As an athletic rim-runner with a knack for completing alley-oop dunks, playing positional defense and finding open shooters, Marquese Chriss would have been a staple of the Warriors' center rotation that includes James Wiseman and Kevon Looney.
Instead, he is a month into rehabbing an injury that could take several months to recover from.
Chriss suffered a right high ankle sprain with a fractured right fibula during practice in Chicago late last month. He slipped a screen trying to catch a lob pass during a scrimmage. When Chriss got up in the air, he realized the rim was closer than he anticipated. Trying to contort his body in order to finish the dunk, Chriss landed awkwardly, causing him to slip, fall and pin his leg under him.
He screamed at first, and initially grabbing his knee. Once Chriss realized his knee was OK, he thought he was fine.
"I have never gone into shock in my life," Chriss said Monday in a video conference, during his first public comments since the injury. "I thought it was something people make up. But I was laughing, thinking I was OK. I thought I just rolled my ankle or whatever. They started doing evaluations and when they pushed on the side of my fibula it gave in a little. That's when they realized it was broken."
Chriss was able to walk off the court with the trainers. Since he could put weight on his ankle, Chriss still didn't think the injury was that severe. But when they gave him the official diagnosis, Chriss broke down in tears.
He said he was sad for about two hours. Then he had an abrupt mindset shift.
"Everything happens for a reason," Chriss said. "I know this is just something I have to go through to be the person I'm going to be on the other side of this. It just happened to happen to me. I'm just making the most out of it."
Still, recovering from an injury, especially in the age of COVID-19, is far from easy. Because of California restrictions, Chriss has spent most of his days alone. A self-proclaimed introvert, the isolation isn't too hard for Chriss, but at a certain point, the loneliness is tiring.
So moments like Monday -- when he got to join his team -- are extra special.
At this stage of his rehab, Chriss can't do a whole lot. His days are spent flushing some of the swelling out of his leg, working on mobility and doing upper-body lifts. He wasn't willing to rule himself out for the remainder of the season, but also couldn't offer a clear timeline for a return. But right now, that's not his focus.
"At this point, I'm trying to attack my rehab as best I can and get myself to 100 percent," Chriss said. "I really don't know where that timeline is at in this moment. I just want to get myself back as healthy as possible and be able to go full strength and help the team."
When he's with the team, Chriss is an observer, occasionally giving notes to his teammates, such as Wiseman. Even though Chriss is on a one-year deal with the Warriors, he feels the need to help however and whenever he can.
Sitting out due to injury in a contract year is anything but ideal, yet Chriss is trying to make an impact where he can on a team where he can see a long-term fit.