Nobody was more happy to be practicing on Thursday than Udoka Azubuike. It was the first time in seven months that the third-year center has been able to fully participate with the Utah Jazz.
Early on Thursday morning Azubuike was cleared for full participation in practice after weeks of working on his own.
“I was excited about it,” Azubuike said. “We did some exercises in the morning before practice, and that felt good. Then, me going out there, getting a rep and you know, I’m just excited. It really felt good.”
Azubuike has had an unusual string of bad luck when it comes to injuries, injuring his right ankle three times while on assignment with the Salt Lake City Stars. The most recent injury eventually led to surgery in March.
During the last few months, Azubuike has worked hard to come back, spending a lot of time in the weight room with the training staff, not only strengthening his ankle but working on his core and his conditioning in the hopes of coming back.
“It’s just really tough because I want to be able to be out there with my teammates,” Azubuike said. “I want to compete, I want to play. But, I’m just approaching it with a different mentality, just doing what I can do and control.”
Through it all, Azubuike has tried to stay positive and he’s done a good job, even agreeing to wear a mic during the Jazz’s open scrimmage earlier this week. It was a rare chance to see his personality, which he admits is hard to see if you aren’t someone that’s very close to him.
“I was skeptical about doing that,” he said with a laugh. “Y’all know me, I’m not really the outgoing guy, and I just keep to myself. But I was like, why not? Just try something new. I didn’t watch the video though. A few of my friends sent me the video, but I didn’t want to watch it.”
Azubuike is in a precarious situation with the Jazz. While he’s finally progressing and making his way back from being sidelined, the Jazz need to finalize their roster by 3 p.m. MDT on Oct. 17, and he is one of the players that’s at risk of not making the final cut.
The Jazz still need to shed two of the full contract players on the roster in order to round out the 15-man regular-season roster, and with Kelly Olynyk and Walker Kessler both guaranteed to play pretty significantly, it’s hard to see a path forward for Azubuike with the Jazz.
No matter though, you have to give credit where credit is due. Azubuike has had tough road through his young NBA career through no fault of his own, and all along the way he’s stayed about as positive as one can.