Denton: Tobias Harris Injury Update

By John Denton
Nov. 30, 2013

ORLANDO – A time that was supposed to be a stellar breakout season for Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris has gone bust so far because of some tough luck with injuries.

But the Magic are still hopeful that, in time, Harris will be able get fully healthy and get back on the floor with his teammates.

Harris missed five weeks during the preseason and the early portion of the regular season because of a high ankle sprain that he suffered on Oct. 20. Harris returned for one game last Sunday, but once again experienced pain in his left ankle. He was briefly penciled into the Magic’s starting lineup on Tuesday in Atlanta, but he had to be scratched because of persistent pain in his lower leg and ankle.

Harris, 21, was on the inactive list in the Magic’s past two games and there is no firm timetable now for his return as he works to further rehabilitate his ailing ankle. Harris got another MRI on his ankle this week and the Magic want him to go through another round of rehabilitation before considering returning. Their goal is to get him 100 percent before returning so that the injury isn’t one that lingers all season.

``He went for a second opinion. High ankle sprains take time and everybody’s healing timeline is different,’’ Magic GM Rob Hennigan said on Saturday. ``Right now, Tobias is working through that and trying to figure out when his ankle is right he’ll be ready to play. Our stance right now is to be precautious and make sure that we don’t rush him back.’’

Harris was visibly upset on Tuesday night when he couldn’t play because of the recurring pain in his ankle. Hennigan said that Harris’ competitive nature is one of wanting to be out on the floor and help his teammates anyway that he can.

``He wants to compete. He worked incredibly hard over the summer and he feels that all of that work was put forth to have a really good season for us,’’ Hennigan said. ``The fact that this is a setback is frustrating for him – like it would for anyone who has had an injury.

``But the good thing about Tobias is that he is driven enough and he has enough ambition to want to get back here full throttle,’’ Hennigan continued. ``But he understands that coming back here full throttle without being 100 percent may not be in the best interest of himself or for our team.’’

Orlando acquired Harris and Doron Lamb from Milwaukee in a trade last February, and almost instantly Harris became a standout player with the Magic. Over the final 27 games of last season, Harris averaged 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds a game – numbers that only three other NBA players (David Lee, Al Horford and Al Jefferson) averaged over the full season.

Harris, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward, stayed in Orlando most of the summer to work on his game in hopes of improving his numbers even greater this season. He put on more muscle to become a better rebounder and defender in the post and stroked thousands of shots to become an improved 3-point shooter.

And then came the series of ankle injuries that ruined it all.

Harris originally got hurt on Oct. 15 when he was accidentally kicked in the foot during a practice and sprained his ankle. Five days later in a preseason game against Detroit, Harris suffered the high ankle injury. On a high ankle sprain, the ligaments above the ankle that connect to the tibia and fibula are damaged when the foot is contorted outwardly.

Harris said earlier in the week that the ankle injury is the most severe of his basketball career. He knows now that he is going to have to be patient so that he can get back on the floor and have the season that he had hoped for.

``It’s real frustrating for me, but it’s part of the process,’’ Harris said. ``But I just have to be patient with it and see how it feels. Then, hopefully I can go full steam from then on.’’





Follow John Denton on Twitter here