few weeks after looking trim and athletic at a pre-draft workout for NBA GMs...which itself came after rumors that he had put on a bunch of weight after his freshman season at Duke.
So Parker's weight -- and his lack of a chiseled physique -- has been a topic of conversation going back to his high school days, and it's natural that people become even more preoccupied with it now that he's coming back from a major knee injury. No one wants Jabari putting undue stress on his joints, though ultimately it's a question for Parker and the team's training staff to find the weight at which he's healthiest and most effective.
The good news is that Parker was plenty explosive even without a cut physique last fall, so hopefully he's simply losing his baby fat and growing into a more adult, optimized version of his natural physique (see Tobias Harris and Kevin Love for other examples). For all the concerns about his perceived lack of top-shelf athleticism in college, Jabari ranked in the league's top five in dunks at the time of his injury, and he generally showed no problem finishing over and through NBA defenders at the rim. No one should expect him to become LeBron James, but a fitter version of his old self would be a very encouraging thing.
EuroBasket: Greece stays perfect, but Giannis struggles vs. Slovenia
A day after an encouraging performance against Georgia, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a fairly forgettable afternoon in Greece's 83-72 win, hitting just 1/5 shots and finishing with three points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. Foul trouble limited him in the first half, and he was benched for most of the second half after Slovenia's small lineup began to give Greece problems. His one obvious highlight was a chasedown block on Zoran "Hobo" Dragic:
Greece looks to lock up first place in Group C at 2 pm CT today when they finish up group play against the Netherlands.