How close is free agent Mario Chalmers to returning to the NBA?
Mario Chalmers hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since he tore his right Achilles while playing for Memphis nearly a year ago. But the former Kansas star considers his return to the league imminent.
During a lengthy interview with The Summer Podcast this week, Chalmers, currently a free agent, revealed though he is still grinding through a lengthy and challenging rehab process, he’s now close to 100 percent.
“I really think by the end of this month,” Chalmers said, “I’ll be back to that old Rio.”
The 30-year-old guard who helped Miami win championships in 2012 and 2013 couldn’t say the same a couple weeks back, when he worked out for Cleveland, home of his former Heat teammate, LeBron James.
Reflecting on that recent experience, Chalmers thought it went well, and said he shot the ball better in three-on-three and four-on-four situations than in drills. When Cavaliers general manager David Griffin asked him how his ankle and heel felt, Chalmers told his potential employer he could maintain and give Cleveland what it needed.
“But,” Chalmers recalled adding, “ I don’t feel like I’d be me. I don’t feel like I would be the Rio that was in Memphis and how I was able to rock like that.”
At the time, Chalmers explained, he didn’t have his full confidence or flexibility completely back. However, he now feels better than he has since tearing his Achilles March 9, 2016, at Boston.
Since then, the eight-year NBA veteran has worked toward his return, even though he couldn’t even get in a gym and put up shots for several months.
Chalmers said shortly after suffering the devastating injury, which he wouldn’t wish on his “worst enemy,” Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant reached out to him via text message.
“This is probably going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life,” Chalmers recalled of Bryant’s message. “But I’ve seen you play and I know your personality and I know you form (Dwyane) Wade. If anybody can do this, you can do it.”
The words of encouragement came out of the blue form someone Chalmers considered the greatest player he ever faced, and he said the message helped direct him toward a grueling recovery.
So far, Chalmers only has worked out for Cleveland — he said his former team, Memphis, watched him in person earlier in the process to see where he was at.
“We’ll see what’s next,” Chalmers said. “I just want an opportunity. This is my first time being without basketball for this long. I’ve been playing basketball since I was two.”
Chalmers’ entire interview with The Summer Podcast covers an array of topics, including why things soured for him in Miami, playing high school ball in Alaska, how he ended up at KU and slipping into the second round of the NBA Draft after leaving Kansas a year early.
Fans of Chalmers and/or the Jayhawks will get a kick out of the stories he shares, which include the former KU guard’s accounts of some not-safe-for-work motivational speeches Bill Self delivered during Chalmers’ time in Lawrence.
Although Chalmers explains he grew up dreaming of playing at North Carolina, he is grateful for what he picked up under Self’s guidance — even if the KU coach challenged his manhood along the way.
“He’s a player’s coach,” Chalmers said of Self. “He puts his players first. He don’t care about anybody’s ego or if you’re the best man or the worst man. He’s gonna treat you like you were supposed to be the star player regardless.”