Bullets suffer huge blow for next NBL season
THE Brisbane Bullets are planning on marquee signing Cameron Bairstow missing the entire 2017-18 NBL season.
The former Chicago Bulls power forward and Rio Olympian suffered a major knee injury when he landed awkwardly finishing a fast break in the Bullets' overtime loss to Illawarra at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on December 19.
The 206cm former Brisbane junior damaged his medial and posterior cruciate ligaments and had to wait six weeks for the medial to settle before he could have surgery.
Bairstow's earliest return is set for late January 2018 but with the NBL regular season to run from early October to early February, Brisbane are proceeding as though he will not play this campaign.
Given the 26-year-old came back to the NBL from the NBA where he played two seasons with the Bulls and represented the Boomers at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Bairstow played the role of Brisbane's third "import" in salary cap terms.
The club will look to have three US imports on their books in 2017-18 to cover for Bairstow, who averaged almost 13 points and seven rebounds a game in 13 appearances last season after overcoming a shoulder injury suffered in Rio.
"Our first care and concern is for Cam," Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis said.
"We all really feel for him having to go through this long rehabilitation process but it is the reality of the situation.
"He's been very diligent and very thorough which is typical of him but it is going to take as long as it takes.
"But we can plan around it and we are planning as if he won't be playing at all. If something changes, that's a bonus.
"While the projected return to basketball is late January, that's assuming that everything goes right. You also have to get back in the right shape physically and mentally to play at this level."
Brisbane general manager Richard Clarke said the club were in talks with Bairstow and his management about playing in the 2018-19 NBL season and using him in a mentoring role with younger players and being a Bullets ambassador in the community.
"The ideal situation would be to have Cam around the club in that off-court capacity while he works ... on his rehab and he can come back in full playing capacity in 2018-19," Clarke said.
"There may be the potential for him to go play in Europe to set some games under his belt before that 2018-19 season."