Bobcats fans' fears are coming to fruition as Jefferson's ankle continues to bother the big man, now over a month since he suffered the injury.
After spraining his right ankle in preseason, it was assumed that he would come back at the start of the season because, you know, he kept saying it. The sooner the better is fine if all is going perfectly but there was a worry of him rushing back. After a horrible first showing, he was immediately put back on the injury list. The ankle was still bothering him. Jefferson tried to come back again recently and after some more up and down play he was back to being inactive. Jefferson needs to stop trying to rush back and make sure that ankle is, as Derrick Rose would say, 110% ready, before he comes back out for the Bobcats.
Ankle sprains can be a bit of a touchy injury to work your way back from. Basically, the ligament has either been stretched or partially torn and is in the process of healing. A fully torn ligament is classified as a Grade III sprain, and could require surgery. This doesn't seem to be the case, and I'm not sure a Grade I sprain (small tear or stretched ligament, can bear wear weight on it without too much pain) would be bothering Jefferson too much. What seems more likely is that Jefferson has an incomplete tear of a ligament in his right ankle. This type of Grade II sprain is marked by swelling and loss of stability along with difficulty to put weight on it. Perhaps it was in the middle of getting closer to being fully healed when he re-aggravated the ligament tear in getting back on the court. We can't really say since we aren't doctors, but a team physician for the Chicago Bulls has said that "nearly 40 percent of all ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle problems if not treated correctly."
UPDATE: Al Jefferson elaborated on his ankle injury, updating that it's now related to a bone bruise and arthritis he's had since he was 6 years old.
The Bobcats are in a major catch 22 here with Jefferson. They need him to stay out so his ankle can fully heal and he can reach that imaginary 110% status. However, with every game Jefferson misses that's more time he misses learning how to play with his new teammates. The season is starting get into the swing of things and as a result there will be fewer practices and time to work with teammates. Jefferson already missed practically the entire preseason. His time on the court with teammates has been limited to a little bit of preseason and some less than stellar outings where he's played nowhere near to the expectations the team has for him, largely because of the ankle.
When Jefferson is finally healthy enough to play, he is going to play. Regardless of how well the Bobcats are playing at the moment in his absence, I can't see the team not playing him major minutes as soon as he's healthy. There will be kinks. The team is going to have to fight through them. The Bobcats are a young team that isn't used to adjusting in the middle of the season and the guy they're adjusting with has had very minimal time with the team and is going to be adjusting himself. The Bobcats better hope that ankle heals up sooner rather than later because they want to have this problem in November or December; not January or February. This might be a problem.