The knee injury that changed Kira Lewis' NBA trajectory, at least his early trajectory, turned a year old on Thursday night.
The torn ACL was the first major injury suffered by the former Hazel Green High standout, who spent a pair of seasons at the University of Alabama. It was his first time with major rehab, his first time with the doubt that comes with getting back on the floor, and the first time he realized that you can't snap your fingers to make everything better instantly.
"It's been tough," said the 21-year-old Lewis, who graduated a year early from high school to begin his college career. "Every day, it keeps [getting] better, just like basketball. It's one of those injuries where you have to take the good with the bad and keep moving. It was a hard progress. To see where I'm at today, actually, I'm grateful."
No official announcement was made on Friday, but Lewis is scheduled to be headed back to New Orleans after a pair of injury rehab stints with the Birmingham Squadron. The final game of his second stop in Birmingham came on Thursday night, his one-year anniversary of the injury, when he had 14 points, six rebounds, six assists, four turnovers and a steal in nearly 30 minutes on the floor in a 114-109 loss to visiting Memphis at Legacy Arena at the BJCC. He didn't shoot well – hitting 6 of 15 shots from the field overall and 2 of 8 on 3-pointers – but his mobility looked good.
It was Lewis' seventh game in a Squadron uniform. He averaged 15 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals in the first six games.
"He's still coming back," said Birmingham Squadron coach T.J. Saint. "[He's been] really vocal in the locker room and behind the scenes. We've challenged him to develop more of his leadership skills when he's here, so he can take it back to New Orleans. He's still figuring it out. I mean, he was out a year. The timing and stuff. He's had a minute restriction the whole time he's been here. It's actually gone up the last two games, where he's in more of a flow. He's doing well."
Saint was asked, in general, what is the toughest aspect when a player reaches this point after this type of injury.
"Just the pressure you put on yourself to be what you were," Saint said. "When he got up here, I just told him to play free, just be Kira Lewis, what got you here."
Lewis smiled after being asked what his role would be moving forward with the Pelicans.
"You're asking the wrong guy. I don't know about all that," Lewis said. "I'm just doing what I need to do. I take it day by day."
In many ways, that's the way he's handled the entire process.
"The main thing I would say I learned was being patient," Lewis said. "I like to see results quick, we all do. For this, I couldn't tell if this leg was getting better, the next day, the next week. It was [a] long process. I'm trusting my game. Everything is good, just keep getting better every day."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email email@example.com.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.