Whalen's status predicated on recovery time
The Waiting Game
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 13 -- When a reporter erroneously asked injured Connecticut Sun guard Lindsay Whalen if she'd be playing in Wednesday's Game 1 "tonight" at Tuesday's media availability session for the WNBA Finals, all Whalen could do was chuckle.
After all, even though Whalen's a magician on the court, finishing third in the league in assists per game (5.3) this season, she can't speed up time. She can only wait, both for Game 1 to arrive and for her injury to heal.
"Each day goes by and you get more optimistic and more hopeful," Whalen said. "It's just a day-to-day type of thing"
Whalen suffered a non-displaced fracture of the tibial plateau of the left knee during the victory over Indiana in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday afternoon. She was able to continue playing Saturday after a knee exam and functional tests done during the game proved normal.
But an MRI Sunday, and a follow-up exam this morning, confirmed the diagnosis of team physician Dr. William Balcom. Whalen is receiving extensive treatment, and will be re-examined by the physician each day.
Trainer Georgia Fischer indicated the time-frame for Whalen's rehab consists of three stages. (1) Getting the swelling down, which Whalen indicated has already occurred. (2) Involving Whalen in sports-specific activities, which took during Tuesday's practice with Whalen shooting jump shots as her teammates ran plays on the opposite end of the court. (3) Putting the first two stages together and seeing if she's ready for high level basketball activity.
"It's pretty hard to predict how long it will take to get to that third stage," Fischer said. "What we've said the last two days is that she's questionable. We just take it each day at a time."
Whalen said the decision as to whether she plays or not is ultimately up to her, and how her body feels.
For Fischer, Whalen's mental state needs to be evaluated just as her physical state does in determining whether she's ready to play. If Whalen were to return prematurely, she could play with a caution that is detrimental to her team.
"That's always a concern and it's lumped into that final stage of getting her ready," Fischer said. "It has to be taken into a consideration."
In the event that Whalen's not ready to go, backup Jennifer Derevjanik will be inserted into the starting lineup. Whalen averaged 16.5 points per game through the first two rounds of the playoffs; Derevjanik failed to score.
"She's not going to come out and get 16 points," Thibault said. "She's going to distribute to other people. If she gets six or eight points, we'll feel that she's done a great job.
After calling Whalen the "Steve Nash of the WNBA," Sacramento coach John Whisenant admitted he couldn't pronounce Derevjanik's last name. Still, he had a healthy respect for the second-year point guard, acknowledging she's tough and probably a better defensive player than Whalen.
"What she is going to do is up the defensive pressure on Sacramento," Thibault said. "She's very capable of guarding (Ticha) Penicheiro, (Kara) Lawson, Chelsea Newton. She's a pest. She bothers the heck out of people on the other end of the floor."
Derevjanik indicated she was excited about the prospect of starting in a championship game. But if she had her way, she'd come off the bench all series.
"You don't want things to happen -- someone to get hurt -- to get an opportunity like this," Derevjanik said. "I'm still hoping she comes back. She's started all year and she's what got us here."
Perhaps still hopeful of a Game 1 appearance, Derevjanik said Whalen hasn't imparted any advice to her about the contest.
"We haven't really talked too much," Derevjanik said. "I just ask her how she's doing. I don't want to push anything."
Some things in life it doesn't help to try to push. Things like time.