Friday was for worrying and wondering, absorbing the gloom surrounding the injury to one of the most popular team members.
Saturday, however, was for relief and reassurance, feeling grateful it wasn’t far more severe and didn’t happen during the regular season.
Glenn Robinson III wore a boot on his left ankle and sat with his leg propped on a chair while the Pacers practiced Saturday morning at St. Vincent Center, but found optimism in the medical staff’s diagnosis. He’s scheduled to miss the next eight weeks while recovering from the sprain suffered in Friday’s practice, but hopes to return earlier than that.
He’s also thrilled not to have suffered a fracture, break or ligament tear that would keep him out much longer.
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Robinson, the Pacers’ backup small forward behind Bojan Bogdanovic, took a hard fall late in Friday’s practice after pump-faking, driving the right baseline, drawing contact in the air and falling awkwardly on his left leg.
“The way I fell, my knee buckled, my ankle was under my knee, it was all messed up,” he said following Saturday’s practice.
“I’m blessed. Taking that impact, I don’t know of too many people who would have come out like this. I didn’t see it. I don’t want to see it. But the way I remember falling, it was weird. Definitely glad it’s just the ankle.”
Robinson said he received a call or text from each of his teammates and coaches last night, as well as from other NBA players such as Dwyane Wade and former Pacers teammate Jeff Teague. The current Pacers made a point of including him in their practice-closing huddle on Saturday, moving from the usual midcourt location to him so that he could participate.
“We’re not forgetting that guy; no way,” coach Nate McMillan said.
“That’s what we’re about. This group has shown that personality, to be close and to talk and to support.”
The game minutes that would have gone to Robinson likely will be spread among a few players. T.J. Leaf, the Pacers’ first-round draft pick, ran with the second unit for much of Saturday’s practice, moving from power forward to small forward. That adjustment will require even more on-the-job-training for the 20-year-old rookie.
“I’m more comfortable as a four, but once I learn the offense I’ll play whatever position coach puts me at,” Leaf said.
“I’ve been progressing. At the beginning it was learning the plays, learning the speed. I’ve gotten more comfortable.”
“T.J. looks great, man,” Myles Turner said. “The first day he came out real strong, had all the energy, all the adrenaline. The second day was a little fast for him as we started going up and down a little more, but that’s how it is for any rookie. My first couple of practices were the same way. But he’s adjusted better than anybody I’ve seen. He’s out there doing his role, he’s competing, he’s working hard, he’s getting where he fits in, he’s moving the ball well … he looks good.”
McMillan said Lance Stephenson, who can back up both guard positions and small forward, also could get minutes in Robinson’s place. Robinson’s injury also could enhance the odds of veteran free agent Damien Wilkins earning a roster spot.
“This is what we were looking to bring him on board for – an emergency,” McMillan said. “He’s a veteran who can provide leadership in the locker room, but if we need him to play a few minutes in a few games he should be able to do that. We’ll certainly take a look at him.”
The Pacers hope those are merely temporary, stop-gap measures, however.
Robinson showed steady improvement last season, averaging 6.1 points while starting 27 of the 69 games in which he played. He averaged 7.9 points as a starter, and achieved national exposure for winning the NBA Slam Dunk contest over All-Star Weekend.
He missed the final 11 regular season games and first playoff game against Cleveland while recovering from a strained left calf, but came back to play the rest of the series. He hit all six field goal attempts over the final three games, including two 3-pointers, and did not commit a turnover in 31 total minutes.
This season figured to be his best opportunity yet to secure a long-term future in the NBA, after bouncing between three teams as a rookie and the following summer three years ago. He’ll ice and elevate his left foot as often as possible in the next few days, stay focused on the positives of the timing and relatively minor nature of his injury, and eventually get back to work.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot in the league. If anybody can get through this, I can.”
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