Less than two weeks ago, Craig Sager was in Dallas for a Spurs-Mavericks game when he began to feel ill. After conferring with the Mavs’ team doctor, Sager was off to the hospital for further examination.
“I was walking dead,” Sager said of the news he got from doctors, who told him that his hemoglobin levels had hit dangerous lows.
Now, instead of working the sidelines, Sager is watching the NBA playoffs play out on the TV in his Atlanta hospital room, where he’s being treated for acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
On April 10, at the Dallas-area hospital, Sager underwent blood transfusions and later returned to Atlanta, where his treatment continues. Ten days later, Sager was watching his son, Craig Sager Jr., interview Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who Sager has sparred with many times during sideline segments and admitted that he was “nervous for Junior.”
The spot went off without a hiccup, though, and Popovich ended the two-question segment by looking into the camera and telling Sager that he wants to see him back in action ASAP.
“It was just fabulous, an uplifting, tremendous thing for me,” Sager told SI.com’s Richard Deitsch about the coach’s well-wishes for the ailing TV fixture.
“Pop saying he wanted me back and then promising to be nice? I was like, Oh, my God, that’s unbelievable, what an honor,” Sager said, before reversing course.
“But then I started thinking about it: If I come back and Pop starts being nice to me, it just wouldn’t be right. I want him to go Serbian on me,” he said of the terse coach whose father was from Serbia.
While fans, players and coaches want Sager back on the court, he’ll likely be given a DNP-DD (did not play, doctor’s decision) throughout the playoffs. Sager said that he’ll be hospitalized for at least four weeks, and once he’s released, which will only when doctors feel comfortable with how his body has reacted to his chemotherapy treatments, he’ll have to stay away from crowds because his immune system will be weakened.
“Thank God for the NBA on TNT, because I am watching all the games and that is therapeutic,” he said.