One guy has missed every Charlotte Bobcats game this season. The other will miss every game remaining.
These aren’t typical nicks that cost a player a game or two. Center Brendan Haywood is rehabbing from a stress fracture in his left foot discovered during the preseason. Small forward Jeff Taylor is early in recovery from a ruptured right Achilles tendon.
The worst thing about these injuries wasn’t the surgeries or daily rehabilitation. It’s the sense of helplessness, watching teammates try to get the Bobcats into the playoffs, according to Taylor.
“I know I’m not coming back at all this year. That’s weird. That’s tough,” said Taylor, who suffered the injury Dec. 20 against the Detroit Pistons. “We’re having a really good year, relative to the last couple. It would be really fun to be out there with the guys trying to get us to the playoffs.”
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Haywood has similar emotions, amplified by age and mileage. At 34 he has already played 12 NBA seasons.
“When you get older and you lose a big part of the season, it really hurts because you understand you don’t get these back,” Haywood said.
Haywood hopes to start playing sometime in the next few weeks, but a fracture isn’t something you can rush.
“It’s not like an (anterior cruciate ligament), where you can double up the work and get back quicker,” Haywood said. “You really can’t do anything for it.”
So he has been slowly cleared to increase his activity. Currently, he can jog, shoot, do some light jumping and start weight training with his legs. Every so often his foot doctor takes another CT scan to gauge the healing.
At 7 feet tall, he’s a legitimate rim protector and one of the more savvy players on this team. Can he have a role once he returns to the active roster about two-thirds of the way into the season?
Coach Steve Clifford and Haywood both think so because of the center’s experience.
“For me, it’s not going to be a learning process,” Haywood said. “The young guy is trying to get into shape and learn where to be. For me it’s just getting into game shape where I can go 10 to 15 minutes a game to give Al (Jefferson) a blow.”
Taylor doesn’t have that sort of short-term goal. At best, he’ll complete his rehab in late May or early June.
Last summer Taylor quickly impressed Clifford with his work ethic. He reinforced that impression when he opted to have surgery just two days after the injury. Clifford said he would have understood if Taylor put that off until after Christmas.
“If something was wrong with me, I wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible,” Taylor said. “Christmas didn’t really matter or New Year’s.”
Following surgery, Taylor couldn’t put any weight on his right leg for four weeks. Now he can walk around in a protective boot fitted with adjustable heel lifts that keep his foot angled downward.
Two of the three lifts have been removed. The third is scheduled to be removed Sunday. Then he goes to a shoe, also equipped with a series of lifts. If all goes well, he can discard that shoe in late March, approximately 12 weeks after surgery.
The projected recovery time for a ruptured Achilles is six to nine months. Taylor is confident he’ll be on the short side of that timeline.
“I’ve always been a really fast healer. Don’t know why I’d think any differently about this,” Taylor said. “Late May/early June, I think I’ll be fine, but I won’t push it and hurt myself again. The main goal is to be healthy for training camp.”