Instead, after just five weeks of constant rehabilitation, the Jazz's second-round draft pick suited up Sunday, declaring his repaired knee "100 percent healthy."
"I thought it was a miracle," Whaley said. "The doctors, [trainer Gary] Briggs, everybody was just wonderful. I'm surprised how quick it got better. There's no nagging pain in there anymore."
When Whaley suffered a similar injury while at Cincinnati in 2003, it took three months before he could play again, "and I wasn't right for a whole year."
But "they didn't have the technology or the people to spend quality time every day like here," Whaley said. "Now, it's just a matter of getting in shape."
He gained a few pounds during the five-week layoff, Whaley said, just because of the reduced activity. And "my court awareness has fallen off a little bit. I was kind of nervous at shootaround. I kind of had the shakes, the jitters."
Whaley entered the game to start the fourth quarter, and puffed noticeably as he ran up and down the floor. He finished with two points and a rebound in seven minutes.
Whaley's return meant another Jazz player had to be put on the inactive list, and the timing made the decision easy when C.J. Miles' right foot swelled up. That's not considered serious; Miles has been bothered by tendinitis in his knees, too.
The swelling hasn't completely disappeared from Gordan Giricek's left calf, either, more than a month after his foot was placed in a protective boot. Giricek will have an MRI today to evaluate his progress, but the Jazz's starting shooting guard said he can still feel the injury when he attempts to do anything more than walk on the foot.
"I don't know if it's better," Giricek said. "I don't like wearing the boot, I know that."
Giricek said he hopes to return soon, but couldn't say how long "soon" might be. "We'll have to see what the doctors say," he said. "It's still bothering me."
Andrei Kirilenko played with his back tightly wrapped Friday, but decided to go without the padding Sunday. The wrap, a precaution for his sore back, was a little too restrictive, he said.
"It was hurting my ribs every time I jump," Kirilenko said. "I couldn't breathe good. After first quarter, I was, whew, whew, whew. Hard to catch my breath after running."
Later in the game, he grew concerned when "I started to taste blood in my mouth," he said. "I said, am I bleeding?"
He wasn't - it was just an effect from the wrap being too tight - and the experience convinced him to limit its use. "I wrap up after practice and before game, and that helps. I'll be OK."