I would not make the statement that Smith and Tilmon don't want to play. I've never had a serious back injury, but I've had a sore back and it made getting out of bed painful, much less playing Division I basketball. If Mark could play I trust that he would be out there.
Tilmon told the staff heading into the Arkansas game that his foot was still sore. He has a stress fracture. Foot injuries can ruin a big man's career. No need to push it if he's not ready to return. But I've never gotten any indication from either of those guys the last few years that they wouldn't want to play if they could.
If we've learned anything from covering Cuonzo the last three years is he just doesn't have much to say about injuries. If a player isn't medically cleared to return or doesn't feel ready to return or Martin doesn't believe he's ready to return, then he's not going to waste time discussing the topic. We'll visit with Martin tomorrow to get the latest update, but I wouldn't expect much.
I asked him after Tuesday's game if he's learning to deal with injuries better and if the team is learning to cope better now that they've been through so many the last few years.
"It’s all life stuff," he said. "I’ve been through worse than this right here. This is a cakewalk. Of course you try to win basketball games. That's the most important thing. Your fans want to win. Your fans want to see all your guys on the floor. But for me, there’s a bigger picture in life. Our guys understand that. I don't waste a lot of time on anything that's negative and we can't control it. if they’re not playing, they're not playing. That’s it. Now what’s the next thing? You can't allow them to get mentally weak. You’ve got to keep fighting."