The effects of serious injuries on professional athletes are rippling. Weakness or surgery inevitably means time away from training, practice, and games that often lets related parts of the body atrophy. But when players begin rehabilitation or even return to the playing field, it’s easy to concentrate solely on the specific injury as opposed to connected areas that were also affected by trauma related to it or simply a period of rest to which they’re unaccustomed. Health maladies are rarely a one-off.
Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler knows that first-hand. After undergoing surgery to repair a labral tear of his left hip in April 2012 – a procedure that left him unable to stand for a month – and returning to the court for four games in the earlygoing of the 2012-2013 season, Chandler was subsequently sidelined with lingering pain until mid-January. And though he was able to finish the season and make an impact in the Nuggets’ playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors, issues cropped-up again just a few months later.
Left hamstring soreness kept Chandler from a full training camp and the first few games of the 2013-2014 season. And while he played a majority of Denver’s games in November and December, he was hardly 100 percent. That became obvious when he suffered a groin strain in January that originally kept him out of the lineup for two games. Ever the competitor, though, Chandler fought through his latest setback and returned to play a full slate until late March when it became obviously prudent for him to rest until the final three contests of last season.
Fed up with nagging consequences of hip surgery, Chandler took a new approach to offseason training this summer. He not only worked on strengthening his hip, but also his hamstrings, groin, and glutes. The results have been overwhelming: Chandler says he hasn’t felt so healthy in a long, long time.
The multi-faceted Chandler took time from his busy preseason schedule recently to talk with Dime, and touched on his successful rehab, the differences of playing under George Karl and Brian Shaw, and individual and team aspirations for 2014-2015. Considering his wildly improved health and obvious confidence, let’s just say we wouldn’t be surprised if the 27 year-old Chandler not only helps the Nuggets to the playoffs, but achieves his goal of winning Sixth Man of the Year, too.
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Dime: First off, how’s your health?
Wilson Chandler: My health is actually the best it’s been in years. So obviously I’m very thankful for that.
D: You’ve dealt with a lot of injuries to your left leg in your career: Ankle surgery in 2008; surgery for a labral tear in your hip in 2012; and then lingering hip, groin, and hamstring pain that’s caused you to miss time over the past couple of seasons. Has all of that been especially tough to overcome because it’s come in a concentrated area?
WC: Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where you get a major injury and people tend to focus on that one area [in rehabilitation]. But actually when you have an injury like that and you have surgery, you lose a lot of muscle mass and strength in a lot of other areas on that leg. So when I had the hip surgery I lost a lot of muscle mass and strength in the quads, the hamstring, and the glute. When I came back from rehab I focused more on the specific area I had surgery on instead of the other muscles around it. That’s one of the things I focused on this summer – really building up areas that support the hip.
D: As you began to feel so much better this summer, were there any specific aspects of your game that you worked on?
WC: Yeah. I worked on posting-up because in the offense we have we do a lot of post-ups for the 3-man, so I worked on that a lot. I never was a post-up guy in any other system, so I worked a bunch on post moves. I worked on ballhandling a lot, especially from the standpoint of coming off screens and stuff like that. Mostly ballhandling, my post-game, and really trying to sharpen up my shooting and stuff like that. So kind of everything.
D: You’ve always seemed extremely well-suited as a guy that can come in off the bench and operate as a second-unit’s primary scorer. On a team like the Nuggets that has so many options and really shares the ball, can it get frustrating not to get touches sometimes?
WC: Not really. When you got guys that are playing the right way, you know… Like you said, we’ve got a lot of guys. So sometimes we might have a couple guys that are hot, and if you understand the game of basketball that if a guy is feeling it you want to keep him rolling. And on our team, that guy can be any of us on any given night. If all those guys are playing the right way and sharing the ball, and taking shots when they’re hot, I’m fine with it.