The rest of Dragan Bender’s rookie season, if not over, is certainly in doubt.
Bender, chosen fourth overall in last June’s NBA Draft, has been dealing with an ankle injury. He last played on Feb. 1 after missing four games, but it has not played since and it had been determined he would need surgery.
“Dragan did undergo a procedure this afternoon, just recently, in North Carolina,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday afternoon. “It was on his right ankle.”
The team announced Bender underwent a surgery to remove a bone spur and will be out four to six weeks.
McDonough added that any reports of Bender for sure being out the rest of the season are premature, as early indications are the procedure, which the GM said was “minor,” went well and there is hope the rookie will be able to return to the floor this season.
The 19-year-old has appeared in 38 games for the Suns, averaging 3.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 12.7 minutes per game, and while the organization would prefer to not have him miss the rest of the campaign, they have a larger focus in mind.
“Our top priority is obviously Dragan’s health; we want him to be healthy, and at 19-years-old and being the youngest player in the league, we want him to have a long and productive career,” McDonough said. “But we also do want him to get experience.
“We’ll be cautious with him with his rehab and return to play, but if he feels ready or when he feels ready, assuming that’s over the next couple months before the season ends, we’d love to get him out there and have him get some more experience.”
Bender being sidelined for any significant amount of time is a tough blow for the Suns, who at 16-36 entering play Wednesday have the worst record in the Western Conference. While the 7-foot-1 Croatian was receiving only moderate playing time, his development was certainly something to not only keep an eye on, but look forward to as well.
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