The Newest Masked Man

Villanueva tweets, "it's going to be a good look"


Charlie Villanueva might be able to play Wednesday night at Chicago, thanks to the same type of protective mask popularized by teammate Rip Hamilton.

The Pistons forward underwent surgery Monday to reset his broken nose, which happened late in Sunday’s win over Atlanta. Bleeding profusely after smashing into Ben Wallace’s hip, Villanueva managed to stay in the game long enough to shoot two free throws before leaving the court. The bleeding continued for another half an hour.

“Once I saw the blood, I knew something was wrong. But it didn’t feel like it was broken or nothing like that,” Villanueva said Tuesday. “Once it stopped bleeding, it took about 30 minutes after the game for it to calm down a little bit to take X-rays. And then we were able to tell it was broken.”

Jeremy Murray, the orthotist who has made Hamilton’s masks since 2004, made a plaster mold of Villanueva’s face following the surgery. On Tuesday, Villanueva went to Murray’s office at the Michigan Hand and Sports Rehab Centers in Warren to get the mask refined from a rough plastic shell into a smooth, custom-fitted mask.

In between fittings – when Murray would ask Villanueva if he felt any discomfort or obstructed vision, then return to his workshop to make adjustments – Villanueva commented on the experience with Pistons.com and on his Twitter account, @CV31.

“Getting my mask fitted,” he tweeted, “I think it’s going to be a good look.”

Villanueva’s apprehension was palpable the first time he tried on the mask, which was larger than it needed to be so Murray could take proper measurements to reduce the mask’s contour. Villanueva looked relieved when he later tried on the trimmed-down version.

“It felt a little bit different, a little weird, but hopefully it does a great job where I don’t actually feel it,” he said. … I don’t want to have a broken nose again, so playing with this mask if very important and hopefully I’ll play with it and nothing happens.”

Villanueva was at practice before going to Murray's office, and spoke with Hamilton about what to expect wearing the mask.

“He said I’ll get used to it,” Villanueva said. “It’s just going to take some time.”

Since breaking his nose for a third time in 2004, Hamilton has worn the mask in every game he's played. He'll wear it until he retires to avoid the serious medical conditions that could arise from a fourth break.

Villanueva, however, shouldn’t need the mask once his nose fully heals in a few weeks. But would he consider wearing it anyway?

“I don’t know,” he said, “Maybe it’ll be a UCONN thing.”

Be careful, Ben Gordon. Be very careful.

Get more of the interview with Eli Zaret during Wednesday’s game broadcast on FS Detroit, Pistons Weekly on Channel 4 (Sunday, Midnight). You can also see exclusive video and photos from Villanueva’s mask-fitting on Pistons.com, Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, including how to order an orthosis, visit www.customfacemasks.com.