In just his fifth game back after missing the first 16 of the season, junior guard Theo Pinson headed to the locker room after a fall with 10:14 left in the first half. For those of you who missed it: it was pretty easy to miss. He and Joel Berry II were both going up for a rebound after a missed Hokie shot when Pinson landed awkwardly and was slow to get up. The commentators even thought that Pinson just stumbled over himself and was laughing because of it. Point being, the “injury” didn’t seem like much. He then continued to play until the next stoppage, at which point he was evaluated for a few minutes before being taken to the locker room. When he finally did go back, I’m sure every Carolina fan was thinking the same thing: “Oh no. Not again. Not him.”
According to a source near the bench at the time, Pinson stopped in the tunnel for a few minutes before finally going back to the locker room. Now, it is unclear whether this was his choice or the athletic trainer’s choice. Regardless, you just know that what Theo was thinking in that moment was pretty similar to what the fans were thinking. Pinson hated being injured. He is the heart and soul of this team without a doubt, and all he wants is to be on the floor helping his team. So, it was pretty tough to see a guy go down like that after everything that he went through this season.
Later, @UNC_Basketball tweeted this:
Theo Pinson (rolled right ankle) will not play the rest of the game tonight as a precaution.— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) January 27, 2017
For me, “rolled ankle” was an interesting way to describe the injury. If you look at the replay, he really didn’t roll it at all. At best, he nicked his foot which might have still been a little sore from the previous injury. This brings us to the next question. If he didn’t actually roll his ankle, why did the training staff keep him out the rest of the game?
The answer: he’s too valuable. And the coaching staff knows it. The choice of the word “precaution” in the above tweet also says a lot about the nature of the injury and the decision. It is my guess that Pinson did not re-injure his broken foot, or even roll his ankle. However, he definitely did something, and there’s no reason to take the chance. It’s only January, and Carolina is gearing up for one of the toughest ends to a season in recent memory. It would be silly to not take the precaution with Pinson, and to risk further injury when rest can only do good.
Friday brought more tough news for UNC fans to hear. The university released this statement on Pinson’s status:
There’s no timetable for his return because he’ll be back for Pitt on Tuesday...or at least I hope. In all seriousness, I do believe that this is but a minor setback in Theo’s rise to being the best player he can be. Pinson will not play today against the Canes, but he will hopefully be well rested for the full slate of tough games coming up next month. The Heels will have to play with a similar rotation to those first 16 games today against Miami. However, if Carolina plays today like they did on Thursday night, then the Hurricanes shouldn’t be too hard to handle without Pinson. We wish him the best, and really hope to see him back soon.