OAKLAND – He is wearing a walking boot on the left foot, so there is still that. But at least Joe Alexander is wearing it in the NBA.
That being injured and unable to play in the first three Warriors exhibition games is progress is all the statement anyone needs on where he has been. The NBA Development League, with the Texas Legends and in Russia two seasons ago. Worst of all, nowhere in 2012-13 while recovering from the stress fracture in the left leg that has followed him to Golden State and will sideline him at least two more contests, against the Lakers in China.
Some players try for career comebacks and some go for comebacks from injury, and Aexander is doing both at once. The No. 8 pick by the Bucks in 2008 out of West Virginia has not played in the NBA since eight games with the Bulls in 2009-10 and has not been on a regular-season roster since being waived by New Orleans on Nov. 13, 2010. He was in mini-camp with the Hawks in 2011, saw the D-League, saw the world, and sat.
“I don’t think within the NBA people forgot,” Alexander said. “My name is still out there. Maybe people are definitely waiting to see what’s going to happen. I don’t feel like I’ve been forgotten.”
The climb back – or the same climb that didn’t go far the first time – would be difficult here with good health. While he feels the Warriors are an ideal fit because his athleticism goes with their fast-lane style, there are limited roster opportunities at any position and especially at small forward. They already had Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green coming back off encouraging rookie seasons and then signed Andre Igoudala as one of the headline acquisitions by any team during the summer. Golden State is three-deep with players who are playoff tested, mature and smart.
Alexander, on the other hand, is still all about what could be. In some ways, it’s 2008.
In other ways, it’s anything but.
“I’ve grown, just like anyone does in their 20s, but especially with the basketball,” he said. “I’ve been exposed to European ball and different teams, coaches, situations. I’ve really learned the game, whereas out of college, I had no idea what I was doing.
“I feel like things are different this time around. There’s not the hype surrounding my college performances. It’s just totally different. You can come in with a more-developed game and people can still be less excited about you. It’s an interesting situation.”
Is it good or bad that hype no longer accompanies his every move?
“It could end up being good,” Alexander said. “In some ways, it kind of helps you relax and maybe play better.”
He said he thinks every day about the missed opportunity with the Bucks, about how he relied on the physical advantages as an elite athlete of his draft class and never had the feel for the game he does now at 26. Now, he is hoping for a new chance with the NBA, starting with the chance to get healthy.