Indiana Pacers guard Edmond Sumner tore his left Achilles earlier this week, the team announced.
He suffered the injury in an offseason workout on September 9th, just a few weeks prior to the official start of training camp. The Pacers have plans to have several players get together and work out prior to camp, however, meaning some team activities were set to begin soon.
Sumner will now not be a part of those pre-camp ventures. A torn Achilles is a brutal injury, one that typically sidelines a player for nearly a full year, so it is possible that the 25-year old will miss the entirety of the 2021-22 season for Indiana.
“My boy was bound for a HUGE year,” Sumner’s former teammate, Brian Bowen II, tweeted. “Big prayers for a healthy and speedy recovery,” he added.
Bowen may have been right. While Sumner’s spot in the healthy-Pacers rotation wasn’t clear, every season of his career so far he found a way to earn minutes and have an impact on winning. Entering a contract year, it was reasonable to assume that the Xavier product would impress again and earn playing time. He has improved in each season since entering the league.
Now, his journey will be put on hold. Instead of being able to show off his skills and establish himself in front of a new Pacers coaching staff, Sumner will have to spend significant time rehabbing, which will be a setback in his promising career.
Fortunately for the speedy guard, improving medical practices have made Achilles tears less damning for NBA players in recent seasons. Kevin Durant, John Wall, and Rudy Gay have all recovered from the injury in the last four seasons and have been able to make an impact upon returning. While the injury requires a lengthy rehab process, players have been able to get back on the floor and help their teams.
Outside of Durant and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, though, most players who return from an Achilles tear are less effective upon doing so. Many of them have remained skilled and useful players, just not at the same level that they were pre-injury. Sumner will hope that he is one of the rare players who can continue to grow even after his injury.
“You always want to build on things. For me it’s a confidence booster,” Sumner said last season.
This is another blow for the Pacers as it comes on the heels of the T.J. Warren injury update from earlier this week. Sumner has been a key reserve for the past two seasons, and his ability to run in transition as well as his defensive abilities have made him useful within a variety of lineups. His skills are unique and difficult to replace.
Even though the addition of first round pick Chris Duarte was going to reduce Sumner’s role this year, the Pacers now don’t have as much insurance and depth behind their rookie, which is a volatile position to be in. While Duarte could impress this season, rookies typically aren’t impactful and are inconsistent. Having less depth behind Duarte will hurt Indiana.
Nine-year veteran Jeremy Lamb can fill in as a reserve shooting guard, and he will likely receive more minutes this season with Sumner and Warren on the mend. However, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star reported that the Pacers have been trying to deal Lamb, so he may not be around for long. That adds to the list of reasons this Sumner injury stings — the reserve shooting guard situation in Indiana is tenuous.
The blue and gold finished free agency and looked like a team full of depth and useful players. Now, after Warren and Sumner have new injury diagnoses, the appearance of the roster has changed — the Pacers are already looking at a more defined rotation early in the season and less wiggle room for injuries and change.
Not many on the Pacers can replicate Sumner’s skillset. As John Schuhmann of NBA.com pointed out, the quick guard was one of just three players who averaged more than four points per 36 minutes during fast breaks this past season — Sumner is electric in transition. In set play situations, the Xavier product has become a reliable outside shooter; he canned nearly 40% of his three-point shots in 2020-21.
And Sumner is a better defensive player than offensive. He was tasked with containing Stephen Curry this past season and helped hold the former MVP to just 20 points, his ninth worst scoring output of the season. Sumner’s wingspan and lateral mobility make him a pest on defense, and the Pacers now won’t have those skills for an extended period of time.
“You can ask him to guard about anybody,” former Indiana head coach Nate Bjorkgren said of Sumner. “He’s a defensive guy for us, an energy guy for us.”
While the 25-year old struggles in other areas, such as team defense and shot creation for his teammates — enough that he wasn’t guaranteed a role this coming season — losing him is still a blow for the blue and gold. They now will have to rely more on Lamb and Duarte, one player that struggled this past season and another that hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA. The Pacers range of results this coming season is wider as a result of Sumner’s injury.
“This isn’t it for me,” Sumner wrote, in a longer caption, on Instagram.
Sumner has battled through numerous injuries throughout this playing days — to his knees, his hand, and his hamstrings. He has overcome all of them and continued to improve. Now, he has to fight through an Achilles tear, the most difficult challenge he has faced so far in his basketball career. If his history tells us anything, it’s that Sumner will come back from this injury and play again. But in the meantime, the Pacers will suffer and be forced to rely on others. Indiana’s depth will be tested early in the 2021-22 campaign.