On August 4th 2015, Dante Exum hit the floor in writhing pain.
He was scared because he knew he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
In that very moment, thoughts of doubt, if he would ever be the same again, started to creep in.
Exum explains his experience to the Salt Lake Tribune.
There were plenty of times where I wondered, why me?. I wondered if I would be the guy I was before the injury. I was supposed to go home to Australia the next day, and I hadn’t been home in a year. I wondered, what’s going to happen with the Jazz? That was the pain I was going through
Physically he was in pain, but mentally he was in even more pain, and a state of confusion.
The good news is, Exum will be able to answer his own questions to satisfaction. After spending 14 months rehabbing his knee, he says it feels much better. Not only that he also says he has gained his explosion and speed back as well as his leaping ability.
He wasn’t allowed by the Jazz to participate in the Rio Olympics so the team could monitor his progress all summer, and it has paid off according to General Manager Dennis Lindsey
We could’ve pushed the envelope and tried to have him ready by March, or somewhere in that time frame. We had to tell him ‘no rush.’ Clearly the goal was to try to get him back. But what we wanted to do was honor the next 12 years over the next 12 months. That’s what we tried to communicate to Dante
There were definitely times of frustration, especially because Exum was limited on physical activities instead of his usual regimen. After a long year of grinding, working on his skills, and daunting rehab, Exum has a renewed sense of pride in his job.
It’s not that I took the game for granted before. But now that I finally have that privilege again, I think once you sit out all 82, you just build that fire every day. I think I have a greater respect in taking care of my body and trying to be good every night.
Exum practiced and improved. He played one-on-one, two-on-two, and three-on-three until his knee got stronger and he found himself up to speed. The golden moment for him was during a sequence where he crossed over, cut and drove to the lane, and scored from a jump stop.
That made Exum smile because not only did he do it with no pain, but he had just conquered the same type of move that made him tear his ACL. Now, he knows for himself that he is ready.
I was like, ‘Man, I did it. Once I did that, I was like, ‘I’m good. I’m ready to take the next step