Mike Krzyzewski has been pretty tight lipped, as he always is with injuries, but he can’t seem to dodge the questions about Kelly regardless of the indefinite time table put on his return. I myself have said that I don’t expect him to return at all since the first week post-Kelly and having heard the talk from those inside the program. Nothing seemed optimistic and all the talk had me thinking Kyrie Irving.
From the indefinite timeline put on his return to the wait and see approach, all of it reminded me of Irving and how Duke didn’t want to risk re-injury. I also believe there was some talk about possible surgery if the season were not ongoing and that made me think that if surgery was an option then there would likely be no way Kelly would come back. Not with the risk to his NBA draft stock.
There are those that laugh at it, but Kelly likely will be drafted and find a spot on an NBA roster somewhere and despite his love for Duke and desire to help his teammates win now, I’m doubting Krzyzewski would let him risk playing on anything less than a foot that is 100 percent.
Game after game, Kelly walks on to the court in a walking boot and crutches and game after game media and fans alike comment on how this isn’t the same Duke team and the questions of Kelly’s return come back up with no new answers.
However, after the Maryland game this past Saturday, those questions about Kelly generated some interesting answers. Freshman forward, Amile Jefferson who has gotten a bulk of the minutes in Kelly’s absence made an interesting if not definitive statement regarding the Blue Devils senior captain.
“We’re a new team, we’re finding our identity,” Jefferson said. “And when Ryan gets back, we’re going to be even better.”
It certainly has to be a positive to hear a statement that appears as definitive as that one but you really have to consider the source. A true freshman, full of exuberance and pleased with his recent play. Jefferson has been solid in Kelly’s absence and has earned a spot in the starting lineup.
He has been averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds and 23 minutes since Kelly went down and has show an nice ability to be a solid rebounder and finish near the basket despite being waif thin as a freshman. Still Jefferson is right, if Kelly does return, his development will only make Duke better, but is that a “when” or “if.”
I’m not entirely sure you can just take the freshman’s word for it but a higher source, Krzyzewski himself, seemed about as optimistic as he gets regarding the return of Kelly during his post game comments.
“We’re obviously a different team without Ryan, and we have to play like we won’t have him. I think we will have him at some time, but we have to figure out who we are without him,” Krzyzewski said.
That quote can be take one of two ways but its quite a bit more definitive than saying just that you hope you get him back at some point. It could be just semantics but you have to wonder if there is some inside knowledge that would lead two people to indicate Kelly’s possible return.
Krzyzewski was pleased with how is team responded to their blow out loss to Miami, who is proving to be quite a good team, if not the best in the ACC this season. He said he felt the team was making steps to becoming the team they are “going to be now.” That can be taken as a negative but indications that perhaps a mid to late February return weren’t too far off.
Still I would suspect the goal would be to get Kelly back before the end of the regular season so that they aren’t trying to work him back into the mix during the post season when a loss sends you home for good. Duke has been in this situation before, Irving, and don’t want a repeat.