As I continue the long, arduous process of rehab, I’ve found that it’s important to keep things simple.
The theme for me right now is, “Be better today than I was yesterday.”
I’m trying to make these slow gains, and creep back up to 100 percent. Improve every day.
And it has been a gradual process. I started with the cast. Then after I got the cast off, I was put into a boot so that we could start manual therapy. At first, I was wearing the boot all the time and stuck on crutches. At one point, they had me take off the boot before I went to sleep, or when I was just laying around.
Now I’m off the crutches completely, and I’m totally out of the boot, too. Instead, I’m in a brace, which I’ll probably be wearing for the foreseeable future while I’m doing rehab and all that stuff.
It’s all about making slow progress. Baby steps.
DEVELOPING A ROUTINE
I’m making progress in therapy as well.
I’ve been going into the facility every day, and working with the trainers there on a lot of different things. We start with massage therapy and soft tissue work on my whole leg, foot, and ankle, trying to get some of the swelling out. After that, I do some manual resistance stuff, leg extensions, leg curls and that type of thing. The goal there is to achieve better range of motion, and maintain strength in my hips, and my calf, and quad.
Next, I do some balance work. Originally I was just balancing on my right foot, but we’ve made progress to the point I’m now able to balance on two feet. The next step is going to be balancing on my left foot. I’m also doing work with that foot to gain strength and range of motion, things like towel scrunches and marble pickups, where you pick the marbles up with your toes and put them into a box.
That’s probably the toughest part physically. At the very beginning of it, it took me forever to get just one marble with my left foot. And I would have to cheat to try to pick it up. And that part’s frustrating, to not be able to do something that I can easily do with my right foot. But I’ve made progress, and now we make a competition out of it and try to get as low a time as I can. Slowly but surely, you get better and better. Now, I’m only like 10 seconds different from my right and my left, so it’s come a long way.
I’m also making sure the rest of my body stays in shape. So after all that leg work, I go to the weight room and I do a weight workout. One day, it will be an upper body workout and then conditioning at the end of it. The next day, will do lower body and then conditioning at the end of that. Obviously, I want to stay in as good physical shape, as close to what I was when I went down as I can. So it’s about trying to do something conditioning-wise to try to keep my heart rate up and trying to maintain some of the muscle that I had in the other parts of my body, even though right now I can’t load as much on the left.
My workouts now are even longer than they were in the summer because I have to move a little bit slower to get everywhere. I am doing a lot more exercises like low load circuits, and balance stuff, and stretching stuff, that I probably — to be honest — should have been doing before I even got hurt. But you don’t necessarily have to do it as much when you’re healthy.
Then at the end of the workout, I go to the basketball court and do as much basketball work as I can. I’ve recently started to do some stuff standing up, so I don’t have to use the chair to shoot anymore. I can just shoot with the boot on, staying straight up. It’s non-movement stuff for now, but I can handle the basketball just standing straight up and do different drills like that.
That’s pretty much the routine every day. Then I do another rehab session at my house every night, after the girls go to bed. That’s just some calf raises, some balance stuff, stretching and things like that. I spend probably another hour doing that. It depends on the day.
That’s the thing with the therapy. It all depends on how my foot does. If I did a lot the day before and my foot swells up, then I back off of it and don’t do as much the following day.
Now that I can finally do some stuff for my rehab, we’re going to try to plan to have a day off each week, or a day to just rest it at least and not do as much rehab.
I’m also talking to a sports psychologist once a week to help me overcome any negative thoughts, and try to keep a positive outlook on this whole thing. Just talking to somebody about that type of stuff is really good to keep me on the right track.
It’s all a process. And it’s all about being patient. There’s still is a long road ahead.
But I’m doing everything I can to get back 100 percent. I appreciate the continued support and all the messages I’ve received. It’s definitely humbling and motivating at the same time.
BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
The toughest part of the whole thing is honestly watching our games and other games around the NBA, and not really being able to be a part of it. The mental side of it is 100% the most difficult. I trained all summer and made a decision to come play for the Boston Celtics, only to have to sit on the sideline and watch the Boston Celtics play. That is definitely the toughest part.
That first game back at the Garden was really tough. That was basically the first time I had been out of the house, in the public. My foot was throbbing the whole game, but I wanted to try to get to a game, and I knew it was a big one for us. It was difficult to sit there and watch, because the crowd was going crazy, and as a basketball player, you want to be a part of that.
At the same time, it was good to get out of the house. My wife and I were able to go to dinner before the game. And to see the guys, and to see them in action, and kind of cheer them on from the sideline was good.
I also went to our game against the Jazz, and afterward, I was able to hang out with all of my former Utah teammates. It was great to see everybody.
Now that I’m only wearing the brace, I’ll probably be able to go to a lot more games.
I have also gotten to spend some time with the guys when they come into the facility. That has been good for me, to see everyone and interact, and joke with them about different plays that they’ve had during the games, or congratulate them on their successes. It allows me to still feel like I’m a part of the team, which has been good.
I’m also watching film a few times a week to give the team some assistance. I chime in with minor things. The coaching staff is already super good with scouting reports and figuring out different teams. But I have definitely helped out with some scouting defensively, talking about guys I’ve had success guarding in the past, different tendencies and stuff that you learn playing against certain players, and what I have done to try to contain certain guys.
As far as the team goes, I’m really proud of what I’ve seen, and what we’ve been able to accomplish.
During that long winning streak, we were playing tremendous defense, and it allowed us to come back in games. I mean, being down double digits in some of those games and finding ways to come back and win, that starts with playing really well on defense.
We also showed really good perseverance. The guys have been really good at finding ways to squeeze games out in the fourth quarter. A lot of that is Coach Stevens, and Kyrie and Al Horford leading them in the fourth quarter. But it says a lot about the young guys too, to thrive in those situations. They all have knocked down timely shots or had, big, big-time plays.
DEPTH FOR DAYS
When you watch us play, it feels like we are really deep. I can’t name one person that would stand out over everybody because I feel like I could talk about all of them, and say how they have all made contributions during different times throughout the season.
Coach Stevens is putting guys in the right position and they are all buying into the system. That’s what he’s best at: putting guys in positions to be successful, and guys are playing their role, and doing what they can do, not trying to force it.
And you can go down the list on the roster and everybody is contributing.
Marcus Smart is somebody who doesn’t necessarily fill up the stat sheet every single night from a scoring standpoint, but from hustle, from leadership, defensively from scrapping, he can win. He has won multiple games with that alone. Terry Rozier coming in as a backup guy, with Kyrie going down earlier in the season for a couple of games, did a tremendous job running the show, and is extremely good coming off the bench. That play he made the other night — incredible.
The same thing can be said for Shane Larkin. And to me, he is doing one of the most difficult things to do in the NBA. To be a third-string type guy — where you don’t necessarily play every single night, but then, when Coach calls on you, you have to be ready to come in and contribute — that’s tough. But he has won games for us with his energy and shot-making off the bench.
Ditto for Daniel Theis, another guy that doesn’t necessarily get consistent minutes. Some games he plays a lot; some games he doesn’t play at all. But every time he comes in, you feel like he is being productive, contributing. He’s just solid every time.
Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris have kind of rotated between starting and not starting, which is also hard to do in the league. But both of them have done a tremendous job. And Marcus has carried the load sometimes in the second unit—where it seems like the game is lost, we are down double digits, and he goes on like a mini 8-0 run by himself to pull us back within five, and get us some momentum to finish the comeback.
So it’s pretty incredible what everyone has been able to do. I think that is why we made that huge run, because we are so deep and guys are contributing.
Of course, Kyrie has been incredible, especially his play down the stretch in games, and in the fourth quarter. He seems to have an ability to take over the game. And his finishing around the rim is something that is really special. He routinely makes layups over people. It doesn’t matter who it is. He just makes it look so easy. And those are extremely difficult shots.
People don’t understand how difficult it is to make those types of finishes. He can put spins on the ball with either hand, with his body facing whatever direction, over 7-footers, over athletic wings. It doesn’t matter. He has the great shooting ability, being able to shoot threes, and come off screens and hit jumpers and floaters too. But the finishing is something that — I know a lot of people already knew that — but for me, to be able to see it firsthand is definitely something that is incredible.
Then you’ve got Al, who does so many things that don’t even show up on the stat sheet. This year, you are seeing his ability to make plays from the post and the top of the key. He stretches the floor and makes bigs guard him out deep. Then he gives them a shot and goes around them. He can dunk it, but he can also make another play after that drive if he has to, passing back out, which I think is the rare component of his game that sets him apart.
There are lot of bigs in the league now who can stretch the floor, shot pick and get to the rim. But there are not very many bigs that can shot pick, get to the paint, and make a play for somebody else. That is the really unique part of Al’s game. And even if he doesn’t get the assist, he is the one that got to the paint, and made the play, made the hockey assist.
He is also shooting the ball extremely well from three. And he picks his moments. He will go from having eight points in the third to end up with 20 points by the end of the fourth, off of like 8 for 12 shooting. It’s really impressive to watch. He is silently leading those guys too.
Jaylen is probably one of the better athletes in the league from the wing position. Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve trained every single summer, every single day, to try to put on weight, to try to get to 230, 235 pounds and be strong. Jaylen just turned 21 years old a couple months ago, and is the same exact weight as I am.
He is an incredibly gifted athlete and already has so much talent. He’s able to just glide through the air. I knew coming in that he was athletic and he could do some things above the rim, just because of Twitter and seeing some highlights. But it’s awesome to see in person.
And he has been so aggressive this year. He attacks the basket and has the strength to finish. He’s also shooting the ball a lot better this year than I remember last year, especially from corners. Now, if he gets an open look, or a three, when he shoots you just don’t think he is going to miss. He’s got great form too.
As far as Jayson goes, he might be as polished of a 19-year-old player as I have ever seen. He doesn’t really have a part of his game, where you think, “Oh, that is something that he just can’t do.” He has shown the ability to do just about anything.
He can come off screens and knock down shots. He can post. He can attack guys off the dribble and get to the rim. And he is shooting at an incredible rate from three, especially for a rookie. So offensively, he has just been really, really good this year and really efficient for the most part. That is something that stands out with him. He’s really effective on offense in every area.
JAYLEN AND JAYSON
You can’t say enough about those two young guys and their poise in some of these situations they’ve been put in.
When you’re that young and playing a key role in the NBA, it is really easy to try to go really fast, and do too much, and maybe force some things sometimes. But they are really playing within the system, being aggressive when they need to be aggressive, while also kind of letting Kyrie and Al do their thing and lead the team. At the same time, you can see the talent. When they are called upon, they rise up. And the stuff that they can do will blow you away sometimes. They both are just really talented for being such young basketball players.
And because of the structure of the team, both of those guys are in a good situation.
For Jayson, due to my absence, he is getting to play a lot. And I think that experience is something that is so valuable. Just being out there on the court, you are going to get better. It’s natural. You are getting opportunities and you are going to mess up. That comes with being a rookie. But at least you are getting those opportunities and learning from them. That is one thing that is helping him.
Having the veterans too, guys who can kind of take the lead and can kind of get them open shots to get them going, it’s helpful for both of them. Because Kyrie is kind of running the show and they have Al, who is almost like a point forward for us, or a point center a lot of games, to kind of set them up and get them an easy bucket. Those things are really helpful.
Coach Stevens is always going to put them in positions to be successful, which of course is really important. So, all those things have helped them for sure.
Things back on the homefront have been really good. In a lot of ways, it feels like just an extension of the summer. It’s kind of funny that way.
My routine is pretty similar to what it was all summer: I would get up, work out and take care of my daily routine, and then at the end of the night I’d get to hang out with Robyn and the girls. That’s exactly what is still happening. I get up; I go to the facility; I come home, and I hang out with them. So for the girls, being so young, it’s almost nothing has changed. And they definitely like routines. They like to see me at night before they go to bed and have me do bath time with them. So I think they are fine that I’m here.
Robyn has definitely gotten sick of me. I know that. She kicks me out from time to time, but that’s all right. I know she likes having me around, and likes for me to help with bath time, and for me to be able to spend time with the girls. We get some opportunities to hang out just the two of us as well. We have gone to a couple of movies and gone out to eat. Those are things that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if I was on the road all the time.
So I’m taking to advantage of some of that for sure.
I’ve taken the opportunity to do a little more gaming, too. It’s kind of like the summertime with that too, where I’m able to game at night when the girls go to bed. I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny, and that’s kind of been my go to right now. Curse of Osiris, which is a Destiny 2 expansion, just came out not too long ago, so I’ve been enjoying the new content with that. Also, an expansion just came out for Hearthstone, so I’m looking forward to that as well.
I’ve been enjoying playing those games and hanging out with friends. I’ve said it before, but to me, that is one of the cool parts of technology and video games. I can still hang out with friends through video games. I play with some of the friends I grew up with, who went to Brownsburg, as well as people that I have met online through the gaming community. It’s a lot of fun and one of the best parts of gaming, just the camaraderie.
As Robyn has posted on Instagram, the girls like it, too. For whatever reason, they like just to sit in front of the computer and press the buttons on the keyboard.
I’m looking forward to spending more of this holiday season with them. I didn’t get to at Thanksgiving because everybody went back home to Indianapolis for it. They got a chance to go see family and I stayed here so I could rehab. It was good for Robyn to be able to go back with the girls and see the family. My trainer, and also a friend of mine is here, so I was able to stay here and rehab. So it wasn’t like I was alone. It worked out for everybody.
But Christmas should be fun. It seems like Bernie is a lot more aware of what is going on. We took her to see Santa and she was a little bit better this year. Last year, she was just crying the entire time. Didn’t want to be with him at all! So this year was a little better; she didn’t cry, so that was good. She’s understanding a little bit more every day, and she will probably have a better time opening presents this year. I think that will be a lot more rewarding because she is getting older. You can tell her and explain to her different things and she can kind of understand.
She is really really into this YouTube video and song, other parents might be familiar with it. I think it’s called, “The Baby Shark.” She has these dances, these little motions she does with it. And this video literally plays at our house all night. She just loves dancing to it and watching it. And so, that is what she has been doing a lot is this Baby Shark thing.
It’s just fun watching her and Charlie grow up. You might say they’re improving every day—just like I am.