Nuggets encouraged by progress of injured rotation players

Gallinari, Hickson, McGee, Robinson attack rehab programs
by Aaron Lopez

Nate Robinson sometimes travels directly from the airport baggage claim to the Pepsi Center weight room.

Danilo Gallinari turns the beaches of Italy into a high-performance training ground.

J.J. Hickson powers through workouts that his trainer wouldn’t attempt.

Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly refers to them as the ACL trio as they simultaneously recover from knee surgery. Nuggets strength-and-conditioning coach Steve Hess simply calls them warriors.

“These dudes are unbelievable,” Hess said. “They’re all busting their butts. They just want to be back on the court.”

Hess is quick to include center JaVale McGee in that group. McGee is recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his tibia.

Gallinari, Hickson, McGee and Robinson have followed their respective rehabilitation programs to the letter. For one to two weeks every month, they work directly with Hess, athletic trainer Dan Shimensky, assistant strength-and-conditioning coach Felipe Eichenberger and physical therapist Mike Keirns at Pepsi Center.

When they are not in Denver, Hess and the athletic training staff are in constant communication with their physical therapists.

“They’re not taking any shortcuts,” Hess said.

“You have a basic plan you want to implement, and they’ve all been sticking to the games plans. They’re doing extremely well, exactly where we want them.”

All four injured players are targeting a return sometime during training camp, the preseason or early in the regular season. Hess and the Nuggets, however, are not putting a timetable on their recovery.

“In my opinion, they’re progressing really, really well,” Hess said. “I can see the progression. They’re amazing. But I don’t know what the end schedule is or where they’re at. Within the realm of what they’re doing, they’re ahead of schedule.

“Does that guarantee they’ll be back for training camp? I don’t know. The organization is incredibly supportive of making sure they’re healthy before they come back.”

Hess traveled to Italy earlier this month to work with Gallinari and help him conduct a basketball camp. The two worked out for seven straight days – strength and agility work in the morning followed by basketball activities in the afternoons.

“Never one complaint,” Hess said.

Hickson, McGee and Robinson also power through seven straight days of workouts when they are in Denver.

“Nate will land and then go right to the weight room,” Hess said. “I put J.J through a workout that I wouldn’t have done. JaVale, same thing. We’re integrating things in there that are unbelievable.”

That’s great news for the Nuggets. After combining to miss 210 games last season, all four are projected to be part of the playing rotation in the second season under coach Brian Shaw.