EXCLUSIVE: Edmond Sumner Ready For Strong Season After Full Achilles Recovery

Edmond Sumner, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

Edmond Sumner is currently one of the top free agent guards remaining ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season after being waived by the Brooklyn Nets. With the league focused on what will transpire with Damian Lillard and James Harden, many players like Sumner must remain patient.

Sumner overcame an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2021-22 season, ending his time with the Indiana Pacers. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets and averaged 7.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 13.9 minutes per game during his 53 appearances. With the addition of Dennis Smith Jr. in an already clogged guard rotation, the team opted to waive him ahead of his contract guarantee date in mid-July.

When evaluating Sumner’s impact, it doesn’t take long to see how his tall frame for a guard coupled with his 6-foot-8 wingspan and incredible athleticism makes for an impactful talent. He has an ultra-quick first-step to get by a defender, has an explosive vertical to hang in the air and contort if needed, and is a menace in the passing lanes and in the open floor.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

Throughout Sumner’s NBA career, he’s been mislabeled in terms of skill-set. Naturally, he’s a point guard who has adapted to playing off-ball after being drafted to a Pacers team in 2017 that already had plenty of point guards, requiring him to adapt by playing on the wing.

“I played point guard all my life,” Sumner told NBA Analysis Network. “I was getting on draft boards as a point guard and stuff like that and the NBA because I was playing point guard and I was 6-5. So, everything I’ve done towards my NBA career was just the longevity of me getting drafted to the Pacers, and it was such like a clog position. At that time, we had two vets at point guard, so adapting by playing off-ball was me being smart. It’s like, ‘If you want to play, you’re really going to have to learn how to do something else to be on the floor.’

“I can see the floor, and I feel like now, me being older and working with my skills trainer, Joey Burton, we just worked on so much of my patience and playing at different paces,” Sumner explained. “Now, seeing the floor is so much better and the more I got play with the ball in my hands, the better I got out throughout the year with the Nets. I feel like with Brooklyn, it was the first time I really got the ball back in my hands more after playing off the ball with the Pacers.”

Sumner’s NBA career began requiring him to rehab from a torn ACL that he suffered midway through his final year at Xavier. Before, he was emerging as a top 20 selection on many NBA Draft boards, with some projections even having him going in the back end of the lottery.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

The process of overcoming that injury, along with his recent Achilles tear has only further reinforced his work ethic. He spent a lot of time with sports performance specialist Mike Robertson from iFAST, but this time, had the additional help of hyperbaric oxygen to assist in his recovery.

“When I got drafted by Pacers, they did a really good job of kind of just getting me back on track,” Sumner said. “And then I met with Mike Robertson from iFAST and he does a wonderful job.”

“The Achilles injury was just a freak thing,” Sumner explained. “Like, I work hard in the summer, I go extremely hard. I feel like I was ready for the season. I was looking good, feeling good, then it happened. Then I’m with Mike all the time and for the Achilles recovery, I also was doing this thing called hyperbaric oxygen.

“Probably like the first like few weeks of you get Achilles surgery, you don’t do much,” Sumner explained further. “I did 40 straight sessions of that. Just getting in this big old tube — it’s like the professional ones — you’re in there for like 90 minutes. They have a TV so you could sit in there, watch TV, but I just did that for 40 session. I don’t know how much that helped, but I, honest to God, feel like that had to be a miracle worker because I did not have one issue throughout my whole Achilles process, or throughout my return to play this year.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

The entire recovery process was a major success for Sumner, who feels he didn’t lose a step despite experiencing arguably the most devastating injury an athlete can reasonably suffer.

“It’s literally been amazing,” Sumner said. “I don’t feel like I’m lost a step.”

When returning to play the main issue for Sumner was the need to overcome being somewhat timid with his approach as he acclimated to playing against contact again. Entering the upcoming season, he no longer has to worry about anything of the sort due to everything that went into a successful return to competition process.

“Most of the it was me trying to like mentally get over hurdles,” Sumner said. “At first, you’re a little timid, but I couldn’t believe I returned that way and looked the same, like almost perfect to the way I looked prior to that end. Between hyperbaric oxygen and the work that Mike did, the work that the Pacers staff did in my rehab, and even the work Brooklyn did the tail end of it, it was all so helpful.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

Sumner admits that he was nervous at first about how the Achilles injury would impact his explosiveness when returning to action, but he actually feels more capable than before.

“I literally can’t explain that, because that’s something that I was definitely nervous and stressing about with the Achilles, just because I’m such an explosive athlete and that’s what kind of makes me appealing to teams,” Sumner said.

“I feel great, especially now coming into my second year of it,” Sumner explained. “I don’t think about it anymore. My explosion has even gotten better, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with just jumping off of it and not really thinking about it anymore.”

Along the way, Sumner connected with NBA skills trainer Joey Burton, who is known for his specialty with shooting mechanics. The two worked together to sharpen his mechanics, going from shooting a combined 26.3 percent in 54 games between 2018-19 and 2019-20, to shooting 39.8 percent in 53 appearances in 2020-21.

“The first year I got in the league, I was hurt,” Sumner said. “I was doing my rehab and was put in touch with Joey. He was working out with one of my Xavier teammates, Trevon Bluiett. We just got to work with him and I started seeing the improvements in my mechanics, even within a workout. That takes time to actually implement stuff in games and stay disciplined.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

For a player developing as a shooter, a common daily battle to fight through is the maintenance of shot discipline, which only gets more challenging the more shot attempts that are taken within a game. If a player is mostly standing in the corner in the NBA, but gets tasked with being a high usage threat in the G League, going from a low volume of catch-and-shoot attempts to also adding on tough, step-back 3s into the mix puts that discipline to the test. Sumner explained that while he was on a two-way contract spending time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, this was something he went through.

“We were working at like twice a day, pretty much like every day from when I met Joey to now,” Sumner said. “Like I’ve been working with Joey, for about six years now and that type of discipline, I started to see a little bit happen at Summer League that and that second year on my contract. I was still on two-way deal, so I was sent down to G League, and even if you look at those numbers, I shot the ball better and I was shooting way harder shots like off-the-dribble versus like just catch and shoot. The confidence of knowing that if I missed one side, I wasn’t coming out the game helped.”

“The biggest difference was a matter of how can I be so disciplined with three 3s per game versus like, ‘Oh, I’m about to get eight of them.’ That was kind of like the next step — fine tuning all the details and that’s why I love Joey, because it’s just more the details and understanding why you missed a shot,” Sumner explained. “Prior to me working with Joey, you don’t really know like, ‘Okay, why did I miss this shot?’ I can pinpoint why I missed a shot every time and now I was just trying to eliminate those undisciplined ones the best as I can.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

While Sumner’s ability to quickly attack the rim will naturally be feared most by a defender closing out on him, he has benefited from commanding more respect from defenders closing out on him when he catches the basketball — enabling him to more easily generate blow-by’s to get downhill.

“The more you’re hitting 3s, there’s no more closing out short, because the defender has to come out and contest,” Sumner said. “I feel like I can get by a lot of guys with my speed anyways if they closed out short, but the closer you are, that’s the better advantage. That just helped me out a lot, especially with me playing alongside some superstars, it’s important to re-drive to continue the offense.”

Sumner’s willingness to embrace playing off-ball and focusing on making a defensive impact to earn playing time was sparked by advice early in his career from his then veteran Pacers teammate, Thaddeus Young. The goal became to do what it took to sharpen his skill-set to be capable of always filling a role for whatever team he’s on.

“Really, I would say Thad Young in my first year, that was kinda like the biggest thing he kinda opened my eyes up to the whole thing with the NBA and not being so one dimensional,” Sumner said. “That stuck with me.

“I remember it was maybe like within my first like three weeks there,” Sumner explained. “He was just talking and told me, ‘Man, you have to find a role that can work with any team you play on and not be so blinded by wanting to have that sexy role, thinking you’re about to score 30 points every game,’ That’s just not realistic, or how this league works.

“For me as a young player, it was like, ‘Okay, well how can I get on the floor?’ It’s not about be because of offense,” Sumner explained further. “We have enough offensive players. I had to have that defensive mindset, especially since we had Dan Burke and I feel like that right there kind of got me in.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

Sumner views the advice he received from Young and his experience having to adapt to a different role with the Pacers as having prepared him well for his season with the Nets, and going forward in his NBA career.

“I’m glad I didn’t have a closed mind about the whole situation and kind of just embraced it,” Sumner said. “That made me a better shooter because I had to be better at catch-and-shoot 3s to be able to play on the wing. I had to learn how to impact on cutting just to be active, so I didn’t feel like I’m just out there doing nothing. And boom, okay, if you want to contribute, you have to defend.

“I go to Brooklyn, I was playing more more on ball, stuff like that, but now I feel like I’m very versatile and that’s just me kind of being an open-minded early on,” Sumner explained.

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

Sumner’s quickness and overall athletic tools make him a dangerous player to leave unattended in the half-court because he can quickly capitalize as a cutter. Whether it’s out of the corner on a backdoor cut, making a 45-cut from the wing when a teammate is collapsing the defense, or even just cutting through when an action doesn’t result in receiving the basketball, he remains a threat. The timing and approach was something he picked up from Doug McDermott when they were Pacers teammates.

“I played with Doug McDermott and realized how effective of a cutter he was, partly because he was such a great shooter, the defense had to respect him off-ball for it, but there’s more to it,” Sumner said. “He is a great shooter, but he used to score in so many different rides of ways when they played to prevent him from getting a catch-and-shoot look. So like I used to be sitting over there watching how he cut and the timing of the way he cut. I actually learned a lot from Doug just on the timing and stuff.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

As Sumner has embraced making a defensive impact, he’s been tasked with guarding a wide-range of tough assignments, whether it’s a big superstar like Paul George, or a quick guard like De’Aaron Fox.

“Even with this year, I was guarding a lot of different guys,” Sumner said. “I’m checking, you could say I can go from a De’Aaron Fox they put me on, or, say we play the Clippers, they had me on Paul George. I can check a lot of different people. I do think defense first — it’s a pride thing with me.

“In the Nets’ system, we switched a lot — pretty much one through five. And I’m not saying I was out there banging with the five’s, but we switched a lot one through five anyways. And the more versatile you are defensively, that keeps you on the floor. The NBA is based a lot on matchups and I try to limit as much that would disadvantage me by trying to be so versatile that in any situation, they can throw me in and feel comfortable with that.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

With Sumner having instincts for the ball and the physical tools to outperform the typical guard, one area he impacts in rare form is on the boards. Not only can he track down a rebound effectively, but he’s a major threat in the open floor to quickly get to the other end for a finish or pass to a teammate.

“Rebounding is something I could really take to the next level,” Sumner said. “That’s something I feel there are times where I can get my number way higher. Sometimes, bigs get a little sensitive when you you’re down there, quote unquote, stealing their rebound. I’m one of these guys that’s like, ‘Alright, you get them.’ Just having that ability to go down there and go get a rebound off the glass, if I get the rebound, I’m starting the break, that’s going make an offense so much faster.

“Starting the break is something that you definitely want to always capitalize on,” Sumner explained. “The more possessions you can get, the more easy shots you can get — the quick look, the wide open 3s and stuff like that. If I’m able to initiate that, I’m going to push the pace and that offense is going to play so fast.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

When Sumner signed with the Nets last summer, he was still rehabbing from his torn Achilles injury, naturally resulting in the organization being cautious with his workload during workouts. With a fully healthy offseason, he’s been able to continue to hone in on strengthening his skill-set to enhance what he does best, but to also sharpen where he must improve.

“It’s great to have a healthy offseason, man,” Sumner said.

Sumner was unable to even participate in 5-on-5 action until two weeks before training camp last season. With being signed to a non-guaranteed contract, he had to ensure that he’d be ready to participate in training camp, and it took time for him to regain comfort with what he had done on the court prior to sustaining the injury.

“Like what’s crazy is, I didn’t start playing 5-on-5 last year when I got to Brooklyn and even then, they kind of like dialed me back because they wanted to get my calf really strong,” Sumner said. “I didn’t play 5-on-5 until two weeks before training camp started. I only played maybe three times. Something was kind of bothering me physically and I wanted to make sure like I was full go for training camp because at that time I didn’t have a guaranteed salary.”

“Just in the back of my mind, I’m driving while playing 5-on-5 while you telling me I have to come in here and be ready, like from the get go,” Sumner explained. “Like, there was no baby stepping.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

After his lone season with the Nets, Sumner feels he has regained his confidence and has a real rhythm this offseason compared to what he was dealing with just a year ago. Going from trying to be ready physically for training camp instead of improving and refining parts of his game has made a substantial difference for how he perceives his outlook for the upcoming season.

“With that going on in my mind, like I know now like, ‘Oh snap, I’m back.’ I competed for a whole year,” Sumner said. “I had bright spots throughout the year. I did well for the playing time I was getting, especially every time I got big opportunities,” Sumner said. “I feel like I capitalized this year, so my confidence is so high right now. I feel that’s like the biggest thing, just making sure the confidence is right. I didn’t know how my body was just going to respond right after that Achilles tear and me not playing a lot, 5-on-5 coming into that straight off an injury, I was just so unsure.

“Now, I have a full offseason — I’m addressing everything I felt was a weakness this year,” Sumner explained. “I don’t want to ever feel like I’m on the court and I can’t do something. You can’t be great at everything since that’s just probably impossible. I have a full summer now of work back on my body and not be trying to build myself back up just to get to the point where I was. Now, it’s like, ‘Okay, this where I’m at, let’s take it to another level.’

“This summer’s been great,’ Sumner explained further. “I’m excited about next season. I accomplished what I did coming off my Achilles tear and that’s just not a normal thing. That’s a big injury. So for me to be ready and be healthy, I’m excited about this year. I’ve been working on a lot of stuff. I feel like a lot of the stuff that maybe people could say were weakness, aren’t weaknesses. And with the right opportunity, I’m going to capitalize, for sure.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

In terms of specifics, Sumner is continuing to work on his shot creation within the half-court. Whether he’s playing out of a ball screen, handoff, or off-ball screening action, he knows he must be aggressive looking to take pull-up jump shots to force the defense to respect the threat of him taking that shot. Doing so would further open rim attacks if the on-ball defender isn’t enabled to go under.

“This offseason, after having a year coming off the injury, I got a year to kind of reassess things,” Sumner said. “Like, ‘Okay, these are things that the looks that I’m going to be getting, so I have to be able to knock these down and take these shots and a lot of it is off-the-bounce because teams will play you a certain way once they see what your weaknesses are, or at least what they feel is the best plan to contain you.

“I wasn’t shooting a lot off the bounce, so it was like, ‘Alright, maybe he’s not going to take these, so we’re going to go under these ones,” Sumner explained. “That’s been pretty much been my whole focus this summer. There’s a lot of stuff off the bounce. Obviously you continue to do catch-and-shoot and playing off-the-catch cause you’re just not going to predominantly have a ball in your hands, so you have to be efficient with both. But that’s just been one of my biggest focus is just being able to consistently and comfortably knock it down off-the-bounce because that’s going to open up so much for my speed and ability to get to the rim.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

Another element of Sumner’s ongoing offseason development is to continue to fine-tune how he utilizes pace to put himself in situations where he’s fully utilizing his quickness. Instead of coming straight off a screen at full speed, staying patient to force the defense to make a commitment can open things up for a more efficient outcome. Using deep drive footwork for deceleration steps is another element of his focus areas, in order to maximize his control in the paint to create advantages.

“If I can be able to make defense have to 100 percent, honestly check me, that’s what’s going to let me be me in moments when I feel like I got it going from 3 or whatever it is, and they have to press up more,” Sumner said. “Joey has been working with me on using change of pace, so I can turn it off and turn it on with how explosive I am. Using pace not just at the point of attack, but deep on the drive to make better decisions and even with the finishing and stuff like that. Because at certain speeds, I don’t care where you are, it is tough.

“It’s just playing at a different speed, doing a lot of shooting off the bounce,” Sumner explained. “I just reviewed like a year and just seeing the shots that I should have taken or even shots that I was getting — a lot of it happened off the bounce. And with that mindset and with the reps, I’m getting how comfortable and that’s going to open up so much more.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

While Sumner’s stint with the Nets last just one season, he was able to gain valuable insight from superstars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. With Sumner continuing to focus on his use of pace, being able to learn from Irving was particularly valuable.

“I feel like playing with those star players, you can kind of see and pick up on things that they do and that’ll help you out,” Sumner said. “Especially with Kyrie Irving, the way he plays with pace — the cadence —I gained things that I was able to implement into certain aspects of my game, and try to improve doing this summer.

“With his pace, and how he’s always in control of pretty much every situation he’s in, for someone to always be like that and for him not to be the tallest guy, he can get to any spot, finish any way he wants,” Sumner explained. “He dictates a lot of things and to be matching up against him, first off, it’s hard, what he does in practice is even crazier stuff. Sometimes that just blows your mind.

“If you even stay after and you get to play just some 1-on-1 — his creativity is off the charts,” Sumner explained further. “I don’t think anybody can really match that. Guarding him and just picking his brain, man, it was great for me and my development.”

NBA NEWS & RUMORS: Edmond Sumner, Brooklyn Nets & Indiana Pacers Updates

After the Nets traded Irving and Durant, the team brought in Mikal Bridges, who Sumner already had a familiarity with from the Big East. With Bridges similarly having a long wingspan, taking notes from one of the league’s elite wing defenders was just another way Sumner was able to gain value from continually seeking out ways to improve his own game.

“I already kind of knew Mikal back from college since he was from Villanova, so I knew what type of player he and he’s a great defender,” Sumner said. “Even just seeing how he sees the floor on the defensive end and being like, ‘Okay, I might not have seen it the way you saw it, but I understand it.’ He is an open book and we were already cool before playing together.”

Currently, it remains to be seen where Sumner will receive that opportunity to showcase the improvements in his game and his fully regained physical form after a healthy offseason. Regardless, he remains an intriguing option for any team needing to add another threat to generate rim pressure with defensive versatility.

Sumner has drawn some level of interest from a few teams, including the Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Miami Heat, sources tell NBA Analysis Network.

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