Ian Mahinmi opens up on his injuries: ‘It’s been one of the toughest years for me’

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has called this a roller-coster season. The same could be said — 48 games in — for the season Ian Mahinmi is having.

He’s the team’s starting center, and has been out there to open games in all 41 games that he’s played. He’s averaging 8.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a block per game in 24.1 minutes — all career-highs. His shooting percentage (59.8 percent) has never been better.

Mahinmi missed his second straight game Monday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers were in town. He’s dealing with lower back soreness that he calls “a freak injury” and one that could happen to anyone at anytime.

Two other Pacers, Jordan Hill and C.J. Miles, have missed a combined three games because of a sore lower back. Hill’s was also described as a freak injury that occurred during pre-game warmups.

Mahinmi is having his best season as a pro in eight years, but hasn’t felt right since Dec. 30 at Chicago. He exited the game in the third quarter because of left knee soreness.

Mahinmi, who's day-to-day, has missed seven games this season. [Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Mahinmi, who’s day-to-day, has missed seven games this season. [Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Mahinmi felt great for the first two months of the season, but now he has been bothered by one thing after another.

“Ever since that, it has been a snowball effect,” Mahinmi said, obviously frustrated. “It’s been that (1 game), then my heel (1), then my ankle (2), then my back (3) now. I’m just trying to get healthy right now and get back to where I was before that Chicago game.”

This isn’t him making excuses, to be clear. He’s simply sharing what it’s been like and how he feels.

The Pacers are 1-5 when Mahinmi hasn’t been available since that injury in Chicago.

“Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a tough year as far as injuries [for me],” he said candidly. “When you look at it, I only missed a few games. I probably missed like, what, five games this year. So overall, it’s not crazy.

“That’s the behind-the-scenes thing that fans and people that work the game don’t really know about it. How much your body goes through. It goes through a lot. You got to keep playing games, and you got to keep practicing everyday. It’s been tough. It’s been one of the toughest years for me. Knock on wood — it hasn’t been anything bad, injury wise.”

X-rays or an MRI weren’t needed. Mahinmi said that trainers Josh Corbeil and Carl Eaton, along with physical therapist Dan Dyrek knew what was causing the pain.

“We know exactly what it is and we know exactly what to do to get it right,” Mahimi said. “That’s the most important thing.”

He’s doing stretches and exercises several times a day, taking pills to get the swelling under control, and he’s sure to sit and sleep a certain way.

Officially, he says he’s day-to-day.

“There’s no timetable. It could be tomorrow, it could be Thursday or Friday. We’ll see.

“I’ll be back in no time,” he added. “I’m a fast heeler.”

The Pacers hope so. Rookie Myles Turner has been special since getting regular minutes eight games ago, beginning in Denver. But he has also made rookie mistakes. Mahinmi, though, is particularly important on the defensive end as what coach Frank Vogel describes as one of the best rim protectors in the game.

“We got guys that are learning how to protect the rim in our system,” Paul George said. “Ian’s a guy that knows how to protect the rim in our system. It just comes down to the experience of him being in our program for so many years.”

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