In a span of six months, Carl Landry tore the part of the body that allows for the bending movement of the knee and flexing of the hip (hip flexor) and later tore the band of cartilage (medial meniscus) that provides cushion for the knee. After two surgeries and a long summer, the 31-year-old power forward is back in the Kings rotation and surpassed a milestone last week - he has played in more games already this season than he did in the entire 2013-14 campaign (18).
While the injuries kept him from ever getting his wind back last season, Landry has a relatively steady role this year in a frontcourt that has also featured DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Reggie Evans and Ryan Hollins. The 6'9'' power forward isn't exactly lighting the box score on fire, but head coach Michael Malone knows what he is going to get from Landry every night - patience under the basket combined with solid footwork, perimeter shooting, rebounding, defense and overall toughness.
Landry is averaging 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. He also is averaging a career-best 90 percent from the free throw line. In the 2012-13 season (right before he signed a four-year deal with the Kings), he played in 81 games as a key reserve for the Golden State Warriors, averaging 10.8 points and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
The veteran, who is now in his eighth NBA season, won't go as far as to say he is back to 100 percent healthy, but said the soreness is gone for the most part and that he is feeling better every day. And while he is beginning to contribute on a more consistent basis for the Kings, he is striving for more.
"I feel good, but I want more out of myself. Definitely as far as like I want to become faster, I feel like I might be a step slow … more athletic, just everything that I think mentally that I can do, sometimes the body just isn't there yet, but I am working at it every day, and things are definitely getting better," Landry told Sactown Royalty.
Recognizing what it was going to take for him to get back to a competitive level in the NBA, Landry spent the whole summer rehabbing.
"It was rough, the whole summer was rough. It was the hip, it was the knee, then it was the knee, then it was the hip .... You always hear, ‘when it rains it pours,' and that's what happened. I just couldn't get a break," Landry said. "I'm just glad that I have the opportunity to compete now at that level and I'm getting better every day."
Landry didn't begin to feel better until the second week of training camp when he got knocked down for the first time and was able to establish his timing.
"That is something that I just couldn't simulate in the summer no matter how hard I tried. Individual workouts or even just a pickup game, it's not the same as a real NBA game; you can't simulate it," Landry said.
Lately, Landry and his frontcourt teammates have been filling in for Cousins, who has missed seven games now with viral meningitis, the best they can. In that stretch, the team has gone 2-5. Landry's tone grew serious as he talked about Cousins' battle with meningitis.
"First and foremost, he's a friend, he's a teammate. I want him to get well. Meningitis is something that I've never experienced, but we all know it's serious. And I've heard some people passing away from it, so that's what is most important is his health and hopefully he gets well soon," said Landry, who also played for the Kings during Cousins' rookie season.
In the seven games that Cousins has missed, Landry, who is known as "Top Hat" around these parts, is averaging 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds.
"We've got to continue to rebound the ball and play defense. Reggie [Evans] has done a great job, day in and day out. JT [Thompson] has been consistent. We've had a lift off the bench from Derrick Williams with scoring and defensively with Ryan Hollins," Landry said. "So everybody has to contribute, it has to be a collective effort from all the bigs because what's lost with DeMarcus is a lot so everybody has to pick up their game a ton."
Landry has his health in the back of his mind.
"I think that is the most important part, because without that you don't have a game," Landry said.