Thursday, January 16, 2014

Magics' Harris Dealing With Season-Long Ankle Problem

For Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris, it has been difficult coming to terms with the fact that the ankle that has plagued him this season will likely continue to be a problem into the offseason. 
Harris is three months out from the high ankle sprain he sustained in a preseason game against the Detroit Pistons and recently admitted that he plays with pain every game. He says that the injury has taken away some of his explosiveness and confidence, and he is trying to find other ways to work through the pain.
"It took a big toll on me, but I'm still fighting through the pain in my ankle day-to-day and every game," said Harris, as his ankle was dunked in an ice bath. "It's just probably going to be a thing that's going to last all year. The days I get off, it's beneficial for me to rest my body. You know, I have to keep fighting. I'm a fighter and I'm tough. I'll deal with this all season and continue to find my niche out there on the floor."
The Magic, currently 10-27, need Harris to be at full strength to beat the losing streaks they've had recently. They've lost on the road to the Clippers, Blazers, Kings, and Nuggets. And the bad news continues- they are without leading scorer Arron Afflalo because of a strained foot, point guard Jammer Nelson (sore finger), and Maurice Harkless (sore knee)- all men are game-time decisions because of minor injuries. The team is also down center Nikola Vucevic with a concussion and Ronnie Price with a sinus infection.
"It's a great teaching lesson for us that we aren't whole," said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn of his team being short-handed. "We have to be able to cut down on turnovers, not have as many breakdowns and being more focused and detailed on every possession. That's tough to do. But you can't have that one out of five possessions where you had a little relaxation. We need concentration and focus five out of five possessions."
Harris sprained his ankle on October 20th during a preseason game and missed five weeks. He came back for one game, sprained his ankle, and missed another two weeks. He said that he's never sure how much pain his ankle will be in in any game. He's trying to deal with the issue.
"It's still a work in progress," he said. "Each and every game I have to adjust how I'm playing."
Vaughn is appreciative that Harris is willing to play through the pain and be there for his teammates. There is a difference between being injured and being hurt, and Vaughn is proud of the determination his star forward is showing.
"The great thing is he's trying to be out there on the floor for his team," Vaughn said. "No one at this point is playing at 100% level. You play through some pain and you give him credit for being on the floor for his teammates- if he can."
In 16 games, Harris is averaging 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds. These numbers are down from his numbers last season after he was acquired in a February trade: 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. Harris is shooting from the floor 40% and from the 3-point line 20.4%. He blames these numbers on the lack of explosion in his ankle.
It will likely be a long time that Harris' ankle feels 100% while he continues to play on it. Rest and stay off it are the best recommendations for an ankle sprain, but that's an improbability for a team that needs players on the floor.
Reference: NBA
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Jeffrey S. Kahn, DPM
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