Published 8: 20 PM EST Feb 24, 2020
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers coaches, front office staff, medical personnel and players will be ready to support an injured Jeremy Lamb, but it doesn’t make the loss of the swing man for the rest of the 2019-20 season any easier.
The team announced Monday that Lamb suffered a torn ACL, torn MCL and a lateral femoral condylar fracture in Sunday’s blowout road loss to Toronto. Early in the second quarter of the 127-81 defeat, Lamb came down awkwardly on his left leg after a foul from the Raptors’ Terence Davis on a transition dunk.
Lamb signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with Indiana during the summer.
The former lottery pick managed to stay in the game and knocked down both free throws for a Pacers squad down 20 points 14 minutes into the action. Then he was helped off the court and couldn’t walk under his own power after the game.
The made free throws — as well as Lamb driving home alone after the team plane landed —earned even more respect from his teammates, who were told the news before the start of Monday’s practice. Now, that respect will have to turn to emotional support for a teammate who was settling back into being a role player off the bench with Victor Oladipo’s return.
“It’s definitely tough to see a guy that means so much to our team and plays such a big role go out like that,” said starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon. “He’s just a good guy. You always wanted him to do well. Great teammate, great player who was just getting into his rhythm and playing good ball.
“He’s going to come back stronger. He’s a hard worker and mentally tough. I have no doubt he’ll be back.”
When that return might come, though, is far from being determined. The Pacers said the date of Lamb’s surgery has not been set, and updates about any sort of time frame for his recovery won’t come until after that. Lamb’s leg fracture appears to be rare among athletes, and ACL injuries alone can often keep a player off the court for a year or more. When it comes to injured knees, it’s tough to project a specific timeline for rehab from the outset.
Lamb is in good company with new teammate Victor Oladipo, who less than a month ago returned to the floor after just over a year of vigorous rehab following his ruptured quad tendon Jan. 23, 2019.
“We go through life, and when tough things happen, we say ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through’, but I know exactly what he’s going through,” Oladipo said after Monday’s practice. “I know his head is kinda all over the place. He’s just gotta embrace the process and trust it. He’ll come back just fine.
“Everything happens for a reason, and that’s something he’ll learn about himself going through this process. He’s got to open his ears and quiet his mind, quiet his heart, quiet his mouth and listen, ‘cause there’s a lot to learn through this process. Trust me.”
The injury officially ends the prospect of the Pacers ever trotting out a full-strength lineup this season, with Oladipo still trying to round into form and now day-to-day with back spasms he suffered late in game against the Knicks, the team’s first game back since the All-Star break. Indiana was just 2-6 since the return of their starting shooting guard before the break – including wins against a Giannis Antetokounmpo-less Bucks squad and in overtime against the Bulls.
Sunday, they suffered what tied for the second-worst loss in franchise history (46 points) and must turn things around quickly as they are the No. 6 seed in the East and 3.5 games out of hosting a playoff series with 25 games to go. Their next four games all come against teams outside of the current playoff picture, a stretch they must capitalize on before a five-game stretch that includes Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas.
Lamb’s injury “is tough to deal with, but you have to find a way to gather ‘round each other and pick up the slack,” Oladipo said. “Honestly, it’s next man up. Guys gotta be ready to play now, and we’ve gotta figure it out. Plain and simple. Figure it out. If we want to win, we’ve got to figure it out. It’s a part of life. Unfortunately, things happen. You lose games, and people get injured, but it’s about character. About how you bounce back, about how you persevere. That’s what people judge you by.”