Jonas: 'I Feel Great'

Jerebko starts walking, vows to return at '100 percent and even better'

Jonas Jerebko's walking boot is off and he's walking in shoes for the first time in almost two months.
Jesse D. Garrabrant /NBAE/Getty Images
Jonas Jerebko doesn’t know about timetables. That’s Arnie Kander’s domain, and the Pistons’ training guru doesn’t talk timetables. But the Swede who changed the dynamic for the Pistons whenever he played as a full-throttle rookie surprise crossed one significant hurdle when he shed his walking boot Friday and started walking in shoes – a little gingerly, but walking – for the first time in nearly two months.

“I feel great. To have a shoe on the foot and be walking feels great,” he said. “For me, I haven’t been walking in eight weeks.”

So that’s the next step in his rehab, which so far has really consisted of some upper-body work to keep his strength and muscle tone up. Once Jerebko builds up some strength simply through the weight-bearing function of walking, progress should come rapidly and give Kander a better handle on how far out a return might be.

Initial estimates were five to six months, which would peg his return at somewhere between March and April. But the hope all along was that it could come sooner, perhaps by the All-Star break.

“That’s all Arnie,” Jerebko said. “I just do whatever he says and do rehab every day.”

The Achilles tendon injury – a partial tear – was surgically repaired on Oct. 8, three days after the injury occurred in the first quarter of the Pistons’ first preseason game, which also happened to be the Miami debut for LeBron James and Chris Bosh as teammates of Dwyane Wade.

It was the night of the surgery when reality began to sink in for Jerebko, he said.

“I think I didn’t realize it until after surgery. After surgery, that night, it probably wasn’t my best day. I felt like I was going to leave the hospital and just go home. But now I feel good. It’s been two months and I’m just looking forward.”

When Jerebko crashed to the floor in Miami and Heat players crumpled atop him, he felt a numbness on the right side of his body pierced by excruciating pain in his right elbow. When he was able to get off the floor, it was the elbow that he carried gingerly to the sideline. When Kander accompanied him to the locker room and Jerebko stretched out on the training table, it was the elbow that drew Kander’s attention. But in the course of checking the severity of the elbow injury, Jerebko told Kander his ankle felt kind of funny, as well.

Had the Achilles injury not occurred, it’s likely Jerebko would have missed significant time with a hyperextended elbow. While his Achilles and ankle area is pain free, he said, the elbow only stopped throbbing within the last week.

Jerebko moved into Kander’s house for a few weeks after coming home from the hospital, then transitioned back to his apartment when his parents, Chris and Elaine, came from Sweden to visit. His father returned a second time, returning to Sweden in late November, and his sister, Johanna, is due to arrive next week, he said.

As a 23-year-old who not only had never experienced a significant injury but bounced from one sport to the next before settling on basketball in his mid-teens, the injury-imposed idleness has eaten at Jerebko.

“I’m not going to lie – it’s killing me inside, being on the side of the court and not being able to play. But at the same time, it’s good to be out there and just be with my teammates.”

Kander cleared Jerebko to travel with the team only recently, so he joined them in Florida recently when the Pistons played at Orlando and Miami.

“I didn’t want to stay away from the team. Arnie gave me clearance to travel with the team and start doing stuff like that – just get your mind right and take it from there.”

Jerebko had a strong summer, starring for the Swedish national team in qualifying competition for the European Championship by averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Swedes to first place in pool play, then followed up with another good camp. His preseason debut didn’t last long, but he was the most active Piston on the floor and looked more confident offensively before being injured in Miami. Jerebko doesn’t expect to come back without missing a beat, but he does believe he’ll feel 100 percent physically and eventually pick up where he left off and improve from that level.

“I’m going to feel more than 100 percent,” he said. “I’m going to make myself ready. I’m not going to rush anything. There’s no reason for it. I’ve got a long career ahead of me, so I’m just taking it at my own pace and listening to Arnie.

“Of course, I’m going to be a little rusty in the beginning. But I’m not worried. I’m going to come back 100 percent and even better.”