Jeremy Lin's Knee Injury May Be Concern for Linsanity All Season

Moke Hamilton@@MokeHamiltonCorrespondent IIOctober 17, 2012

Jeremy Lin
Jeremy LinTroy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Last NBA season, Linsanity infected New York City like a plague, and since I was covering the New York Knicks, I had a front row seat in Madison Square Garden’s press box.

Shortly thereafter, the rest of the nation caught the bug and Jeremy Lin became a sensation and a legend was born in New York.

Knicks fans soon realized, though: easy come, easy go.

Linsanity left New York City, and Lin has taken his talents to Houston.

Unfortunately for Rockets fans, Lin’s knee injury may be a concern all season long.

Maybe even longer.

Injuries always have and always will be an important part of not only the NBA, but professional sports in general. Within the past week, we’ve seen Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens go down with injuries that will certainly have an impact on their respective teams quests for championships.

And as I write this, the Los Angeles Lakers are dealing with injuries to Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. There’s simply no getting away from it.

If you're a Lin fan, that should concern you.

I remember sitting in Madison Square Garden’s press room when the Director of Public Relations for the Knicks announced that an MRI had revealed that Lin had a small, chronic meniscus tear. And I was there when Lin addressed the press and said “…It's a six-week rehab process but I tend to heal fast, so hopefully I can come back as soon as possible…”

Now, almost eight months later, there are reports originating from Houston that say that Lin still isn’t 100 percent healthy.

Lin’s rise to fame was inspiring, and the next chapter of his story—the one that will be written in Houston—has the eyes of the world.

But if an injury that normally takes six weeks to heal is still having an effect on Lin’s readiness for this coming NBA season, there is reason to believe that it will be a persistent and nagging issue all season long. By now, most would have expected Lin to be healthy since he hadn’t played in an NBA game since March 24.

Instead, there are still questions, even as the Rockets gear up to begin their season on October 31.

For the Rockets, the first game of the season will be played in Detroit on October 31 and will be the first of three games in four nights. Lin, earning about $8 million this season, is being counted on to help lead this Rockets team and is going to be its full-time starter. Though he started only 25 games last season, he has shown enough to warrant that. 

However, over the course of the NBA season, the Rockets will play on back-to-back nights 21 times and will play four games in five nights on three different occasions.

While that’s somewhat normal for an NBA season, it’s important to note that Lin suffered a chronic meniscus tear. Different authorities will say different things about a chronic injury. Some say that they are injuries that are slow to develop and often occur due to some sort of repetitive stress or overuse. In Lin’s case, that would make sense.

At the time when the injury was believed to have initially occurred, the Knicks were battling injuries, were desperate for a starting point guard, and literally threw Lin on the court. He went from barely getting off of the bench to playing 35 minutes a game. And it happened overnight.

Mike D’Antoni, then coaching the Knicks, jokingly said that he planned on riding Lin like the U.S. Triple Crown thoroughbred racehorse, Secretariat. D’Antoni resigned as coach of the Knicks shortly thereafter, but even after Mike Woodson replaced D'Antoni, Lin's heavy usage continued. In the 10 games immediately preceding the revealing of Lin’s injury, he averaged 31 minutes per game.

In Lin’s rookie year with the Golden State Warriors, he played only 10 minutes per game. So, the argument can easily be made that Lin’s injury was caused by overuse and that his body broke down simply because he was not conditioned to play as much as he was asked to. Lin started 25 games for the Knicks, and in 12 of them, he played at least 35 minutes.

So, the argument can be made that the Knicks coaching staff caused Lin’s injury by overworking him.

However, there is medical authority that defines chronic as being not an injury that occurs because of repetitive stress, but an injury that is, in and of itself, repetitive.

At this point, the major concern for Lin should be the fact that there is such a small body of work from which we can determine whether or not his body can stand up to the rigors of an NBA season.

As a reference point, Steve Nash has missed a total of 30 games over the past seven NBA seasons. Over the same time period, Jason Kidd missed 29 games and Derek Fisher has missed three. Some guys—like Nash, Kidd and Fisher—are built to play in the NBA, and for the long haul.

Others—like Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and Shaun Livingston—may not be.

Lin’s sample size is simply too small to make a conclusive determination. But at this point, the fact that he isn’t yet 100 percent, is disconcerting.

Today, I have legitimate concerns about not only whether or not Lin’s left knee will allow him to get back to being 100 percent healthy soon, but whether it or not it will be able to stand up to the rigors of a long NBA season.

Since the end of last season, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey completed a quick and somewhat stunning overhaul of his roster.

Three of the Rockets best players from last season are no longer with the team. Kyle Lowry was traded to the Toronto Raptors and Morey decided against re-signing Goran Dragic. He also parted ways with Luis Scola by cutting him using the Rockets’ one time amnesty right under the 2011 CBA. Marcus Camby, Samuel Dalembert and Courtney Lee were each dealt, as well.

The plan was to get younger, and Morey did. Last season’s opening day roster had an average age of about 26 years old. This year? The Rockets are about three years younger, with an average age of about 23.

With a nice crop of rookies and youngsters that includes Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Donatas Montiejunas, the Rockets are depending on Jeremy Lin to lead them into the future.

In order to carry them, he’ll need broad shoulders and a strong back.

Obviously, he’ll also need strong knees.

Without question, I’m rooting for him, but if there’s one thing I learned last season while covering the New York Knicks, it’s that you should expect the unexpected.

Especially when you’re dealing with Jeremy Lin.


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