Golden State Warriors backup center Festus Ezeli will undergo surgery to repair a knee injury, according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, which could keep him out for an extended time.
Ezeli has missed the last five games because of the injury and was initially thought to be sidelined through the All-Star Game, per Jeff Faraudo of the Bay Area News Group.
Head coach Steve Kerr referred to the the surgery as “exploratory,” per John Dickinson of 95.7 The Game, who elaborated with further context on what exactly that means:
No timetable for Ezeli's return. Surgery essentially to figure out what issue would be w/sore left knee that has kept him out last 5 games.— John Dickinson (@JDJohnDickinson) February 8, 2016
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Friday that Ezeli’s hiatus was initially taken for precautionary reasons, per Faraudo. The third-year center’s agent and the team planned to consult additional doctors to check the status of his knee, which had cartilage issues.
At the time, the Warriors indicated it would take a few days to reveal further diagnosis, and Monday’s announcement that he’ll require surgery aligns with that time frame.
After a strong start to the season in which he saw nearly 20 minutes per game and averaged close to nine points and 6.5 rebounds per contest, Ezeli’s contributions tailed off at the start of the new year. He’s played in only 10 of the Warriors’ 18 games in 2016 and is averaging just 12.5 minutes, 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Golden State’s offensive scheme generally goes small and relies only sparingly on a center; however, Ezeli proved valuable when starter Andrew Bogut went down in November and has been a reliable defensive force when called upon.
"I never deviate far from my roots, which is defense," he said earlier this season, per Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle. "So when I go into a game, I try to make my statement on the defensive end. On the offensive end, my job is to screen, get our shooters open...finish around the basket, roll hard.”
This isn’t the first major knee injury Ezeli has suffered, as the Vanderbilt product and former first-round draft pick required surgery to repair ligaments in his right knee during the summer after his rookie season in 2012-13.
While losing Ezeli certainly isn’t the biggest injury blow to a Warriors team chalk-full of incredible talent, he gave Golden State depth down low. The team will hope Bogut can remain healthy down the stretch and will likely lean on power forwards Marreese Speights and Jason Thompson in more enhanced roles.