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Ball Don't Lie

Rockets forward Jon Brockman still can’t fully see out of his left eye after injuring self in elastic band incident

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Jon Brockman hopes to return to soon to eyeing offensive rebounds, but he's not there yet. (Getty Images)

One of the offseason's weirdest stories rolled down the RSS-feed pike last month, when Jon Brockman — the hard-nosed, tough-rebounding, adult-onesie-wearing forward who'd come to the Houston Rockets as part of the draft-day deal that sent Samuel Dalembert to the Milwaukee Bucks — injured himself during a workout at the Toyota Center when the elastic band he was using to stretch out "apparently slipped off his foot and the recoil hit Brockman's right eye."

At first blush, that sounds like some "Three Stooges"-level slapstick, and given Brockman's penchant for the goofy (seriously, check that adult onesie link again), it seemed like a random and funny turn of events, not unlike when that lady on "The Amazing Race" rocked herself with that watermelon. But then you read that Brockman had been hospitalized with the injury, and that he stayed in the hospital for three days, and it doesn't seem all that funny.

And now, five weeks later, you read a report from Rich Myhre of the Everett, Wash., Herald — Brockman grew up in nearby Snohomish, Wash., and played his college ball at the University of Washington — about how Brockman's still seeing an eye specialist and has yet to join his Rockets teammates for training camp, and it seems downright scary:

"He was in an unbelievable amount of pain," [Brockman's agent, Greg] Lawrence said by telephone on Thursday. "Everybody who knows Jon knows he can take a good amount of pain. He's not one to complain about anything. But that was pretty painful and uncomfortable for him.

"I don't know if he ever completely lost his vision, but it was very blurry. He couldn't make anything out."

Oddly enough, according to Lawrence, it's the eye that wasn't initially reported as having been directly affected that's holding up the 25-year-old forward's return to the game:

Brockman, who has not been available for comment since the injury, has regained full vision in his right eye, "but the left eye has been slower to come around," Lawrence said. "That's the one (doctors) are waiting on getting the full picture on. But they know there was no structural damage and the retinas are still attached, so everything's fine. It's just healing, and there's really not much they can do to stimulate the healing process."

The accident caused blood and other fluid to collect behind the eye, "and as that drains out they can see more and more," Lawrence said. "As the fluid dissipates they can get a clearer picture to make sure there was no nerve damage. But so far everything they've been able to see looks good."

First off: Yikes. "Blood and fluid to collect behind the eye" is never something you want to hear, read or envision, let alone experience. Secondly, it's great to hear that "everything [the doctors have] been able to see looks good" — I mean, I would imagine that a pool of collected blood fluid behind an eyeball is pretty far from my definition of something that "looks good," but the fact that Brockman's progress has been positive and he is "eventually expected to make a full recovery" is obviously great news for Brockman and his family.

What's not great news for Brockman and his family, though, is that more than five weeks after the incident, the blood and fluid still have not yet fully drained out, he still can't fully see out of his left eye and, while he's reportedly been cleared for running and weightlifting, he hasn't yet been approved to resume on-court work or rejoin the team. Myhre reports that Brockman's got an appointment to evaluate the left eye's progress coming up next week; if the result of that visit is anything other than, "By all means, resume full-bore play immediately," Brockman could find himself in a precarious position, roster-wise.

Less than three weeks away from the start of the season, Houston looks to have a huge glut in the frontcourt — as it stands, Omer Asik, Patrick Patterson, Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Royce White, Terrence Jones, JaJuan Johnson and Donatas Motiejunas would likely be slotted in ahead of Brockman at the four and five spots on the Rockets' depth chart. More missed time would make showing coach Kevin McHale that he merits minutes much more difficult for Brockman. And even if (as we hope) he is cleared to get back to it full time as soon as possible, he's still likely to face an uphill climb and a steep learning curve after having missed preseason workouts, the start of training camp and the beginning of the exhibition schedule for a brand-new team with a brand-new system and brand-new personnel with whom to become accustomed. And with just one year and $1 million remaning on his contract, a less-than-full-strength-and-speed Brockman would be pretty easy to jettison, to boot.

Beyond that, Brockman's made his bones to this point in the NBA with his rebounding work, and especially his gift on the offensive glass, where in very limited minutes, he's shown himself to be among the league's better per-minute performers over the past three years — he's grabbed better than 12.4 percent of available offensive rebounds in each of his three NBA seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and the league's top players in that category each year typically snag somewhere between 14 and 16 percent. Coming off a serious eye injury — two of them, in fact — you have to wonder if he'd be a bit gun-shy amid all that banging down low, where a stray finger or elbow could exacerbate an existing problem. (Lawrence says "the doctors are pretty confident that he can play his game and that he will not be at any greater risk for injury than anybody else," but then again, Lawrence is Brockman's agent.)

It's a crummy set of circumstances, for sure, but those look to be the circumstances in which Brockman finds himself after sustaining this freak-accident injury. Regardless of whether that worst-case scenario comes to pass, Brockman might want to ask his old Sacramento Kings teammate, Francisco Garcia, about his experience filing suit against the makers of an exercise ball that reportedly exploded while he was using it. Under normal circumstances, we might suggest the connection as a goof; here, it might just wind up being a prudent decision.

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