May 25, 2024

Celtics’ Kristaps Porziņģis making progress from calf strain, no timetable for return

BOSTON — Kristaps Porziņģis said Saturday he is slowly making progress from his right soleus (calf) strain suffered in Game 4 of the Boston Celtics’ first-round series against the Miami Heat but does not have a timetable for return yet.

“There’s no specific date obviously. It’s still pretty early,” Porziņģis said. “I think it will be clear once I start doing more stuff. … Not super close yet. But expecting to recover at a historic rate.”

Porziņģis said he hopes to return as soon as he feels better, but that may be a while.

“It’s something; it’s not nothing. So it will take a little bit of time, for sure,” he said. “But I’m doing everything I can to speed it up because I want to be back out there as soon as possible. But, understanding like, the worst thing would be like probably to re-aggravate that. So being smart.”

Dr. Daniel Kharrazi, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, said a Grade 1 soleus strain typically takes one to two weeks of recovery, a Grade 2 takes two to three weeks, and a Grade 3, which is a complete tear of the muscle, takes four to six weeks.

“From what I understand, Porziņģis’ injury is a grade 2 and the recovery I would be hoping is somewhere in the two- to three-week mark,” Kharrazi said. “A lot of reports said it’s similar to what Giannis Antetokounmpo had and I understand Giannis had a Grade 2.”

Porziņģis said he is being aggressive with his rehab and taking things day by day, then quickly corrected himself to say week by week. He suffered the injury on April 29, so just over a week will have passed when the second round begins. He said the injury was a product of several events in a short period.

“I was going for a rebound and I stepped on Tyler Herro and rolled my ankle. Came back, maybe started to compensate with the other side a little bit too much or something, I don’t know,” Porziņģis said. “As soon as I pushed off, I felt something.”

“I don’t think it’s coincidental,” Kharrazi said. “Some of the gluteal and ankle issues may have caused him to be running off-balance and not protecting the muscle. That alteration in mechanics can predispose you to something like this.”

Whenever someone pulls up lame with a calf strain, the immediate concern is whether it’s an Achilles injury, which often requires surgery and a significant recovery period.

“You saw my reaction on the court. Then once we got the diagnosis, I calmed down,” Porziņģis said. “It looks like it’s not as bad as I initially thought. Yeah, it is what it is. Nobody wants to get hurt. But at least it’s like not as bad as it could’ve been.”

According to Kharrazi, an injury to the soleus may seem alarming at first but typically has a straightforward rehab process.

“Calf strains are typically gastroc strains, which is (the muscle) on the outside portion of the leg. Ninety percent of the time when the leg is injured with a calf strain, it’s a gastroc medial head injury,” Kharrazi said. “The soleus muscle is much deeper than the gastroc. But the good news is the soleus is very vascular, it has a good blood supply. With the deeper strains, though it can be a little bit more force causing that injury, the recovery is not extremely protracted. So usually 2-to-3 weeks should be the timeline.”

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a soleus strain against the Celtics on April 9, missed three weeks and was listed as doubtful to make his playoff debut when the Milwaukee Bucks’ season ended in Game 6 on Thursday. He told reporters Friday that he was still weeks away from returning.

“The day of Game 4 in Indiana, that was the first time I was able to jog on my body weight since April 9,” Antetokounmpo said, per The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. “So, I think I tried my best to come back to help my teammates. It’s kind of hard to see them being out there and not being able to help them. But I just couldn’t.”

Porziņģis said he has not started running yet. According to Kharrazi, an athlete recovering from a Grade 2 strain often needs at least one week before they can begin jogging.

“I’m not on the floor yet. But very soon I expect to start doing stuff,” he said. “Still in the weight room, still movement and slowly like building up. I would say each day it’s a lot of progress, still very fresh, but making progress and feel good.”

Porziņģis said after controlling the inflammation after the injury, he and the training staff have been focused on introducing some movement “without stressing it too much.”

“Every day is a pretty big jump each day, so I expect Monday to be pretty good and go from there,” he said.

This is not the first calf strain Porziņģis has suffered this season, as he strained his left calf against Orlando on November 24 and missed the next four games.

“This one is stronger. Worse, yeah,” he said. “I didn’t want to use that word, but just a little bit worse for sure. And yeah, just going to take a little bit longer. But keeping a positive mindset.”

Porziņģis missed 25 games during the regular season, in which the Celtics went 21-4. But this will likely be the first time he misses more than 10 days in a row, which is frustrating for him since it’s his first chance to play beyond the first round of the playoffs in his career.

“Tough, tough, tough. I’m not gonna lie, it’s tough,” Porziņģis said. “First few moments was really tough. It gets you down for a second. It is what it is. It’s part of the sport and these things happen.”

By the time the Celtics open the second round against either Cleveland or Orlando, Porziņģis will be more than a week into his injury. The Celtics will likely be without him at least early in the coming series and perhaps for the duration of the series. His absence will put a spotlight on Al Horford, who’s still playing at a high level at 37 years old. The Celtics outscored the Heat by 50 points over Horford’s 128 minutes during the first round and have not suffered much, if at all, over his spot starts this season. They had a 26-7 record with him in the first unit.

One potential problem: the Porziņģis injury will put more of a burden on Horford and potentially put serious miles on his veteran legs. It will be interesting to see how coach Joe Mazzulla approaches Horford’s playing time while Porziņģis is out.

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(Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)