Michigan State coach Tom Izzo might cringe a little bit when Miles Bridges dunks, but it’s a good sign of progress from his freshman star.
Bridges averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds through his first eight games before suffering an ankle injury. Izzo initially said Bridges would miss “a couple weeks,” but Thursday marked one month since his last appearance.
At practice a day before Michigan State takes on Northwestern at home Friday, Izzo said Bridges did the most physical activity he’s done since the injury. But don’t expect him to be on the floor for Friday’s game.
“Starting pretty soon now, we’ll get him up and down a little bit more,” Izzo said, “as long as we’re taking a three-, four-day period making sure it’s not sore or anything, because it was on the top of the foot.”
Asked whether there’s any comparison to be made between Bridges and former Spartans star Denzel Valentine’s three-week injury absence last season, Izzo responded, “No. Nothing.”
He cited Bridges’ lack of experience and the importance of athleticism to his game as reasons why the comeback might be a bit rockier for his freshman. But he also credited Bridges’ attitude toward putting in the work.
“He’s figuring out more that he’s got to do conditioning,” Izzo said. “He has killed the bike. … But I watch him go through the layup line and it’s just different. It’s different than what you can do. He’s so excited to get started. I can’t go on what he thinks. I can go on how he feels, but I still have to make the decision.”
To make that decision, Izzo has consulted doctors, specialists and guys who have dealt with such injuries. He said he contacted Duke, which has battled through its own share of injuries.
He’s looked to the NBA, where the Grizzlies have gone 2-5 since point guard Mike Conley’s return, and the Pistons have gone 5-9 since getting Reggie Jackson back. Izzo doesn’t want expectations set too high for Bridges’ return.
“(The players) love Miles, and they’re so excited to get him back, and he’s so excited to be back,” Izzo said. “He’s tried to become a better leader and all those things. It’s going to be nothing but a plus, but it might be some rough edges for a while.”