“The Prince” returned to his court Dec. 1.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played his first game for the Milwaukee Bucks since last spring following an arduous recovery from May knee surgery.
The 26-year-old Mbah a Moute’s first appearance of his fifth NBA season, which came with the benefit of just one practice, was an encouraging one. He saw 14 minutes of action in the Bucks’ dramatic 91-88 victory over the Boston Celtics at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and came through with eight points and six rebounds.
Mbah a Moute didn’t know if he would play at all one hour prior to the game, when he discussed the first major injury of his career and the road of rehabilitation he had to travel to get back.
“It has been a long road,” Mbah a Moute said. “It’s been very, very hard. But it’s been a good learning experience, as is everything that happens in your life.
“It’s been tough. I’d never dealt with anything like it before. Just the difficulty of the injury – it wasn’t just ankle break that just gets fixed and then you come back. It was patellar tendon surgery. There’s a bunch of different results with different people.
“But now I’m feeling good and I’m ready to come back.”
The injury caused Mbah a Moute continuous pain beginning early last season.He played through it valiantly enough to appear in 43 of the team’s 66 regular-season games and averaged a career-high 7.7 points along with 5.3 rebounds per game.
He also shot a personal-best .510 from the field, and he scored a career-high 22 points in a March 16 game against the Golden State Warriors.
“It hurt me a lot and affected my game,” Mbah a Moute said. “The plan was to just get rid of the pain and get back to playing at a high level. Now I’ve addressed that, which was the big thing going into the summer.”
Mbah a Moute didn’t waste any time beginning his rehab.
“I had the surgery on a Friday and was already at the rehab facility the following Monday,” he said. “I didn’t take any time off. I wanted to dedicate my whole summer to getting back, which I did, but my recovery period from this type of surgery took a little longer than some others. I was in Los Angeles rehabilitating at the Kerlan/Jobe facility.”
Mbah a Moute’s rehab took him on a roller-coaster ride.
“I had a number of days where I thought I had turned a corner, but then a couple days later, the knee felt bad again,” he said. “Everybody told me that’s what can happen after surgery. At point, you feel great; then a day or two later, not so great. The recovery process was up-and-down.
Mbah a Moute spent most of his summer in Los Angeles. He did return home to Cameroon, Africa, to visit his family, and received an encouraging prognosis after he returned to L.A.
“My doctor was happy with the way the knee was after I got back from Africa,” Mbah a Moute said. “He said everything looked good. I just had to develop some strength in the muscles around the knee.”
Mbah a Moute began doing stationary shooting in August before extending his court activity in October. He was hoping to be sufficiently recovered to participate in training camp, but that didn’t happen. He broke the news to the media the day before camp began.
“I feel good right now, but at the same time, I want to make sure my knee is good to go, just so I don’t create any other problems,” he said. “I’m confident that our training staff will get me back to where I’m supposed to be. I’m just following the course.
“Everything is going to be based on how I do in the rehab and how I react to what I do workout-wise.”
Mbah a Moute patiently followed the plan throughout October and November.
“I’m definitely not where I’d like to be, but the best thing is to get on the court and let the knee get stronger,” he said. “I’ve been doing stuff on a daily basis, but I haven’t had a lot of practice. The way the NBA schedule is, there’s not a lot of practice time. They’ve tried to fit me in and do a lot of two-on-two and three-and-three stuff with me.”
As Mbah a Moute bided his time, Bucks General Manager John Hammond expressed hope.
“We expect that when Luc does return, he’ll return at 100 percent and help this team win games,” Hammond said.
Mbah a Moute didn’t proclaim himself 100-percent on the night of Dec. 1, but his spirits had to be off the charts after he fulfilled the second part of his GM’s expectations.