In the Wizards' loss to the Spurs on Monday night, just as common a sight as Daniel Gafford throwing down vicious dunks was him holding his right hand, wincing in pain. On several occasions, he seemed to aggravate the sprained right thumb which caused him to miss one game and wear black tape in six games he's appeared in since.
Twice, Gafford was smacked on his hand around the rim. On another occasion, he dunked with his right hand and afterwards grabbed it in pain.
Despite the obvious discomfort, you wouldn't have known it just by looking at the box score. He still managed 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block in 22 minutes. He shot 5-for-7 from the field.
Gafford isn't 100 percent, but he's still giving the Wizards excellent production as their starting center.
"With the way he plays, he's in a lot of traffic in the paint, a lot of bodies going by him; it's going to get bumped," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "I give him credit for trying to play through it. At times, I'm sure it's difficult for him to catch and finish in traffic with that contact."
Gafford's game against the Spurs followed a win over the Mavs in which he had 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. The game before that, also a win, he had eight blocks, the most for a Wizards player in 10 years.
That's not bad for a guy with a bad thumb. The question is when it will get better, especially given the nature of his game, as Unseld Jr. detailed.
The Wizards head coach indicated it could continue to be an issue, at least for the meantime.
"Obviously, he's going to play through it. I don't think there's anything structurally wrong. It's just a pain threshold," Unseld Jr. said.
Gafford's resilience has been important for the Wizards, who remain without Thomas Bryant, their third center. Though they have gone 2-1 in games where Gafford was missing, they are perilously thin at center when he is absent. Montrezl Harrell has been a star in his role as the backup five, but can only do so much on his own.
Bryant is set to return within a matter of weeks. Once he does, if Gafford's thumb is still a problem, perhaps the Wizards can find time to rest him. For now, he may have little choice but to play through the pain. Fortunately for the Wizards, he's playing well in spite of it.