Auburn Hills — Pistons forward Jon Leuer tried to exhaust every option before he gave in.
He reached the end of the line on Thursday.
After suffering a sprained left ankle on Oct. 31, the condition worsened, as a later exam revealed bone fragments and other issues. Leuer has missed the last 35 games and has decided to have season-ending ankle surgery, he told The Detroit News on Friday.
Leuer, 28, has scheduled the procedure for next Friday and will have a four-month rehabilitation process.
“It’s extremely frustrating. Disappointing, anger, all those emotions … we were trying to do whatever we could to avoid this,” Leuer told The News. “I knew even a month and a half ago when I saw the specialist that he kind of suggested (surgery) right away, but we wanted to see if we could try to manage the pain and hopefully get through the season.
“As I tried to progress, time and time again, I never even got really close to being able to practice or do full basketball activities.”
Leuer was projected to be a major part of the Pistons’ rotation this season, but after playing in the first eight games, averaging 5.4 points and four rebounds, he hasn’t been able to return healthy.
“It’s unfortunate for him; he had worked really hard in the offseason,” coach Stan Van Gundy said before Friday’s game against the Wizards. “As much as it was tough for us, it’s really tough for him. He’s tried everything to get back and did not want to go the route of anything season-ending, up until the very last day.”
The Pistons have applied to the NBA for a disabled-player exception, which could give them about $5 million — about half of Leuer’s salary — in cap relief. Leuer’s medical records will be examined by an independent league-appointed doctor, who will make a recommendation to the league about whether to grant the provision.
It’s been a tough couple of months for Leuer, who has tried to work his way back, doing some light shooting drills, but the pain became too great and he ran out of alternative methods of addressing the injury.
“There’s a bone fragment stuck in my ligament on the inside. It’s in the joint, so it’s causing a lot of sharp pain every time I jump and run — even light running and jumping,” Leuer said. “They’re going to take that out. I had a pain on the outside of my ankle too, so they’re going to clean that up and take out a piece of cartilage.
“It’s not necessarily from the (last) injury I had. I rolled it a lot; they think it’s an accumulation of things. You don’t know for sure, but the last ankle sprain aggravated it and things moved around in there.”
In the weeks following the initial sprain, Leuer said he was starting to feel better and was on the road to returning. On Nov. 15, the Pistons played at Milwaukee and Leuer said he had the first setback.
“I was back to doing basketball stuff before the Milwaukee game and had it flare up and swell up and get really sore,” Leuer said. “I had pain but I thought could play through that and it would get better. We thought, ‘we pushed it too hard so let’s back off and take our time and let it heal right.’
“A couple weeks later, I was feeling good enough and the swelling went down and I starting doing stuff and the same thing happened. Then we knew something else was going on.”
After that setback, Leuer and the team medical staff sought another opinion, which led to the recommendation for surgery. Leuer said he tried to exhaust every other option before opting for surgery, “but nothing worked.”
After surgery next week, the timeline for Leuer’s rehabilitation is about four months, which will include a few weeks on crutches, followed by a customized walking boot. The hope is that he can have a full summer to regain strength and be ready for next season. He has two years and about $19.5 million left on his contract.
He started 34 games last season, which was the best of his career, with 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 75 games. He was a reserve in the eight games, but looked to have a bounce-back year after he struggled in the second half of last season.
“It’s not how I envisioned this season going at all,” Leuer said. “I’m doing whatever I can to get healthy and get ready for next year.”