I’m happy to report I’ve made some solid progress in my recovery the last couple months.
The most encouraging thing for me right now is that I’m accomplishing things that I wasn’t able to do before. This process is tedious. But you set these little goals that you have to accomplish, and you just slowly check them off. We’ve chronicled a lot of that in videos with the Players Tribune, just documenting the progress. It’s cool to look back and see how far I’ve come.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) March 26, 2018
So instead of trying to project forward and think about what I haven’t been able to do or can’t do yet, I have to look back and think, “Man, a month and a half ago, two months ago, I couldn’t have done this.”
RAISING THE BAR
The biggest gain I’ve made is in being able to do single leg calf raises with both legs.
It took me a while just to be able to do a single calf raise, by myself, with the left. It was a huge hurdle to clear. But once I did, we wanted to judge the strength compared to the right leg.
So we created a test where we marked the maximum range that I get on my left. Now when I do the test, I have to go at least 80 percent of that max range for it to count as a rep.
We also created something of a metronome that we have going, and I have to go up and down to the beat of the metronome. I get two warnings. If I don’t get above 80 percent, that’s a warning. And on the third one that I don’t get above 80 percent, I’m done.
It’s actually a really, difficult test. I’d challenge everyone to try it at home to see how many you can get. It’s a lot harder than you would think when you actually have to go to the beat of the metronome, and you have to get full range.
It’s also a good gauge of calf strength, and has allowed me to see real progress. A few months ago, I couldn’t even do a single left calf raise on my own. Now I’m at 20 reps before I fall below the 80 percent line. And on the right side, my maximum I’ve gotten is 27. So I’m right there, and that’s really encouraging.
The calf strengthening also helped my progress on the AlterG, and I just recently finished the final phase of the AlterG progression. That was a long process, starting with walking at a very low percentage of my body weight and grinding it out day by day making small gains.
Once I was able to do a single-leg calf raise on my own, they allowed me to run on the AlterG. We started the program at like 50 percent body weight at a certain speed, and I’d do it for a certain time. Then the next time I’d do the same body weight, but we’d increase the speed and the time. Then we’d move do a different move up from 50 percent to 55-60-65, etc. Each time doing a workout, first we increase the body weight, then the distance, then the speed.
You kind of work your way up like that, doing different workouts on the AlterG, until you get to roughly 80 percent. After 80 percent, the effects of the AlterG are kind of minimal, and you can slowly get off the AlterG and on to a normal treadmill, which is obviously 100 percent of your body weight.
That’s where I am right now. I’ve just started running.
We’ve condensed my two workout sessions per day into one longer session at this point, where we try to knock the whole thing out in the morning.
When we’re home and I go to the arena for a game, I still get treatment in the back on it, because it doesn’t hurt to do another session. Sometimes I will do something in the morning and be a little bit sore, so I’ll get it worked on at night.
That way, I can continue to attack it the next day.
But for the most part now, we start at seven in the morning and then, depending on what we’re doing—my mood and how talkative or non-talkative I’m feeling—it can be 4-5 hours. If guys from the team are in there, it’s going to be longer. If it’s just me in there, with the crew that I train with, it’s not going to be as long because I’m not talking to people as much.
Right at the start, I do an hour to an hour and a half where I’m just on the table getting soft-tissue massage work done. Then we move over to the weight room, and probably do 35-40 minutes worth of balance and mechanics, stuff where we’re not using any weights. But it’s all good stuff for my ankles, hips and calves—like those calf raises, for example.
After that we do a weight-lifting circuit that can be anywhere from 35 minutes to close to an hour, depending on the types of lifts that we’re doing. After all of that, we’ll do a conditioning segment, which right now is probably like 12 to 15 minutes.
Then we move out to the court, and depending on how much work I’ve done throughout the week or how sore I am, it can be 35 minutes or it can be 10 minutes of light shooting. It varies.
ON THE COURT
I’ve made some significant progress in basketball drills as well.
It’s weird to say, but I’m really happy with where my shot is right now.
Since the injury, I’ve obviously done nothing but really set-shoot, and my shot feels really, really good. I couldn’t really use my legs for the longest time, so I wanted to try to work on my shot. No matter where I caught it, I shot it.
I can already tell that I have extended my range significantly. We’ve done dribble pull-ups, like off a screen, where I’m not jumping, but I’m kind of taking one dribble into a shot. From two, three or four feet beyond the arc, I can get it up to the rim no problem without even jumping.
So my shot has gotten quicker and more compact because I’ve been doing this for the last five, six months, and haven’t really been able to jump. That part is kind of exciting.
Now I’m at the point where I am doing mini jumps on my jump shot and stuff. That’s also a little bit of a big deal, being able to jump on a jump shot finally. It’s not like it’s explosive jumping, but it’s still something.
When I’m doing it, sometimes I will test it, just to see where I’m at, and I will really try to jump and explode off it. That hurts because it’s sore there. My body tells me loud and clear: “You’re not ready for that yet.”
The next big obstacle is going to be full-speed running workouts in the gym, on the court. Once I’m able to do that and I’m able to do those forward jumps on my shot, then it’s down to cutting, moving laterally left and right. That’s definitely the hardest part. The lateral movement is where you’re really testing those ankle ligaments. I’m not there yet.
We do a little bit of lateral stuff right now to try to get my hips and some of the other parts of my body ready, so that when I am ready to do lateral stuff, it won’t be as big of a jump.
Patience. One goal.
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) March 2, 2018
I will say: being able to do everything I can do now—from where I was two months ago—it’s really encouraging.
I can’t say enough about all the support I’ve been getting through this whole process. It’s really driven me to keep going on some of the tougher days for sure.
My family has been extremely important through it all. Just having Robyn and the girls here for me, being able to go home to them and spend a lot more time with them than I would be able to, it just continues to give me energy. It would be really hard to have to go to rehab every day, and then come home without a support system like that.
Robyn has just kind of been the anchor for me, being so supportive. It’s long days sometimes at the facility and dealing with doctor’s appointments, and helping me around too.
Funny enough, I know the girls really love it. I’m now part of their bath time routine, when before I wasn’t as much of a part because I was gone every other night playing games. So to have it where they kind of expect me to be there, it’s fun.
After bath time, they run to me because they want to read a book before they go to bed. That is an amazing feeling, and something that I wasn’t able to feel before. That’s been really helpful and provided extra motivation.
I have a great support system. A lot of people will reach out. Of course, fans on social media, family members and friends will call or text me. One person who’s been really great about keeping up with me is Paul George, and that’s meant a lot.
He’s obviously got a lot going on with what he’s doing, just in his own season. So for him to still take the time to hit me up and check in on me to see how I’m doing, that’s been really cool.
His message is pretty simple, but it comes from an important place. He tells me to continue to work every day and not get frustrated by setbacks, because there are going to be setbacks.
There are going to be days where you feel really good, and there are going to be days where it is a lot more sore than normal. There are days where you feel like you take two or three steps backward, but he’s told me not to get frustrated by that. In time, I’ll be 100 percent and healthy.
Just continue to work. That’s kind of been the general message.
The proof is in the results, that he has come back and been a star in the league, an All-Star every year since he got injured. He’s been through it and come back stronger, so it gives me a lot of inspiration to see a guy go through something like that and come back so strong.
THE MASH UNIT
It’s great to have the support of the guys on the team, too. It’s nice to have them at the facility and to be able to see them and just spend time around them when I can. We’ll be working side-by-side in the weight room or on the court. So they can see what I’ve been doing and see the progress.
When they’re on the road, I don’t have much contact with them. I will text some guys, but there is a lot more contact when they are at home and around the facility. On days like that, I’m able to joke around with them, hear what they did on the road and stuff like that.
Unfortunately, the training room has become a lot more crowded over the last few weeks. It seems like one thing after another with injuries these days.
Even in the same game, you have Marcus Smart tear a tendon in his thumb and had to get surgery, and that same night, Daniel Theis hurts his knee and he is done for the year. That was unreal. Then you have Jaylen take that scary fall that cost him a couple weeks with the concussion, and now Kyrie needs surgery to clean out his knee.
So it has definitely been a tough stretch, and really a tough year for us, injury-wise. And although it will be nice having some other guys around rehabbing with me, it’s definitely not what I want for the team or for any of these other guys. Hopefully, everyone eventually gets healthy and we will be good for next year.
However, every coin has two sides and through the injuries, we’ve really seen what some guys are made of. That’s something to build on.
Terry Rozier has been incredible. He’s been in a situation where, with Kyrie and his knee soreness, it’s kind of been day-to-day, week-to-week sometimes. So sometimes he’s a starter, and sometimes he’s coming off the bench. To me, that’s really hard to do, because mentally, it’s completely different to be prepared to start versus being prepared to come off the bench.
It is one thing to have to step up in the situation where I went down. You know I’m out. I wasn’t coming back anytime soon. The guys filling in for me didn’t have to constantly go to the gym and not know whether or not they’d be starting or come off the bench. T-Ro has just done whatever has been asked of him, handled all of that and continued to play really well.
He’s stepped up in big games and hit some big shots for us. For a guy that is as young as he is too, and at the point guard position, it’s been really impressive.
Speaking of young guys, you can’t say enough about Jayson Tatum. All these guys going down around him, and he’s just been there night in and night out, pushing through his rookie season and seemingly avoiding that wall. He’s learning a lot and he’s had to grow up quickly, being on a team that’s competing for a playoff spot and asking a lot out of him.
A lot of times, rookies that are picked as high as he was picked are on teams that aren’t in the playoff hunt, and aren’t trying to accomplish what we are. For him to be asked to do some things that you wouldn’t normally do as a rookie, it’s incredible what he has been able to accomplish. And he is only going to get better too, because there is so much value that comes with experience. He’s played extremely well, and he is such a talented player, and you just see flashes of a guy that’s going to be really good in this league for a long time.
Our vets have been really important as well as the injuries mount. Marcus Morris has stepped up huge. He’s a guy who was supposed to play a big role, but was hurt at the beginning of the year, and since then, has kind of been another guy that’s been in and out of the starting lineup. And he hasn’t complained about whether he is starting or not starting, just comes in and does his job.
He’s been huge for us when he comes off the bench, been huge for us when he starts as a match-up problem, and obviously, he had that big-time shot a few games back. He’s done a really good job.
These guys, they’re all fighting through it. We’re in the dog days of the season now, pushing toward the playoffs, fighting for positioning and seeding, and you give credit to all those guys for grinding it out every night when we’re shorthanded in a lot of ways. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for us as the season winds down.
It’s so hard to put a ceiling on what we’re capable of with all the moving parts. We’ve played so well against some of the best teams in the league, and won games that we’ve been down double digits. We find ways to come back and win.
We’ve also lost a lot of games against teams that we probably shouldn’t lose to, and had these moments where we just don’t play our best basketball. But I think that is part of being a young team, and having a lot of injuries. And so, I don’t think you can put a ceiling on us in the playoffs.
It will be fun to watch—though I look forward to the day when I can actually be part of it.