Delfino leaving dark days behind

Bucks linchpin continues recovery from concussion

By Truman Reed

Carlos Delfino

"I couldn't watch TV or look at a computer or read books or even talk," Carlos said.

When a basketball player is relegated to the sideline by an injury, the court can seem a long distance away.

When an injured player is unable to play, practice or travel with his team, he can feel exiled.

During Carlos Delfino's recent two months away from the game, he said he sometimes felt like he was on a different planet than his Milwaukee Bucks teammates.

The 28-year-old Delfino was enjoying a successful start to his second season with the Bucks, averaging 12.9 points through the team's first seven games of the campaign.

In the second game of the season, though, Delfino's head was struck by another player's knee at Minnesota on October 29.

In the Bucks' home opener against Charlotte the following night, he took an elbow to the ear while battling for a rebound during the fourth quarter.

The next weekend, Delfino absorbed a shot to the cheekbone from Indiana's Danny Granger, and one night later against New Orleans, he was feeling dizzy and left the game in the first half.

Delfino's dizziness and vertigo were symptomatic of a concussion, which was diagnosed and would keep him out of action -- and pretty much out of circulation -- until January 21.

Much of Delfino's time away from basketball was spent in a dark room in his apartment, sheltered from the light and sound that would heighten the throbbing headaches he was experiencing.

"It was the most frustrating experience I've ever had, because it was something I couldn't control," Delfino said. "It wasn't like a knee injury where you go and you work out and you lift weights. It was my brain. Every single thing you do, you're using your brain.

"I couldn't watch TV or look at a computer or read books or even talk. If I talked, it gave me headaches. I had vertigo and dizziness."

Delfino wondered at various stages of his exile if a comeback would be forthcoming this season.

"I didn't know if that would happen during the season," he said.

Delfino followed his doctors' orders, though, and very gradually his condition improved.

He tried at one point to sit on the Bucks' bench during a game, but the bright lights and loud music were more than he could handle and returned to his home.

"I just had to continue to take it slow and work on little things day by day," he said. "I felt so good when I could go outside just to walk my dog."

Delfino continued to work on the little things until he made it back to practice.

Finally, 76 days after Delfino was placed on the inactive list, he returned to the Milwaukee lineup for the team's January 21 game at Cleveland.

He played more minutes (23) than anyone really anticipated and came up with nine points and five rebounds. The statistics, though, paled in significance to his mere presence on the court again.

"It felt good," Delfino said. "I expected it to feel worse. I was a little shaky out there, but it felt great to be back on the court with the guys.

"Hopefully I will feel better from day to day."

Delfino followed up his return with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists in a 98-90 victory over Atlanta on January 26, then delivered 15 points, six assists and two steals two nights later in a 116-110 overtime triumph at Toronto.

The following night, with teammate John Salmons sidelined by a hip injury and Chris Douglas-Roberts attending an out-of-town funeral, Delfino matched his season high by playing 41 minutes in Milwaukee's 91-81 home win over New Jersey.

And Delfino's minutes were productive ones. He scored a team-high 21 points, hitting 4-9 3-point attempts, 7-16 shots overall and collected five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

"Carlos is valuable to us because he stretches the defense with his 3-point shooting, but it goes way beyond that," center Andrew Bogut said. "He creates off the dribble. We use him in pick-and-rolls. He rebounds for us. He has a very high basketball IQ, and has always played the game the right way.

"We definitely missed him. I'm glad we've got him back."

First-year Buck Keyon Dooling, whose 14 points and nine assists were also valuable contributions to the victory over New Jersey, has only played 13 games with Delfino. But he wasn't surprised to see the Argentinean make a seamless transition back into the lineup.

"I've seen Carlos play for however long he's been in the league, and I know what he does," Dooling said. "He's definitely an asset to our team. He gets `Bogues' so many easy baskets in the paint.

"He and some of our other veteran guys are talented players who know how to play. They're students of the game. It's great to have him back."

Not coincidentally, the Bucks had won three consecutive games and four of six contests since Delfino's return as they embarked on a West Coast road trip Jan. 30.

That fact wasn't lost on Bogut.

"With him back in the lineup, we're on a three-game winning streak," Bogut said. "We've beaten some teams we should beat, but he's helping us a lot." Next stop: Planet Hollywood.