Led by a controversial trainer, Kristaps Porzingis’ rehab reportedly includes “bulking up” — a problematic part of his recovery if the Latvian intends to be effective and healthy for the remainder of his NBA career.
When it comes to sports injuries and the rehabilitation of our beloved adult sons, everyone chimes in as an armchair surgeon. Some guy they knew was running a month after major surgery. Or a cousin wasn’t in that much pain after trying homeopathic treatment. We look at a player’s injury, watch them give the thumbs up from post-op Instagram stories, and expect everything to be just fine.
Athletes are judged as freaks of nature. Their bodies are built to withstand a lot more than the average human being. But they are still made of the same bones and muscle and cartilage that we are. The functions of those parts are not any different. Therefore, the basic rehabilitation and recovery aren’t going to vary as much as people think it will or should.
Recently, Kristaps Porzingis’ trainer, Dr. Carlon Colker, stated that his offseason plans for KP’s recovery include him coming back nearly unrecognizable. He plans to have Porzingis return to the Garden “jacked.” Colker’s background causes some few eyebrows to raise—primarily because he has a, let’s just say a colorful history with health and fitness. VICE Sports outlined Colker’s history and his philosophy is a feature earlier this year, in which he speaks more about the philosophy that makes KP believe in his success.
When it comes to a young star recovering from his first major injury and setting his body up for longevity as a franchise’s star, one would think KP would have opted for a trainer who is a bit more experienced. Colker’s list of clientele is short and dated (Porzingis is his lone current active athlete client that we know of) compared to the list of available NBA trainers the Latvian could be working with. Additionally, Colker has offered little insight on KP’s full regimen. One thing we do know is the man loves his squats. “The squat to me, is the single most valuable thing I do for my athletes, and for myself,” Colker said.
We’ve seen KP take up some boxing. We expect to see more squats. But what about rehabbing the ACL? How can Porzingis continue to get stronger?
Here’s my take, from someone who does indeed train athletes, on what KP’s offseason regimen should look like:
• YOGA! Not only does yoga help with increasing flexibility, but it does wonders for blood flow. That in turn helps with circulation and muscular tissue recovery. Yoga is a great accompaniment to cardio but can also be done on the days of rest. Athletes now swear by yoga because it does wonders mentally and physically. The benefits can sometimes even rival a full hour of rigorous gym time.
• You can’t have strength without the conditioning. KP’s game is predicated on length and his power. The summer workouts did wonders as we saw in the first month of the season. However, KP has still not reached maximum capacity in his core. This season, he did a little better at backing down stronger guys. The trade-off in him trying to bulk up is he often looked winded in second halves. Twitter actually spent a few hours on his case after he spoke out about being tired. It’s fine to focus on lifting and squats, but this summer KP has to dedicate a lot of time to conditioning. In conjunction with a combination of cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, he can develop endurance and level up his stamina by incorporating light agility drills and plyometrics. Depending on where he is in his lateral movement, those activities include cone and ladder work along with resistance bands.
• “Jacked” isn’t long-term; the fact that Colker is a medical professional recommending this as a goal should be enough of a red flag. But that’s neither here nor there. KP is poised to be one of the young international faces of a sports league. It’d be wise of him to position his rehab and his physique in a way that translates to the masses in multiple ways. It’s going to be hard to take KP seriously on the court and as a brand if he comes back looking like Latvian Rob Gronkowski. In terms of athletic ability, at least in basketball, being “jacked” is more of a hindrance with Kristaps’ skill set than an assistance. Although he may be going back to the 5 in a Fizdale defense, his game is based on being excellent at pulling up from outside. It’s tough to do over 82 games when you’re out here looking like Shawn Kemp and Dwight Howard.
With a new coach and a clean slate for real, this offseason gives KP the opportunity to be selfish and fully focus on his future for the first time since joining the Knicks. Perhaps, this injury is a blessing in disguise in that regard. At 22, this offseason could be one of the most important periods in his young career. There’s no reason to rush rehab or a return. If KP is set on keeping Dr. Colker around, the best thing that can come out of this summer is for his team’s strategy to be centered on creating a plan for maintenance and longevity.