Hawks’ John Jenkins on the mend after back surgery

John Jenkins has played through pain before. This was different.

The Hawks’ second-year shooting guard was limited to 13 games this season, mostly because of pain in his lower back. He missed workouts for two months during the summer and then the early part of training camp because of the condition. When it flared up again Dec. 26, he missed 18 games to rest and recover.

It didn’t work.

Jenkins underwent a surgical procedure Feb. 3 and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Now four weeks into his rehabilitation, Jenkins said he is elated at how good he feels.

“It was tough,” Jenkins said of the decision to have surgery. “I’ve been fighting it before I even played summer league. By then I didn’t know how bad it was. I played through it. I’m used to playing with pain. I did it a lot in college. I was taught toughness. Sometimes you have to learn it’s not all about being tough. I learned the lesson the hard way. I tried to fight through it. I tried to play through it.

“Obviously, I felt like I wasn’t myself. It came to the point where it wasn’t worth it any more. I couldn’t keep going out there and hurting myself and making it worse. I needed to get it looked at. Unfortunately, I needed surgery. I had the surgery, and I looked at it as a blessing.”

Jenkins works with trainers and physical therapists to strengthen his core. He looks forward to the day the team, doctors and therapists clear him to resume basketball activities. Jenkins said there is no timetable for such a return, but he works every day toward that end.

“Whenever they tell me it’s time to get ready to play, that’s when I’ll be the most excited person in the world,” Jenkins said. “It’s been a slow process. It could be a couple more months. I’m just going with the flow and not looking ahead. I’m trying to make every day my best day.”

Jenkins said he has spent his down time reading the Bible and other books and spending time with his family — pursuits that often took a back seat to his professional basketball career.

Jenkins averaged 3.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 12.2 minutes in his limited action this season. The Hawks picked up Jenkins’ third-year option earlier this year. Jenkins will play for the Hawks in the summer league again this year, something he is not required to do as a third-year player.

“I’ll play in any league out there as long as they let me,” Jenkins said. “I miss the game so much. I just want to get my rhythm back. I can’t wait to do that. I’ll definitely play summer league if they want me to. I want to play. I’ve made that clear. I think they already know that. Playing summer league is definitely a priority of mine.”

Bracket challenges: A couple of Hawks players are involved in bracket challenges for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Al Horford, from Florida, has his own group with ESPN. Kyle Korver, from Creighton, is running a bracket challenge. The contest is free, and Korver said he will award prizes. He is using the contest as an opportunity to accept $10 donations for the Kyle Korver Foundation, with the proceeds being used to build wheelchair ramps.