Odd for Todd with no hoops

Paul Friesen -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

In talking to Todd MacCulloch over the years, you never got the impression he took things for granted. Oh, he\'d downplay the fact he was living a kid\'s dream, being paid millions to play pro basketball, but that seemed to come out of genuine modesty, and a distaste for the spotlight.

You always believed MacCulloch was simply trying to keep things as real as possible, in what can be a very unreal world -- the NBA.

But that doesn\'t mean he didn\'t appreciate what he had.

Now that it\'s been taken away from him, that has never been more true.

Struck down by a rare combination of nerve disorders last January, MacCulloch continues to suffer symptoms. And for the first time since he was growing up in Winnipeg, he faces an autumn without hoops.

\"I haven\'t been playing much ball,\" MacCulloch told The Sun this week. \"I miss it a lot. I miss everything. I miss the guys, I miss the competition, I even miss practice. I miss drills. I miss the thought of not being able to go through training camp. I never really loved training camp, but I miss it more than I ever did, that\'s for sure.\"

Barring a miracle, MacCulloch\'s team, the Philadelphia 76ers, will open training camp in a few weeks without him.

While most injured players have something to shoot for -- a target date for their return -- the Shaftesbury High School grad remains in limbo. There is no broken bone to heal, no ligament to stitch together -- just a clumsy, painful numbness in his hands and feet that may, or may not, go away.

He\'s traveled to see specialists, received advice from loved ones and strangers, some suffering from similar conditions, but with painfully little in the way of results.

\"I can walk, ride a bike, swim -- I can do those things,\" MacCulloch said. \"But pretty fine athletic movements are difficult and uncomfortable. Specific basketball-type stuff, running and jumping, those sort of things make the symptoms quite a bit worse.\"

So he waits, and hopes.

And prays.

MacCulloch has done a lot of that lately.

Never one to be overly religious, he\'s been plunging head-first into the Bible, and coming up with all kinds of inspiration.

\"It\'s made all the difference, in terms of outlook and the future,\" he said. \"I don\'t worry too much about the future. I mean, I really hope to play. I know God has the ability to heal, and it may be His plan. I hope He wants me to keep playing ball.

\"I\'m still focused on trying to play. If it\'s something else, I\'m sure it\'ll be revealed to me.\"

He particularly wanted to play this summer, helping Canada attempt to qualify for next year\'s Olympics, just as he did four years ago.

You see, if his country calls, MacCulloch is there in a heartbeat.

Without him, Canada fell short in Puerto Rico.

\"I would have been there,\" he said. \"I would like to think that I could have made a positive impact, for sure. It was hard not being there.\"

Just like it was hard missing the NBA playoffs last spring.

And now, training camp, a time for fresh starts and renewed dreams -- at least, for most.

You can bet there isn\'t a player in the NBA who\'s wanted to take part in a training camp more than MacCulloch would like to take part in this one.

\"I think I tried to be as appreciative and as humble about what I had,\" he said. \"You always sort of expect it\'s going to be there. No matter how much you think you appreciate it, maybe when you\'re facing it being gone, it brings you to a new level of wanting to be back in there.\"


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