After missing the final two months of the 2011-12 season after undergoing surgery for an enlarged aorta, Wilcox has spent the past seven months rehabbing. So eager to get back on the floor, he rushed himself at the start of training camp and suffered a back injury that, coupled with getting his cardio and strength back, has kept him off the floor since the team's first official practice on Sept. 29.
After missing all eight preseason games, Wilcox rejoined his teammates Wednesday to go through a three-hour marathon practice (a strict focus on half-court sets limited the overall activity). Asked what he's focused on improving as he returns to action, Wilcox was brutally honest.
"Everything, you know what I mean?" he said. "I’m coming from scratch right now, so everything I do is trying to improve, trying to get better. I’m just out here working, just trying to feel out what’s going on. What position I need to be in, what spots I need to be in, where I need to be on the court. I’m just working right now, just to get back in shape. Just get into the flow of things."
So how did Wilcox look back on the floor?
"He looked like Chris Wilcox, exactly," quipped Rivers. "I say that jokingly, but he did what he does. You know what I mean? He ran the floor, he rebounded, turned the ball over. That’s what I can get on him about. He did all those things. But he looked pretty good. I was surprised, his conditioning was a lot better than I thought it would be."
Rivers said it's on Wilcox to carve out a role, particularly as his lack of action has pushed him deeper on a revamped frontcourt depth chart.
"There's a lot of jobs open in a lot of ways, and I think it will be that way all year," said Rivers. "And I love the competition."
With his health woes hopefully behind him, Wilcox is eager to work himself back into a consistent role as a contributor, the sort of player who was emerging in February of last season before the heart ailment was detected.
"Back feels good; everything felt good today. Hopefully we can keep it up," said Wilcox, who acknowledged he's in catch-up mode.
"Just sitting back there [in trainer's room], working out every day on the sideline, seeing these guys go up and down, I wanted to be a part of it," said Wilcox. "They're out there grinding, getting ready for this year and I couldn’t be part of it, so today was a great challenge for me. I went out there, worked hard -- it’s the first day, so I didn’t expect too much. But I think I did well."