Commentary

On comeback trail, wary Claxton hopes his knee holds up

Originally Published: July 22, 2008
By Tim Buckley | Special to ESPN.com

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah -- Speedy Claxton's recovery from torn cartilage in his left knee has been anything but easy.

After initial arthroscopic surgery didn't do the trick, microfracture surgery -- a procedure that saves some careers, but not all -- was recommended. But Claxton opted instead for a second scope, and the Atlanta Hawks point guard wound up missing all of the 2007-08 NBA season.

[+] EnlargeSpeedy Claxton
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty ImagesHawks guard Speedy Claxton is testing his knee in Utah.

And now, his career is at a crossroads.

He has two years and more than $11 million remaining on what was originally a four-year, $25 million deal he struck with the Hawks.

Yet Claxton is so uncertain about how his knee will respond, he's voluntarily playing for Atlanta's entry in the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league -- wondering the whole time if this marks a new start, or the beginning of the end.

"It's feeling pretty good,'' Claxton said after scoring four points and dishing four assists while logging 17 minutes in Atlanta's 74-70 victory Monday over the NBA Development League's Ambassadors all-star team -- his third straight summer league game playing about that many minutes, and sans trouble. "I'm confident in it.

"Right now it's a full go. But if it fails, then I'm done,'' added the 30-year-old Claxton, whose career also has included stops with Philadelphia, San Antonio (where he won a ring as a reserve playing behind Tony Parker in 2003), Golden State and New Orleans. "It's definitely tough. I feel like I've still got a lot of basketball left in me. So we'll see how it goes.''

Hawks summer coach Larry Drew, however, suggests the summer is not an all-or-none proposition.

"It's not that black and white,'' Drew said.

"When you sit out like that, it takes some time to get your rhythm back, to get your timing back. He needed to get a situation where he's banging again, and this is ideal for it. So we just want him to make it through this injury-free, and then we'll bring him back to veteran's camp.

"Thus far, things have gone well,'' the Hawks assistant added. "We were really concerned about whether he'll be able to make it through the two-a-days [prior to the Revue], and he did that with flying colors. No discomfort in his knee whatsoever.''

In Atlanta, the Hawks have veteran Mike Bibby starting and Acie Law IV -- who had 10 points and three assists in 23 minutes Monday -- as backup.

Claxton, though, is concerned much less about depth charts and much more about overcoming that sinking feeling of injury -- something that's plagued him throughout his career, costing him 307 games and two entire seasons, including his entire rookie season out of Hofstra in 2000, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in that same left knee during a preseason game against the Utah Jazz.

"It's coming back slowly,'' he said after playing the Revue game without a brace on the troublesome joint. "I'm a lot more explosive than a lot of people thought I would be at this time of the year. So, it's coming.''

It is, though Claxton just wishes it would hurry up and get there.

Who's hot

Gerald Green, the 2005 Boston Celtics first-round draft choice signed earlier this summer by Dallas, had a game-high 27 points and shot 8-of-15 from the field as the Mavs beat San Antonio 84-77 in Monday's first Revue game. Green also has five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. He has had led Dallas in all three of its Revue outings, averaging 20.7 points per game.

George Hill, San Antonio's first-round draft choice this year, led the Spurs with 18 points Monday. The former IUPUI point guard is averaging 15 points in three Revue games, tops among the Spurs.

Undrafted George Tech guard Anthony Morrow had 23 points and shot 10-of-18 from the field as Golden State won its Revue opener over New Jersey 108-84. Free agent Julius Hodge, who has played briefly in the NBA for Denver and Milwaukee, led the Nets in their first Revue game with 20 points.

Who's not

Undrafted Utah State product Jaycee Carroll started and played 19 minutes for the Nets, but had just two points on 1-of-7 field shooting. Carroll did, however, average 13.6 points in five games for New Jersey at the recent Orlando Pro Summer League. He also averaged 5.8 points and shot 45 percent from the field in four games for Toronto at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Notes

The Utah Jazz's Revue team lost shooting guard Russell Carter to an injured left knee sustained during a collision with a teammate in Saturday's loss to Atlanta.

An MRI exam revealed Carter has a grade-2 medial collateral ligament sprain, which is expected to heal in 6-to-12 weeks. No surgery is required, a Jazz spokesman said.

Undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2007, Carter played part of last season in Italy and finished last season with Tulsa of the D-League.

The Jazz also beat the Iranian Olympic Team 82-57 on Monday night without free agent Britton Johnsen. The former Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers forward was out with a badly bruised left thigh.

Jazz Revue point Kevin Kruger -- starting point guard last season for the NBA Development League's Utah Flash -- exited early against the Iranians due to a sprained left ankle.

•  Point guard Brian Chase is not with Atlanta's Revue team after learning his brother died due to a gunshot wound, a Hawks team official said. No other details were available. The Virginia Tech product spent part of one season with Utah, but never did play in a regular-season game. Chase himself has a bullet lodged in his thigh, the result of an incident when he was growing up in Washington, D.C.

•  Lithuanian Renaldas Seibutis, a second-round draft choice in 2007, was among those dropped from Dallas' summer roster after the Mavs made the move to the Revue from the Vegas summer league. He's expected to return to Greek League power Olympiakos next season. Others dropped include free agent forward Pape Sow, who played 76 games over three seasons for the Toronto Raptors. Sow averaged 6.4 points over five games in Vegas. Added to Dallas' Revue was 6-foot-11 center Darryl Watkins, an undrafted Syracuse product who played nine games last season for Sacramento.

•  Golden State roster-regular Marco Belinelli, a first-round draft choice from Italy in 2007, also did not make the move from Las Vegas to the Revue. The Warriors reportedly made a late decision to play in Utah, and by the time they did Belinelli had another commitment. The still-developing guard kept plenty busy in Vegas, though, averaging 17.8 points over five games.

•  As expected, the Flash -- affiliated with both the Jazz and the Celtics -- announced Monday that they will host the fifth annual NBA D-League Showcase at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. The four-day event will run from Jan. 5-8.

•  The Jazz are expected to wait until an end-of-the-week deadline before revealing whether or not they will match Oklahoma City's four-year, $15 million offer sheet signed last Friday by restricted free agent swingman C.J. Miles.

•  In the crowd for Atlanta's Revue game Monday was ex-Hawk and retired NBA great Lou Hudson. The longtime Park City, Utah, resident remains in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke in 2005.

Tim Buckley covers the Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.