Jodie Meeks participated in full-contact drills during the Orlando Magic’s practice Friday, the first time he’s done full-contact work since doctors performed a second surgery on his right foot in mid-July.
The former University of Kentucky star’s return to game action is not imminent, but it’s the clearest sign yet that the 29-year-old shooting guard is progressing as he works to recover from the most frustrating injury of his career.
“It’s exciting,” Meeks said.
“It’s just good to be back out there doing some activity. I felt pretty good moving, but obviously I’m a little rusty. So it’s going to take some time to get back. I don’t really have a time limit on when I’m going to be back — obviously, as soon as possible, but at the same time get in some better shape.”
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It’s perfectly understandable that Meeks needs time to work his way back into basketball shape.
Because he had a foot injury, he was unable to run for months, which deteriorated his conditioning.
In recent weeks, he’s been permitted to run and take jumpers.
“We’re not going to put him out there when he’s not ready to go,” Coach Frank Vogel said. “So we’re still a ways away.”
In June, the Magic traded a 2019 second-round draft pick to the Detroit Pistons for Meeks.
Meeks had missed most of the 2015-16 season because he fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during the Pistons’ second regular-season game. Meeks returned at the end of the season and appeared in one of the Pistons’ playoff games.
Meeks is a 37.3 percent career three-point shooter. Meeks’ acquisition played a role in the Magic deciding not to pursue guard Jamal Crawford in free agency.
Then, Meeks had a setback with his foot. Doctors had to insert a larger screw into the bone and give him a bone graft.
The Magic need additional shooting. They entered Friday last in the NBA in field-goal percentage, 24th in three-point percentage and 28th in points scored per possession.
Center Nikola Vucevic thinks Meeks can help the Magic. Vucevic ought to know. He was Meeks’ teammate during the 2011-12 season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“He’s a very good shooter,” Vucevic said. “He can help us space out the floor a lot. He’s also a good defender. Today in practice he did really well on the defensive end and had a few deflections [with his] quick hands. I think he can help us on that end. But he’s been around the league for awhile, too. He’ll bring us that experience, that veteran guy that we need.”
Meeks had never dealt with a serious injury during his pro career before he fractured his foot.
“It was a downer,” Meeks said. “This time, I had more experience and tried to stay positive more.”