“I mean, the best way to learn that fire’s hot is to get burned,” he said. “I don’t think anything can replace playing this year. I don’t think anybody could convince me of that. But at the end of the day, I could let this be a blessing or a curse, you know? So I got to figure out how to turn it into a blessing, how to make the most out of it.”
Off the court, that meant adopting a dog, Drako, and doing charity work, like donating coats to families and hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for dozens of children in foster care.
Although he’s not playing with the Thunder, he spends just about every day at the facility, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., rehabbing, lifting weights and tweaking his jumper.
“Unless you’re Steph Curry,” he said, “you can always get better.”
He has taken up residency in the film room, hoping to understand how he will fit into this Thunder team a year from now. He has watched the way his teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 24, endures the ups-and-downs of leading a rebuilding roster that has outperformed expectations but still finds itself in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings.
Holmgren meets with Daigneault each week for at least a half an hour, when they talk about everything from philosophy to fourth-quarter situational strategy. Since Holmgren’s second surgery in December — a planned procedure to remove hardware from the first — Daigneault has noticed a new spark in him.
“The more he’s exposed to the competitive experience, whether it’s shooting in pregame warm-ups or being on the bench for lineup announcements,” Daigneault said, “when you watch him in those situations, you can tell he’s ready to run through a wall — but he can’t, not yet.”
Per team policy, the Thunder declined to make any team medical personnel available for interviews. But Holmgren said that he had put on muscle and weight since the summer and that he was on schedule to return to play next season.