Edmond Sumner will be available to return tonight from a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, the team announced Thursday.
Sumner had been out since October 28, when he suffered the setback against Detroit.
Before the injury, the lightning-quick slasher was averaging 7.0 points on 50 percent shooting to go with 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals. With increased opportunity to manipulate the pick-and-roll and improved control over his athleticism, he had also started to exhibit some subtle signs of shifting, in addition to penetrating, the defense.
While continuing his rehab process, Sumner joined Oladipo in Fort Wayne for practice with the Mad Ants, where he offered up some valuable insight into what the two-time All-Star has been getting himself into.
“I already knew what type of environment this was going to be,” Sumner told The Journal Gazette’s Justin A. Cohn. “Their practices are kind of totally different from ours because everybody is going super hard and always competing because they’re trying to go to the next level. So you come down here, you’ve always got to be ready.”
In the Xavier alum’s absence, and with Jeremy Lamb healthy, T.J. McConnell and Aaron Holiday have taken to sharing point guard duties for the second unit, with the latter playing more of an off-ball roll. With Sumner back in the fray, decisions on his playing time will likely come down to match-ups, at least until Oladipo returns.
On the nights when size is needed, pairing Sumner’s north-south jet-setting with Holiday’s shooting would arguably make for a cleaner fit (especially since the minutes he played with McConnell earlier this season were dicey, as well as few and far between); however, making that tweak (even on a night-to-night basis) would come at the cost of McConnell’s ability to keep the offense moving.
Granted, managing depth is a luxury, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging for Nate McMillan to continue pressing the right buttons while balancing the needs and wants of a more youthful roster.
That said, increasing the solo minutes for each of the team’s starting bigs, at least in theory, should make it easier to play more ball-handlers, more often.