Ike Diogu Interview
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

December 17, 2009

When the Hornets signed Ike Diogu to a free-agent contract in July, the 6-foot-9 power forward believed New Orleans would be the ideal place for his NBA career to finally blossom. After being buried on the depth chart in his four previous NBA stops of Golden State, Indiana, Portland and Sacramento, the four-year veteran was hailed as a potential solution to the Hornets need for additional frontcourt production.

Unfortunately for Diogu and the Hornets, the 26-year-old wont play this season. On Dec. 11, the decision was made that Diogu will undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee, forcing him to the sideline for the remainder of 2009-10. Although he did not appear in a preseason or regular season game, Diogu participated in several team practices, but never came close to being 100 percent healthy.

Were disappointed for Ike, from the standpoint of him having to go through (the injury and rehabilitation process), Hornets coach/general manager Jeff Bower said. We wish him all the best and hope that hell be able to make a swift and good recovery. We were excited about Ike being with us because of what he could provide for our team, from an interior standpoint, size and bulk. Hopefully his recovery goes well and we can look at things in the future.

Diogu signed a one-year contract with the Hornets, meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Given the uncertainty about his health, its difficult to predict how that will impact the interest he receives from NBA teams in July 2010. After hed learned that his 2009-10 season was over, Diogu sat down with to discuss the injury and the steps ahead in his rehabilitation: Obviously you were not making enough progress physically to be able to play. Why was the decision made to undergo surgery, which ended your season?
Diogu: There is a certain way that I play that makes me effective as a player. I wasnt going to be able to play like that this season. The injury was always in the back of my mind. It was like, If I do this move or that move, is it going to hurt? So everyone came to the conclusion that this was the best decision, so that I can come back next season and be 100 percent. What is your outlook on the injury? You talked before the season about how excited you were to get an opportunity to come to this New Orleans team. How are you dealing with knowing you wont play this season?
Diogu: Of course, I am very disappointed. But you can only dwell on this for so long. Injuries are a part of the game. Im not the first person in the NBA to undergo season-ending surgery. Im confident that I can come back, and the doctors said I should make a full recovery. Even though it is major surgery, where the defect is in my knee is not where I bear a lot of weight, so I should be able to come back 100 percent. I still believe in my abilities. Once Im healthy, I will be on someones roster. I want to be here. But at the same time, I know this is a business. But I will be on someones roster next season. Whats the approximate timetable for your recovery? I remember a few years ago when the words microfracture surgery were mentioned, it was a very frightening prospect, but since that time several players have recovered well from it, including Amare Stoudemire. How long do you expect it to be before you are healthy?
Diogu: Its about a year-long process. But it all depends on the (specifics of the) injury. It could be longer. It could be shorter. Some people can come back from it in seven to eight months. For other people, it might take them longer. The target date for me now is July for me to be able to fully (play), with no restrictions. But everyones body is different. It could be later than that, or it could be sooner. You will be a free agent again on July 1, 2010. Is your goal to be back on the court and ready to prove youre physically capable of playing by that date?
Diogu: Thats definitely the plan. It could change for the better, or for the worse. But Im confident. I dont think the surgery will take anything away from my skill set. Im still going to be the same player, so I expect to be back in the league. When you tried to practice, you were significantly hampered by the injury, but several people around the team noted that you still could score and rebound, despite essentially playing on one leg. Jeff Bowers comment was, Obviously (Diogu) was severely limited by the injury while he was testing it, but he still showed the reasons why we brought him here. What was your practice experience like for you?
Diogu: I just wanted to show everybody that I was really looking forward to being here and being a part of this team. I thought I could bring something different to the table. I was just battling through. It was painful, but I still tried to prove to everyone that I really wanted to be on the floor. Even then, there were still some things I couldnt do. It was frustrating to play like that.

In this league, opportunities like this dont come around very often. I was willing to do whatever it took to show that I wanted to seize this opportunity. But I couldnt do it. I did everything possible, from sitting out, to getting injections, to practicing on one leg. It just got to a point where I couldnt do it anymore.

Like you said, I was literally out there on one leg. My left leg is my power leg, so I really couldnt jump or anything. There were times I was doing well in practice, and I dont know how I was even doing that. It was tough to squat down or move side to side, tough to post up, tough to jump and get rebounds. Will you still be traveling with the team after your surgery and attending the home games over the rest of the season?
Diogu: I probably wont be here for the next 2 or three months. Thats the most important timeframe after you have the surgery. Youre not supposed to put any pressure on it. You have to stay off it, so that the new cartilage can grow and stabilize. Once that time period is over, I will come back here, start rehabbing and start traveling with the team. What has your agent told you about what he thinks might happen in free agency for you in July?
Diogu: Well, nobody really knows whats going to take place next summer. He just told me not to worry about it, and not to be discouraged. As long as Im healthy, I will be on somebodys NBA roster. The bottom line is that I can play, and people who know basketball know I can play. Granted, I havent gotten too many opportunities, but one thing that I have done is capitalize on the opportunities Ive gotten. I feel like I can be a valuable asset to a lot of teams in the NBA. Like I said, I want to be here, but at the same time, I know its a business. I will be somewhere in the league next year.

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