CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Frank Kaminsky never expected to be hospitalized for four days in June of 2016 with tubes running in and out of his chest following surgery to repair an air pocket in his lung.
He never expected to spend two months doing little else than sitting on his couch wheezing because it hurt to breathe. He never expected to lose 20 pounds and have his muscle mass deteriorate. And he never expected it would affect him mentally like it did.
“They said it was going to be this minor procedure and it ended up being this thing where I was in a lot of pain,” Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky is breathing a little easier this year — literally.
He ran through drills feeling healthy and conditioned as the Hornets opened training camp on Tuesday, a far cry from where he was this time a year ago.
“He looks really good now — bigger, stronger and he’s put a lot of work into his skill level,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Tuesday.
Kaminsky is just happy to be healthy — physically and mentally.
Along with the physical pain, the Hornets’ former first-round draft pick said the surgery started to affect his mind knowing the regular season was approaching and he was falling behind his teammates and other players around the league in his conditioning. He’d regularly call his mother and plead with her to hang out with him just to pass the time.
“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,” Kaminsky said. “I didn’t take any of the pain medicine. It was a whole miserable process.”
All the while the season opener in October approached like a ticking clock.
“I was really losing my mind,” Kaminsky said. “I was calling doctors telling them, ‘I’m ready. I feel fine. I want to go workout.’ They were like, ‘No, you need to let yourself heal and recover.’ I remember having so many nights where I was worried about getting back into shape that I couldn’t physically fall asleep. All of that caught up to me and I had somewhat of a mental breakdown.”
Kaminsky said he kept telling himself that he would get back to where he was before surgery.
Once cleared to being working out in August, he started an intense regimen designed to get him ready for the season.
He worked hard. Too hard.
He nearly worked himself to the point of exhaustion.
“I tried to put a whole offseason’s worth of work into a month-and-a-half,” Kaminsky said. “It didn’t work out so well.”
The 7-foot, 242-pound Kaminsky did make it back in time for the season opener and had six straight double-digit scoring games, but was feeling worse as the games passed. He spent more time worrying about his chest and his conditioning than rehabbing other parts of his body after games and it affected his play.
It wasn’t until a couple of months into the season that he began to feel normal.
“I remember starting the season not feeling great and waking up in the morning so tired,” Kaminsky said. “I was working so hard to get back to where I was that I was burning myself out day after day.”
Kaminsky still wound up playing in 75 games with 16 starts in his second NBA season with the Hornets. He averaged a respectable 11.7 points and 4.5 rebounds while playing 26 minutes per game, but he shot less than 40 percent from the field. He shot 32.8 percent from 3-point range. But he said he can play much better.
Clifford agrees.
He said Kaminsky looks like an entirely different player this year.
“His body was actually different” last year, Clifford said.
Mentally, Kaminsky is back where he belongs, too — and he feels there are big things ahead of him.
“Having this offseason where I haven’t had a single setback,” Kaminsky said, “I’m excited about what I will be able to do this year.”
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