The Nevada basketball team’s rotation is basically down to six players, and the Wolf Pack will enter Wednesday’s game against UNLV with four of those players nursing some type of significant injury.
The injury report reads:
* Caleb Martin, foot/ankle
* Cody Martin, bone bruise in hip
* Jordan Caroline, Achilles tendinitis
* Jazz Johnson, shoulder
And while Eric Musselman expects all of those players to suit up against the Rebels – Caleb Martin’s injuries are the most significant – he’s taking things easy in practice.
“Caleb is out for sure (Monday) and (Tuesday) and we hope he plays on Wednesday,” Musselman said.
Caroline has been dealing with his Achilles issue for weeks, as has Johnson with his surgically repaired shoulder, which has been an issue since his freshman season of college. Caleb Martin’s Lisfranc sprain from last season has bugged him this year, and he’s twisted his ankle in recent games, including Saturday's win against Fresno State. Still, each player powered through to log at least 38 minutes in that game.
“They have great toughness, they want to win," Musselman said of his players. "Our medical staff has done a really good job the last 3 1/2 years getting guys ready to play the game, which as a coach you want players to be available for games more than practice. Our team docs and trainers, in my time here, have done an awesome job of getting guys ready to play. Hopefully it will be the same Wednesday. We really haven’t had guys sitting out for marginal injuries. The players take their rehab really serious when they have to get in ice tubs and do two or three treatments a day and our medical staff stays late helping those guys get ready to play.”
Musselman isn’t one to push players to practice through injuries. He’d rather they be fresh for the game, even sitting guys against their will at times. He said that was a lesson learned from his NBA time.
“As crazy as I am, I’m not going to make them practice when they’re hurt or nicked up,” he said, adding, “Doesn’t mean I won’t play a guy 40 minutes if he’s banged up because I will. But we want to keep our rhythm and certainly those guys want to play. It’s their senior year. They don’t want to sit out.”
Musselman doesn’t think a lack of practice means his players will be rusty come game time, citing the fact Caroline didn’t practice the two days leading up to his 40-point explosion at Colorado State.
“That worked out great,” Musselman said. “I went back as a coach and said, ‘Wow, he was really well rested and maybe everybody should take off two days from practice.’ On the flipside, if he wouldn’t have played well you’ll sit there and wonder, ‘Is he rusty? He didn’t get reps up.’”
Musselman admitted he and his team were drained following the Fresno State win. He said it was as much a mental thing as a physical one, his players having to deal with the rigors of being a nationally ranked team that gets the opposition’s best shot every night. As such, he’s shortening practices and film sessions.
“If we have two-hour practices on Monday and Tuesday and an intense shoot-around, you can mentally drain your team,” Musselman said. “Monday and Tuesday I don’t want to be on the floor more than an hour and 15 minutes. I don’t like long film sessions anyhow because I get bored when assistants are doing it. Our film sessions aren’t longer than 10, 15 minutes unless it’s a loss and then it’s a lot longer. To keep teams mentally and physically fresh, you have to back off on the mental stuff you do.”
As he sorts through his banged-up roster, Musselman must figure out who he’s going to start against Fresno State. Johnson got his first start for Nevada against the Bulldogs and played all 40 minutes. Tre’Shawn Thurman moved to the bench for the second straight time following a loss, but he played big against Fresno State and returned to the starting lineup following his first departure from the first five in January. Musselman said he didn’t know who he’d start against UNLV, a bigger team than Fresno State, although Trey Porter, who has started all 27 games at center, could come off the bench, Musselman said, to get him back in a groove.
“For Jazz and Thurm, they’re thing is solidified,” Musselman said of those players getting big minutes whether they start or come off the bench. “Trey Porter, we have to figure out how to get him going. Is it him coming off the bench to help him avoid foul trouble? We have had a really good season so far and we don’t want to get too wacky with changing the lineup.”
As long as he suits up, Caleb Martin will be in the starting lineup, and he could still be sporting circular bruises that first appeared in Nevada’s game at San Diego State last Wednesday. Martin and his brother, Cody, both got some cupping done, a technique that became popular during the 2016 Olympics when Michael Phelps and others showed up to the swimming deck with big purple welts.
“I got a massage because I was feeling beat up,” said Caleb Martin, joking he felt “old” after taking a number of hard falls against Fresno State. “I got some cupping and stuff done. It’s really bad on my back. It was worse against San Diego State. Does it look bad, like I got beat up with baseball or something? It works. It feels good. I had a lot of tightness in my shoulders and near my elbow, but I got the bad toxic stuff out, so I’m feeling all right right now.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.