By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com
Many of the NBA’s biggest names finished last season saddled with injuries, unable to help their teams make a playoff push. They’ve spent the offseason focused on a quick return to the court, so they don’t have to watch any more games in a suit.
Here are updates on seven players’ fight to return to the hardwood:
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ superstar spent his summer traveling the world, recruiting Dwight Howard and attempting to recover from a nasty Achilles tendon rupture which halted another stellar season. The initial recovery timetable for his injury was set at 6-9 months. It seems Bryant is on track for the short end of that timetable as recent reports (albeit from Bryant himself) say he will be ready for the start of the regular season in late October. His availability for the preseason appears to be unlikely, though. Bryant mentioned earlier this summer that his surgical procedure was “different […] and because of that the recovery has been different.” At some point we just have to stop being surprised by the incredible things the 35-year-old Bryant can do.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
It has been nearly 18 months since the former MVP tore his left ACL during a first-round playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Disappointment surrounded his inability to return during the 2013 playoffs caused many fans (and Bradley Beal) to question his mental toughness. Whatever, Rose is on the court again and he now says he’s “100 percent” after this offseason and feels comfortable doing all of his usual tricks. The wait for his explosive return appears to be almost over. Rose should be ready for Bulls’ training camp, which begins Sept. 30.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rondo will return to a completely different Celtics team whenever he recovers from a right ACL tear suffered in January. The latest update reports Rondo still has no recovery timetable and he may not be ready for the start of the regular season. This would be a disappointment for Boston fans. Outside of Rondo, the Celtics do not have much top-level talent. But the Celtics still will be an interesting team to watch under the direction of new coach Brad Stevens. It would not be a surprise if Rondo is traded to a contender once he is able to prove he is fully recovered.
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Brazilian big man was having the best season of his NBA career before it was cut short by a potentially dangerous blood clot in his leg. Fortunately for Varejao, he fully recovered and was recently cleared for all basketball activities. The Cavaliers’ success this season will be determined by the health of Varejao and his new frontcourt partner, Andrew Bynum. The Cavs may find themselves back in the playoffs if these two and All-Star Kyrie Irving can stay off the injured list.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus after a nasty and unfortunate collision during the playoffs which ruptured the Thunder’s title hopes. His recovery from surgery appears to be going well and teammate Kevin Durant recently said he expects Westbrook to be back for the start of the regular season. That noise you hear is everyone in Oklahoma City screaming with excitement.
Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns
The sharp-shooting forward suffered an incredible scare nearly a year ago when a preseason physical revealed he had an enlarged heart. Frye missed the entire 2012-13 regular season but recently said he has been cleared to play this year. He will return to a completely revamped Suns roster in the beginning of a massive rebuild, so his veteran leadership will be a welcomed addition. He could also be a valuable commodity to contending teams around the trade deadline in February.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
The emergence of Paul George may have made many forget how dominant Granger has been. The former All-Star, who averaged 25.8 points a game in 2008-09 in grabbing the league Most Improved Player award, attempted to return from lingering patellar tendinosis last season but was quickly back in a suit after his knees did not improve. Indiana head coach Frank Vogel recently said Granger is “on schedule to return” and seemed optimistic the 30-year-old forward will be at full health. His addition to the Pacers would make them an even tougher matchup for the Heat.