“Our organization’s guiding principle will always center on a holistic approach to our players’ health and prioritizing their overall well-being,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. “T.J. Warren has worked incredibly hard over the past 14 months to get to this point – a full participant in on-court activity with his teammates – all while navigating the many challenges that accompany this type of injury. However, after thoughtful conversation with T.J. and his representatives, it has been determined that the most beneficial course of action at this point is to allow him to focus on the 2022-23 season. We will continue to provide T.J. with all the care, support, and resources necessary to ensure he returns to the high-level of play to which he’s accustomed.”
With the fifth-worst record in the league, it doesn’t make much sense on either side for Warren to return with only 12 games left to play — especially in a contract year, when he hasn’t played since Nate Bjorkgren was still at the helm and will likely be rusty.
That said, given that Warren abruptly went from tweeting, “I played basketball today. I had fun” on August 13 to being ruled out indefinitely prior to the start of training camp, with what the team referred to as “healing, but not at the pace previously anticipated,” it’s curious that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is now filling in some missing details, confirming that the two-way forward has fully returned to basketball activities after recovering from “consecutive stress fractures in his left foot.”
Although Indiana Pacers guard TJ Warren has recovered from consecutive stress fractures in his left foot and returned to full basketball activities, he will sit out team’s final 12 games and prepare for the 2022-2023 season, sources told ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 17, 2022
Of course, Warren’s status has been murky all season. At Media Day on September 27, the same day when head coach Rick Carlisle first said, “Hopefully it’ll be weeks and not months, that’s the hope” — a phrase which later became a tagline among fans with every update that was given without yielding a timetable for return — the 29-year-old scorer, according to reporters who were present, said he had not suffered any setbacks or re-injury of the foot.
All of that weirdness aside, the important takeaway is that Warren has recovered and is set to hit free agency, 19 months (yes, months) removed from when he starred in the Orlando bubble, averaging 26.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 10 games.
In games without Warren, the Pacers have compiled a 57-87 record over the last three seasons, surrendering 113.9 points per 100 possessions, compared to 108.5 in his 2320 minutes. Granted, there’s more to that discrepancy than just Warren, as the team has undergone several significant schematic makeovers on that end of the floor (arguably for the worse) with other players also missing significant time. Still, for a roster short on wings, there’s no denying that what the buttery mid-range scorer offers as an on-ball defender has been missed, perhaps on par with his ability to manufacture points when leveraged.
Overall, while it’s unclear whether he has a future in Indiana, the basketball he played for the Pacers, especially when viewed through the lens of the basketball the Pacers have played without him, was in many ways, to put it in his words, fun.