Golden State Warriors: A Closer Look at Damian Jones’ Injury

Mar 14, 2016; Dayton, OH, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores center Damian Jones (30) looks on during a practice day before the First Four of the NCAA men
Mar 14, 2016; Dayton, OH, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores center Damian Jones (30) looks on during a practice day before the First Four of the NCAA men /

The Golden State Warriors drafted Vanderbilt center Damian Jones with their first-round pick, so we take a closer look at his injury, and what his surgeon has to say about it.

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The Golden State Warriors drafted for need in last week’s NBA Draft, opting to improve their group of big men, which was a clear weakness in the postseason, but is now extremely thin in free agency. In order to bolster that area, the Warriors selected center Damian Jones, who spent three seasons acting as a disruptive force in the interior for the Vanderbilt Commodores, with the 30th and final pick in the first round.

Jones comes with strong credentials. At Vanderbilt, he was twice named to the All-SEC First Team, and was once named to the conference’s All-Defensive Team. He averaged 13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game in 99 games. Jones’ 167 blocks ranks second in school history, behind only, ironically, Festus Ezeli, the player whose spot Jones may be taking in the Warriors’ rotation.

With Ezeli now on the free agent market, the seven-footer who was taken with the 30th pick in the 2012 draft out of Vanderbilt doesn’t seem a likely candidate to return. The most likely player to replace him is a seven-footer who was taken with the 30th pick in the 2016 draft out of Vanderbilt. Funny how things work out, sometimes.

But in a familiar turn, the Warriors drafted an injured player in Jones, much like they did last season when they took Kevon Looney with the 30th pick (Looney wasn’t “injured” at the time, but there were numerous concerns over his hip, and he underwent surgery in late August). Jones’ case is a little different.

Jones was injured in practice a few weeks before the draft, and underwent surgery for a torn pectoral. Pectoral injuries can sometimes be treated without surgery, but Jones’ tendon was “torn off the bone”, according to his surgeon, Dr. Benjamin Domb, and had to be repaired surgically.

Dr. Domb performed the surgery on Jones on June 14th in Chicago, Illinois, and the surgery “went smoothly, and as planned”. The doctor continued, saying “we were able to identify the pec tendon without any difficulty, and to repair it in an anatomic way to the humerus”. The humerus is the large bone in the upper arm, and the tendon was re-attached to its proper place with the bone.

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Jones was in good hands for the procedure. Dr. Domb is a nationally renowned Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon, and acts as the head physician for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky. The Chicago-based doctor has operated on a number of Bears’ players, including defensive end Corey Wootton (hip in 2014), wide receiver Rashied Davis, and linebacker Rosevelt Colvin (also on his hip, during his stint with the New England Patriots after his time in Chicago).

Dr. Domb has also treated some WNBA greats during his time with the Sky, including Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne. Fowles is a three-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP. Delle Donne is a League MVP and three-time All-Star.

There is no specific timeline for Jones’ rehab, because as Dr. Domb puts it, “every player heals differently”. But, he did say that the plan is to “progress Damian through his rehabilitation at the quickest rate possible while allowing the tendon sufficient time to heal”. They’re also taking “all needed steps to minimize the risk” of re-injury to the tendon.

The 2016-2017 NBA season opens on October 25th, which is a little over four months after Jones’ surgery. Though it seems unlikely that he will be ready to go by that time, there is precedent for a four-month return. In the strike-shortened 2011-2012 NBA season, Atlanta Hawks’ big man Al Horford tore his pec on January 11th. Though he missed the rest of the regular season, he returned to the court for the playoffs on May 6th, less than four months after surgery. Horford would sustain the same injury again on December 27th, 2013, and did not play for the rest of the season, missing over five months of action in total.

Phil Taylor, a defensive end for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, missed nearly six months because of the injury in 2012. D’Qwell Jackson, a linebacker formerly for the Browns, missed the final 10 games in 2009 due to a torn pectoral. In 2010, he missed the entire season after suffering another torn pectoral in September.

Professional wrestler John Cena suffered the injury in 2007, and had surgery on October 2nd that year. He returned to the ring on January 27th the next year, less than three months after the injury. Although, if you follow professional wrestling, you know John Cena routinely makes extremely fast comebacks from devastating injuries.

Again, it should be stated that every athlete heals at a different rate, so just because one player returned in four months doesn’t mean another will.

But that pectoral injury shouldn’t be a great cause for concern with Jones. On draft night, Warriors’ general manager Bob Myers stated that Jones is “really healthy as far as knees, ankles, back”, something that is hard to find with seven-footers. Myers also called Jones “one of the best-rated players…in the entire draft as far as his health”.

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In the bigger picture, the Warriors seem to have gotten themselves a very solid basketball player in Jones that has a long playing career ahead of him, both in terms of health and skill. Though his career will get off to a little bit of a late start, there’s plenty of reason to be excited about it beginning.