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Kira Lewis Jr. tears ACL, but he and Pelicans already thinking about comeback

Scientific studies favor the point guard bouncing back in a big way!

Denver Nuggets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Kira Lewis’ 2021-22 season likely came to shattering conclusion after being forced to leave last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets with a knee injury, per a New Orleans Pelicans press release.

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that guard Kira Lewis Jr. will be out indefinitely after suffering a torn ACL and a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee. An MRI done last night at Ochsner Health confirmed the injury, which occurred during the second quarter of last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets. A date for surgery has not yet been determined.

Although the Pelicans announced early today that he’s out indefinitely, one should assume Lewis’ season is over. NBA players typically require nine to 12 months of intense rehabilitation before returning from a torn ACL.

The second-year point guard out from the University of Alabama suffered a rough start to this campaign and then sat out three consecutive games in mid-November, but his play showed substantial improvement since a return to the rotation. Lewis was honestly in the midst of enjoying the finest stretch of his young career and arguably was the Pelicans best performing guard over these last 14 games. (Per 36-minute data via NBA.com)

PPG/36 REB/36 AST/36 TOV/36 STL/36 TS% +/-
Kira Lewis Jr. 17.8 3.6 4.8 1.5 1.5 56.0% +2.5
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 16.6 4.5 3.8 1.8 1.0 46.8% -3.2
Devonte' Graham 13.4 2.4 3.8 1.6 1.2 50.0% -2.4
Josh Hart 11.8 7.3 5.6 2.1 1.4 55.1% -2.0
Garrett Temple 9.5 4.7 1.5 1.8 2.0 48.7% -10.4
Tomas Satoransky 7.1 5.5 4.3 1.7 0.3 45.3% -6.0

Many have noted the recent growth in Kira’s confidence as well, including Pelicans head coach Willie Green after Thursday’s practice.

“It’s hard,” Green said. “This is the hard part of sports is dealing with injuries like this. Kira, he means so much to our team. He was starting to come into his own — I think everyone can see that.

“To have a blow like he has now is tough, but having experienced it myself, he’s going to recover. He’s going to be fine. It’s just knowing what he has to go through, but the guys here will all rally around him and keep encouraging him as he goes through this process.”

Make no mistake, Lewis’ injury should be considered a setback, but it appears the entire New Orleans franchise is going to be fully supportive.

Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones told media yesterday that they immediately said a prayer after the injury. Josh Hart has taken to Twitter, voicing the utmost confidence in the 20-year-old. Most importantly though, Lewis is already thinking about a comeback, per his latest post on Instagram.

In addition to all the moral support, there’s plenty of scientific reasons for optimism that Lewis won’t skip a beat, per Dr. Michael S. George of Houston’s KSF Orthopaedic Center when discussing Kawhi Leonard’s ACL tear.

“ACL tears are common in NBA players. A study by Harris and colleagues in the journal Sports Health examined 58 NBA players who tore their ACL (and found) 86 percent of players returned to play in the NBA after surgery. In the study, over the next several years, injured players experienced a similar decline in performance as non-injured players.”

Dr. George did go on to say that guards struggle more with bouncing back than players at other positions, but an article by Stanford Medicine alleviates concern.

The more often a professional basketball player drives the ball toward the basket to score, the higher the risk of the dreaded knee injury known as an anterior cruciate ligament tear, according to a Stanford Medicine study.

While that may not be surprising to basketball fans whose favorite players have suffered the injury — including the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson in the 2019 National Basketball Association finals — the study also found that those who return to play after ACL reconstruction come back just as strong as their healthy counterparts.

“Our study showed that not only do players perform just as well as uninjured players of equal caliber after ACL reconstruction, but they also do this without having to reduce their driving,” said Blake Schultz, MD, an orthopaedic trauma fellow at the University of Texas who was a Stanford surgical resident at the time of the study.

Hearing story after and story about Lewis’ dedication to working on his craft this season, no one should doubt how eagerly Kira will attack the rehab process. With science favoring a complete bounce back, too, the only question is, when will we see Lewis resume the upward trajectory in his professional career?

One should like the chances of sooner rather than later.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcheror Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.