Domantas Sabonis a non-participant during Tuesday’s shootaround

Dec 27, 2022, 11:45 AM | Updated: 3:21 pm

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 23: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings grimaces as he h...

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Update (11:45 AM PST): Domantas Sabonis did not participate in Tuesday morning’s shootaround, creating doubt that he will be on the floor for tonight’s game between the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets.

Alex Len was seen logging reps with the starting unit of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, and Keegan Murray, while Chimezie Metu was also grouped with the starters during shootaround.

Sabonis (avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb) is still listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

More information on Sabonis’ status vs Denver will become available during associate head coach Jordi Fernandez’s pregame press conference at 5:15 PM PST.

Original Story

The Sacramento Kings revealed on Monday afternoon that center Domantas Sabonis has been diagnosed with an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb.

Sabonis, who injured his thumb late in Friday’s game against the Washington Wizards after appearing to get his hand caught on the back of Bradley Beal’s jersey, is listed as questionable for Sacramento’s game against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.

The current plan for Sabonis is to return to action in the coming days, but that will depend on how much pain the center is experiencing.

The 26-year-old underwent multiple tests that confirmed the injury, which currently raises many questions both from the Kings fanbase and roster.

When asked about Sabonis’ status following Monday’s practice, guard Kevin Huerter said that he has not seen the big man much since the injury occurred.

“To be honest, he hasn’t been around much since he went out, just getting tests done and trying to figure that out,” Huerter said when asked if Sabonis’ injury has darkened the team’s spirits. “I’m not sure many people, at least on the player’s side really know what’s going on, so we don’t know how long he’s going to be out. Today we practiced like normal, Alex [Len] filled in with our first group, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Sabonis was not present for Monday’s practice, as the team returned from a brief Christmas break to prepare for a back-to-back set of games against the Nuggets and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic.

Veteran center Alex Len–a player that has logged 25 total minutes of playing time this season– appears to be in line to start Tuesday’s game if Sabonis is ruled out.

It’s currently unknown if Sabonis legitimately has a shot to suit up against Denver, as it appears that this injury will be handled on a pain-tolerance basis with the two-time All-Star center.

“I don’t know crap about medical stuff, but it’s one of those things that initially we thought could be a long time, and then he’s listed as questionable tomorrow based on what all of the medical experts have said,” Kings head coach Mike Brown said when asked if the injury news was better than expected.

“We’ve been running the same stuff since training camp started. Everybody is capable. Obviously, our other bigs aren’t the type to bring it in transition and make the plays for himself and others, so that part will change, but in terms of what we do, it’s all the same,” Brown said regarding how the team will adapt to an offense without their star center.

Sabonis’ injury acts as a fierce blow to a Kings team that is currently sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference standings after jumping out to a 17-14 start to the season. Sacramento’s big man has been a massive part of that success, as Sabonis currently leads the NBA in rebounds and double-doubles heading into Tuesday night’s game.

This injury isn’t a simple one to comprehend as a layman, but based on some reading from around the internet (disclaimer: I am not a doctor), an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb is going to be a complex injury for Sabonis to play through.

Most recovery timetables are between four-to-ten weeks, with a suggested immobilization period of four weeks. The injury can cause chronic instability, pain, and loss of pinch and grip strength, meaning it will be tough to play center for an NBA team while nursing the injury.

Difficult–not impossible, though.

Injury analyst Jeff Stotts reported on Monday that some players have played through Sabonis’ injury, as former Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley didn’t miss any time after suffering an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament during the 2015 season.

The average time lost for in-season UCL repairs in the NBA is 25.1 games (55.0 days). Unfortunately, the degree of Sabonis’ sprain has not been made public.

For now, Sabonis will attempt to play through the pain. Guard Avery Bradley suffered an avulsion fracture and UCL sprain during the 2015 season and did not miss a game. The Kings medical staff will attempt to tape and brace the area when Sabonis takes the court, and it is likely he wears a brace in between games.

Surgery could still be an option if the ligament damage was substantial, but for now it seems Sabonis will continue to suit up for Sacramento. 

Jeff Stotts – December 26, 2022

It’s currently unknown just how severe Sabonis’ injury is in this instance, but the main thing to understand is that the center will be playing through pain if he and the team’s medical staff choose to move forward and avoid an extended absence.

How can the Kings survive if Sabonis misses time?

Replacing 17.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game on 61 percent shooting from the field is an impossible task, but players like De’Aaron Fox will have to step up and have a ‘next man up’ mentality while their center gets himself right.

“Everybody has to step up,” Fox said when asked how the team will respond to Sabonis’ injury. “Everybody knows their role; everybody knows what they’re supposed to do. Obviously, with him–I don’t know how much time he’s missing–for however long that he’s missing, everyone needs to step up. It’s going to take a village.”

It will take a village, a city, and likely a lot more for Sacramento to weather any potential absences of their star center, but this group is up for the challenge.

Will Sabonis play through this injury, or will he take some time to rest and assess his capabilities on and off the court before making a decision?

Time will tell, but the Kings’ sunny, fun start to the season just experienced its first rainstorm.


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Domantas Sabonis a non-participant during Tuesday’s shootaround