Storyline: Isaiah Canaan Injury

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Suns interim coach Jay Triano was in the Talking Stick Resort Arena parking lot a couple of weeks ago when he saw something he didn’t believe. There was point guard Isaiah Canaan, six weeks removed from a gruesome injury in which he dislocated his left ankle, walking toward the arena. “I didn’t recognize who it was,” Triano said. “Because it can’t be you, it can’t be you walking like that already. He was going slow but it was a natural gait, a natural walk and I was like, ‘This is crazy how fast he’s recovered.’

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In reality, Canaan hasn’t recovered from the injury that ended his season. He left the court on a stretcher that night, Jan. 31, but he’s further along than might seem possible given how bad the injury looked. He’s ditched the crutches and ankle boot – although he still wears a brace for rehabilitation exercises – and said he hopes to be “100 percent, (or) if not, close to it,” by training camp in September. “I’m at home sitting around and thinking, ‘Wow, just two months ago I had two right feet and now I’m walking around doing strength training,’ ” Canaan said. “Obviously all the strength is not there yet but I’m feeling fine.”

The calmest person in the arena, oddly, was Canaan. He didn’t scream in pain or even make a sound as Dr. Tom Carter, the Suns’ head team physician, rotated his foot in order to put the ankle back in place. “I guess when something traumatic happens to your body it automatically goes into shock at the time so I didn’t really feel the pain,” Canaan said. “I just sat there looking at it. I was more mad I couldn’t play than I was worried about the injury. Things were going well and then that’s all done because I broke my ankle.”

The next day Canaan got a call from Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward. In the first half of the Celtics’ season opener, Hayward gruesomely dislocated his ankle, ending his season. The two players have the same agent, and Hayward called to ask how Canaan was doing. Since then, they have kept in constant contact, checking up on each other’s rehabilitation. They play the video game Fortnite together and recently have engaged in competition to see who can pick up the most marbles. Canaan said part of the rehabilitation process is strengthening the muscles in the damaged toes and foot, and one way to do that is picking marbles up with the foot and dumping them in a bucket in a predetermined amount of time. “He told me I need to beat his score,” Canaan said. “His was like 18 or 19 out of 25 without missing. It’s a little like shooting, but with marbles and your feet.”

Canaan, who was signed on Dec. 13, had been a solid pickup for Phoenix, averaging 8.9 points, 3.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game. He had supplanted Tyler Ulis as the backup to Booker since Booker was made the starting point guard. “It hurts, man,” Booker said. “Isaiah is a guy I’ve known from high school. He’s from Mississippi, also. He comes in here, fights every day, comes in here and earns a spot. To take a tough break like this, it hurts. It hurt me.”
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June 23, 2018 | 4:44 pm EDT Update
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OS: You went out to San Jose to see Aaron Gordon. You could’ve just called him up on the phone. Why go out there? And how did that go? Steve Clifford: It was very good for me because I got to see him work out. When I first got here the first day, the three of us sat down — Jeff, John and I — and they gave me a good evaluation on all the players, where they’re at. So it was a great starting point for me. And they had told me what a great worker Aaron was. So when I went out there I watched him work out in the weight room and then also on the floor. And then we had a good chance to talk, too. So it was good. Obviously, there’s a big difference between talking to someone on the phone and meeting them face-to-face. In order to build the right type of player-coach relationship, which is so critical in this league, I just feel like the face-to-face part is much more beneficial.
Royce White: Here is a snapshot of my journey. In 2012 I was drafted by the Houston Rockets. I came into the NBA with COMPLETE DISCLOSURE of my pre-existing diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Despite the editorial intro that has so commonly been the synopsis of my story, my inability to manage anxiety WAS NOT the cause of my “career derailment.” My choice to live transparently, collaboratively and safely was. As my first season in the NBA approached, Houston and I began to discuss how to foster a supportive environment.
Royce White: My motivation was to connect some dots on the psychological psuedo-science I was presented with in my pre-draft process. During the discussions with Houston, my management team and I were shocked to discover there were NO FORMAL MENTAL HEALTH POLICIES. In response, I attempted to formalize a written agreement that would modify existing policies to encompass mental health. The proposal we suggested included ALL TEAM PERSONNEL, not just PLAYERS. That proposal was tacitly denied. It was during this time that birth was given to a narrative behind the scenes that I was simply ”AWOL” and non-compliant. This was mostly the work of Daryl Morey and maybe others that I am not aware of. That narrative was untrue and drove me to Twitter and other media outlets to exonerate myself.
Storyline: Rockets Front Office
Royce White: This season the world saw three very good NBA players (Kevin Love, Demar Derozan & Kelly Oubre) make global headlines. These men BRAVELY disclosed their own mental health struggles with the public. However, they were not the first and MORE IMPORTANTLY they won’t be the last. Recent studies have shown that athletes may be even more predisposed to mental health struggles than other citizens. …. The most notable case of a completely PROACTIVE approach in the NBA may certainly be my own. Sadly when I challenged policy and advocated for my own health, people within my own support system feared the peripheral effects of my public castigation. They worried many players wouldn’t discuss their plights going forward due to the condemnation that was crystallizing around my story. Although I didn’t want to believe it, they were somewhat right. Over the past 5-6 years I’ve been contacted by hundreds of players that have expressed many of their various mental health afflictions. Unfortunately many of them have also expressed an apprehension to share those afflictions with their team or the public.