Milwaukee Bucks' Jabari Parker optimistic as he readies for challenge of recovery program

The Crutches Tour continued Thursday, with Bucks forward Jabari Parker talking with reporters in Milwaukee one day after Golden State’s Kevin Durant met with media reps out in Oakland.

Clearly there’s a bittersweet aspect to touching base with injured NBA stars. It’s always good to see them in relatively chipper moods, bucking up to the misfortunes that have sidelined them. But it’s also demoralizing to see them hobbled, unable to do what they do best and love most.

Parker’s predicament is more dire than Durant’s, of course. While the Warriors’ championship aspirations hang on Durant’s ability to recover from the Grade-2 sprain to his left knee and bruised tibia, the public has been assured that the Golden State forward’s long-term prospects are fine. The same can’t be said of Parker, who last month tore the same anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that first ruptured on him in December 2014.

Parker, who went down in a game against Miami Feb. 8 and had surgery six days later, has Bucks and NBA fans wondering if he can successfully return – twice – from the same severe injury.

The No. 2 pick overall in 2014 was a top contender for the league’s Most Improved Player Award, averaging 20.1 points and 6.1 rebounds while upping his 3-point accuracy to 36.5 percent. His numbers through his first 101 games: 13.6, 5.3 and 25.5 percent. Parker’s biggest hurdle in MIP balloting figures to be the 51 games he was limited to playing before his re-injury.

The 6-foot-8 forward, who turns 22 next Wednesday, did come back after his first surgery in better shape, with explosiveness at least as good as before. Based on his attitude, at least, that is his plan again. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was among the gaggle who met with Parker after the Bucks practice Thursday:

“It’s going to be fun, to tell you the truth,” Parker said of his recovery program. “I love challenges. I love being in the position I am. I didn’t really feel like talking, but I feel like God has given me this for a reason, because He knows I can handle it.

“So I take that burden, because I know a lot of people can’t go through this.”

Parker said he believes he can surpass the form he showed this season.

“I don’t want to be the same player,” Parker said. “I wouldn’t be myself if I don’t challenge myself to do better things, bigger things.

“I know I can be better.”

Parker is still on crutches and not walking on his own, but he said he anticipates working again with Suki Hobson, the Bucks’ head strength and rehab specialist.

In the first rehab program, Hobson and Parker climbed mountains in Peru. He said they will find a comparable challenge this time.

“Something extreme, towards that realm,” Parker said. “Hiking up those mountains was a challenge. We’re going to do something like that, have fun.”

Parker said he hopes to be able to play 40 or 50 games next season, if possible. The Bucks established a timetable with a 12-month recovery but it’s far too early to tell when he will actually return.