Even if all the players pass their COVID-19 tests and are cleared to play by the time games start for real in just over two weeks, on July 31, there’s still one player sidelined indefinitely.
Kelly Oubre Jr. had meniscus surgery (right knee) this spring, just before the league shut down and everyone in Arizona was put on a stay-at-home order for six weeks. Non-essential medical offices were closed as well. He recovered on his own at home, without the in-person help of any medical or training professionals.
By late May, a report surfaced that Oubre still had not seen any doctors to get cleared for basketball work, and that he was skeptical he could return for the proposed Orlando bubble stint.
“I’m working out every morning and getting on the court as much as possible,” Oubre told local TV sports anchor Cameron Cox in May. “But I haven’t had a doctor tell me I’m cleared or anything, due to COVID-19. So I’m just patiently waiting.”
A week after that, Suns owner Robert Sarver said on local radio he fully expected Oubre to be with the team in Orlando, playing for their slim hopes to get a playoff spot (Suns have a 10,000:1 shot), which caused some concern online about the Suns lack of communication.
Two weeks after that, Oubre shared online that he couldn’t go with his teammates to Orlando to continue his rehab while cheering on the team, while the GM James Jones and coach Monty Williams expressed hope that Oubre could be cleared to play before the 8-game schedule concluded in mid-August.
So what’s the status now, a few days into the Bubble Camp 2020?
“Kelly’s doing fine. He’s rehabbing,” head coach Monty Williams said from Orlando on July 11. “He does a little bit of court work, but for the most part he’s on the side rehabbing and trying to get himself in... the type of game shape that he wants to be in.”
Amazing how, when you take out the need for extreme decision-making (“All in!” or “All out!) and allow for some breathing room, you can see the Suns and Oubre’s plan.
Oubre wants to play, but is clearly concerned about the health of a knee that was not professionally rehabbed. And while healthy, he may be dealing with some scar tissue to break up. Now he wants the best basketball-oriented rehab he can get.
Meanwhile, the Suns are doing just what they should do with a young, highly paid star: supporting him, rehabbing him, letting him decide when he’s ready to start practicing fully.
“He’s healthy, his body looks great, he’s got his bounce,” said Williams. “He’s running the floor with us, shooting the ball. Then he’ll move off to the side to get some work done with our training staff [while the team scrimmages].”
Sounds to me like Oubre is not reporting any pain. That he wants to feel 100% before going back out there, and that both sides want what’s best for Oubre.