Former No. 12 overall pick Gerald Henderson spoke with HoopsHype about his recovery from his hip surgery that sidelined him all season.
Henderson, 30, has played eight years in the NBA — most recently for the Philadelphia 76ers. He elected to surgically repair his hip and sit out this year rather after getting waived by Philadelphia.
The league veteran told us about how he has spent his time off and what he will be able to provide to his new team next season.
How are you keeping busy today?
Gerald Henderson: I stopped by the Sixers facility today and poked my head in there. They had an off-day today and I saw some of my old teammates and old coaches and stuff. I worked out a little bit on my own. Everyone is good, man. They’re having one hell of a year. They’re trying to get everybody back healthy and stay healthy before the playoffs. It’s been cool, it’s taken a while and they’ve had to change some things around and have some good luck. But things are shaping up for them.
How does the energy feel there compared to the energy last season?
GH: They have a lot of the same faces over there, I’d say it’s a little bit more upbeat just from winning. It does a lot. I think it’s definitely upbeat. I’ve known a lot of those guys over there for a long time because though they have some new faces, they have a lot of people that are still there from when I was a kid growing up in the Philadelphia area. I got to see them today, too. Didn’t say JJ Redick today but he’s my guy. He’s one of the reasons I went to Duke. I got to see him his whole career as I was being recruited there. I’ve always looked up to him. Without the hip injury, I’d probably still be with them in the second year of my contract. It was tough but health comes first with everything and in the long run, it was the best decision I’ve made.
Where are you with your recovery from the hip surgery that has kept you sidelined?
GH: I’m over seven months post operation and I feel great. I’m cleared to do all basketball activities. My hip is strong and I’ve got my bounce back. I’m slowly getting myself into shape. I’ve just been training and though I wanted to play this year, this has been a great time to get my body back in order. When you get a hip injury, it’s not just the hip that gets out of sorts. It’s all a chain, man. Something gets out of wack and you’re going to overuse other parts of your body. I was able to get back to work in the right way. It’s been a long recovery but I feel fresh and ready to ball. I’ve really tightened up my diet and I haven’t had to lose any weight because I kept that down eating more vegetables. I throw tons of veggies into my diet every day. That’s been a huge thing for me. I’ve had a really great support base helping me, I’ve been in Charlotte working at Architect Sports and they pushed me every day. The Duke training staff helped me this year and I’ve been keeping in touch with the Sixers about my recovery and they’ve been very helpful, too. My family has been a great resource top to bottom, too.
Were there thoughts of you trying to come back towards the end of this season on a shorter contract?
GH: I thought about it and some teams came calling. I can’t give you the names but my agent, Jim Tanner, has been talking to teams throughout the season. Some teams were talking about my availability for the rest of the year but I just wouldn’t be ready. I could throw myself out there and see what happens and my hip would be physically healthy. But I don’t know if my entire thing would have held up. I need reps and conditioning and taking a year off, you don’t just jump into shape. It’s a process. I gave myself time for next season instead.
What can you clarify about a hip injury and how it impacts you as a basketball player?
GH: You never realize how much you rely on both of them. Obviously, you need all parts, but your hips (and I’d include your glutes and all that stuff) are what drives you when you’re running and jumping. You don’t think about it when you’re healthy. But those are the things that move you. So when you have an injury, that’s all you think about. When I wake up in the morning, I’m foam rolling and stretching and doing strengthening stuff. If you have deficiencies in your hips, it may not show in your hips. It might show in your knee or your foot or your back. This ain’t my first hip surgery. I’ve been in tune with that stuff over my entire career. I had my first operation after my second operation.
I know that Isaiah Thomas struggled to finish at the rim. It seemed like that was a huge indicator of where he was at with his recovery.
GH: I watched him a lot when he came back and I know he’s in pain because if he wanted to stop and have surgery to be ready for next season. He relies a ton on his athleticism, his change of pace, his acceleration and he’s a little dude but he gets up near the rim. He probably could still do it but when makes you stop is the pain. I’ve been there. At one point in my career, I was relentless at attacking the basket. I always drove the ball pretty well. But it takes a lot to put your head down and blow by guys and continuously drive and get to the rim and receive contact and have to jump. When you are in pain from doing it, you’re going to shy away from it and that’s natural. It didn’t seem like he shied away from it. The pain can make you not focus on making the basket. I can’t say that’s what he experienced but I know from myself, it’s not the same as when you’re healthy.
I’m sure things have changed quite a bit from a recovery process since your dad played in a neck brace during a game.
GH: That picture is so funny, he told me the story. He broke his jaw the night before and it must have been his first or second year in the league. He was drafted by San Antonio and he got cut. He played in the Western League that they had back done. He won the championship and MVP and the Celtics picked him up. But they could cut you any day and he wasn’t a star player. So he knew he had to play because the mindset was if you can walk, you can play. So he went out there and played with it. It’s funny what would have happened if that was today. He’d be in concussion protocol and he would be sitting out for a month. That’s a cool picture, too, because with the neck brace he’s also got his gold chain, too.
What was the biggest difference in your life this year compared to last year?
GH: I’ve spent so long being on a team and being around that kind of basketball locker room and traveling schedule. You’re used to that kind of lifestyle and this year, for the first time, I didn’t have that. It was a different year for me. I’ve got kids now, I’m getting married in June. I got a little flash of what my life will be like after my career is over. I learned a lot of things about myself and it was really good to be able to spend time with the family, though, that’s for sure. When you’re playing, you miss out on a lot of things. That’s the job. You sacrifice a lot of time that would be spent with them. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina so I went down to Duke every few weeks and worked with their trainers and assistant coaches and they were working me out. Being in there with Coach K was very therapeutic for me. They opened their doors for me and I got that kind of team feel from them.
You also have the podcast with Tyler Hansborough. How did that end up happening?
GH: That was a lot of fun! I think we’ll only have one more episode but that was out of nowhere. We had a mutual friend that put us together and it’s been great. Tyler is an amazing co-host and really good guy. I would have never expected to do a show with him but he was a great college player and he’s got a great knowledge of the game. He loved his school so we were able to go back and forth and talk some junk to each other and just talk basketball and the two schools we both love.
What did you learn from being the other side of a media conversation?
GH: I also did some other stuff ACC Network on television for a couple Duke games. I covered some radio stuff, I did about four or five games sideline reporting. I wanted to keep myself busy but also that’s a potential career down the line. I wanted to give myself some reps in that. You learn quickly that on the other side when you’re analyzing the game or hosting a show, it’s a lot different. You have to really prepare yourself. You have to really know what you’re talking about and talk in a way that your listeners will understand you. You can’t just talk ball. The podcast is loose, you have to talk in a way that has visuals for your storytelling. You have to amplify yourself and really be detailed in a way you speak. I gained some real respect for people who did that every day and definitely know it’s something that’ll be challenging for me but I’d like to do it.
What else did you pick up during your recovery process from a basketball perspective?
GH: I’ve focused on my jump shot and tried to be a more consistent three-point shooter. It’s gotten better over the last three years but I can improve even more. I’ve done ballhandling since I got out of surgery while sitting down on a chair. That’s been really good. I’ve realized how much I love to play, man. I watched the game every night and I just look in the mirror and do moves like a little kid again.
What is the most appealing thing you can provide to your upcoming team in free agency?
GH: First, I’m willing to fill any role. I’ve always been a team guy. I think that I can help in a lot of different ways. But ideally, I’d be in a situation where they need a veteran presence and I can come in with the right attitude every day and set an example for the squad and the younger guys. I’m going to play hard every single night and I’m going to be able to shoot the basketball. I can defend, too. Overall, I can do the right things on the court and be a leader out there. I’ve scored the basketball my entire career. I think I can be better than I have over the past few years.