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Chalmers recovers from injury, plans to work out for NBA teams after draft

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Red Team guard Mario Chalmers looks to sling a pass up the court during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

Red Team guard Mario Chalmers looks to sling a pass up the court during a scrimmage on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at the Horejsi Family Athletics Center. by Nick Krug

When Mario Chalmers suited up against Kansas men’s basketball players in Bill Self’s summer camp game Wednesday, it was the first time he played in a game in more than a year.

Chalmers sat out the entire 2016-17 NBA season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot, but he nearly found himself playing in the NBA Finals.

A free agent following his injury, Chalmers tried to find an NBA team during the middle of the season, but he wasn't recovering the way that he wanted.

He completed a workout with the Cleveland Cavaliers — who trail 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors — in February. The Cavs eventually signed guard Deron Williams on Feb. 27 after LeBron James asked the front office to add a veteran playmaker.

“During that workout, I felt like within myself I wasn’t really able to contribute like I wanted to,” said Chalmers, a two-time champion with the Miami Heat. “I wasn’t going to be same person that they expected me to be. I just decided to take the whole year off.”

During this week's free-flowing scrimmages, Chalmers scored 12 points against the Jayhawks on Wednesday at Horejsi Center. His son was one of the campers in attendance.

He followed with 22 points Thursday in the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic versus other KU alumni, showcasing his usual 3-point shooting touch and a few strong drives around defenders for layups. He even executed a few pick-and-roll assists with his former teammate Cole Aldrich.

“It means a lot to come back,” Chalmers said. “Just to come back to see all of the fans and be in front of them. For the first time, I actually got to play in front of them since Legends of the Phog game. It’s been good for me and also good for them. It’s the right step after coming back from the injury I just had.”

Chalmers wrote in a Player's Tribune story that "progress was excruciatingly slow" in his rehab, unable to do any basketball-related activities for five months.

Finally healthy, Chalmers said he will begin working out with teams following the NBA Draft on June 22, searching for the “right fit.” Prior to his injury, he averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 assists in 55 games with the Memphis Grizzlies.

“I’ve got kind of a name in the league, some credentials, so I’m just looking for right situation to be ready for me,” said Chalmers, who has played eight seasons in the NBA after winning a national title at KU in 2008.

Sitting out all of the season wasn’t what Chalmers envisioned when he was rehabbing from his injury last fall. But ultimately, he’s thrilled to finally return to full strength, even if that means he has to watch the NBA Finals from a distance.

“Being able to sit out a whole year, basically a whole year-and-a-half, it was tough but at the same time it was good for me to really sit back, get healthy and take care of all of my knick-knack injuries.”

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