NBA Injury Report: Post-Break Blues for Bynum, Rose and More
The All-Star Game and all it's assorted hoopla is gone. For some, it was a weekend of dunks, shots and letter jackets while for most of the NBA, it was just some time off. Around the league, a lot of teams and players needed that time off desperately.
The NBA geared back into action on Tuesday, but at this stage of the season, how much does rest help? The way the NBA schedule works, with the All-Star Game slightly off-center and at the trade deadline, might help a bit more. Unlike the near-midpoint of the MLB All-Star Game or the rolling bye weeks of the NFL, it puts teams on even footing.
The break's benefits are tilted toward teams that are dealing with more injuries and fatigue. Teams that are star-driven should benefit, but so many of those didn't get the full value of the break because they played in the weekend's action in Houston. Teams that are older or lack depth also get a bit of a bump.
The real winners and losers of any break are usually only seen in retrospect. So now that we have games back and a real rush for playoff position ongoing, let's take a look around the league at the biggest names and most impactful injuries, slideshow style.
This one's for Jerry.
Andrew Bynum (KNEE)
Andrew Bynum is headed back to New York to see a new physician. Bynum is switching from the well-known Dr. David Altchek to Dr. Jonathan Glashow. (Full disclosure: I used to appear with Dr. Glashow on the old ESPN2 show Cold Pizza.)
The hope is that he'll be cleared to build up more activity, beyond the very light weight-bearing that he's allowed to do at this stage. Glashow has been known for his aggressive work on articular cartilage, the problem that Bynum has been dealing with.
While Bynum has been able to do more activity and could be doing more if cleared, the problem has been in the recovery. His knee swells almost immediately, and getting that under control so he's not only functional, but functional for the next game or practice, is the tough part.
A shift in strategy may help here, but it certainly can't be any worse. The waiting continues for Bynum's Philadelphia debut. There's still no clarity when we'll see more than just interesting hair out of Bynum.
Derrick Rose (KNEE)
There was panic and speculation all over the place after Derrick Rose made some comments that seemed to indicate he was willing to sit out the entire season if his knee did not get to a level where he was comfortable. The comments were clear, but the context was not.
One of the hardest and last parts of the rehab can't be helped by the medical staff, and that's where Rose seems to be. It's regaining the confidence in the injured part. Rose has passed all the medical steps, but he simply doesn't feel right just yet. Strength is there, but trust is not.
It's good to see Rose be protective of himself to some extent, but the Bulls may have to find ways to build back his confidence in the repair. Often, therapists will run him back through some of the late-stage rehab work to show him just how far he's come. They can also design drills to show him that the knee is physically ready.
Better, Rose is taking part in 5-on-5 games, and at the point where he starts to just play and not think about the knee is the point where he'll go, "Oh, I just did that." That click never comes on a schedule, but it's key to Rose returning to the Bulls lineup.
Danny Granger (KNEE)
Danny Granger won't be active when the Indiana Pacers take on the New York Knicks Wednesday, a bit of a surprise and yet another delay as Granger attempts to return from a chronic problem with his patellar tendon (tendinosis). The original plan was to get Granger some limited minutes prior to the break in order to gauge his recovery and adjust the post-break plan. That didn't happen, but the latest setback isn't as clear.
Reports from inside the Pacers have Granger playing well and showing burst. It appears that the recovery issue remains the primary delay. While Granger can play and impress his teammates, he needs more time than the schedule allows to be back on the court. There's also some concern about whether playing in short bursts off the bench is the best strategy.
It's still unclear when exactly Granger will be back, what role he'll play and how key he will be to the team. In other words, it's just like it's been all season for Granger and the Pacers.
Joakim Noah (FOOT)
Rest would have helped Joakim Noah, but he played in the All-Star Game. He got a little more help as he tries to play through plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition. This is the same type of condition that felled Pau Gasol. Noah had platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections in hopes of helping the area heal up.
PRP takes a patient's own blood, spins it in a centrifuge and then injects a part of the blood back into the affected area. While scientific studies on the efficacy of it are mixed, doctors are using the technique more and more. (For more on PRP and how it works, check out this article from B/R's Dave Siebert.)
Noah has been effective while fighting through the foot pain, so any improvement in the management of the condition may not be quite as apparent on the court. This is more about making sure that it doesn't get worse and keeping him at the same level of production.
Rasheed Wallace (FOOT)
After two months, Rasheed Wallace is back at practice. That's good news, but you should temper any expectations. The Knicks are going to be watching Wallace's foot very closely as he eases back into action, so don't be surprised if they manage him very conservatively.
Wallace has a "stress reaction" in his foot, which is essentially a stress fracture just before it breaks. By catching it early, the hope is that it's in a better state and can heal more quickly and cleanly. That's obviously not the case here. Stress reactions are something we see now in advanced imaging, but healing is still individualized.
Wallace is not 100 percent at this stage, and coach Mike Woodson said that Wallace will never be at that level, though his quote wasn't clear if he meant this year or ever. Look for Wallace to come back to very limited minutes when and if he is ready.
Hedo Turkoglu (SUSPENSION)
Hedo Turkoglu was hit with a 20-game suspension after his test came up positive for Primobolan, a hardcore anabolic steroid. Known as one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorites from his bodybuilding days, this isn't one that you would expect to be used by a player like Turkoglu, which does lend some credence to his statement that he took a spiked supplement.
This is possible, though an athlete knows that he or she operates under a policy of "strict liability." They're responsible for whatever they put in their body, so not knowing is no defense. It has occurred in other sports, most notably the case of J.C. Romero, a pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. He took a suspension he claimed was due to a spiked supplement and took the manufacturer to court, winning a judgement.
Primobolan is not a terribly strong steroid and is seldom used today because of its ease of detection and side effects, which notably include a loss of hair. Working against Turkoglu's assertion that he took it months ago in the detectable period, which is long ago enough to be detected in December, it only holds any credence if he took it as an injectable.
Turkoglu can work out with the team, so he should be ready to return for the Magic once his suspension ends. It's important to note that Turkoglu's results this season haven't been helped by the steroids and that his broken hand would not have been helped by the steroids, either.
Lamar Odom (EYE)
Lamar Odom had the full break to rest (and I'll avoid the easy Kardashian joke here), which is the only thing that will help heal up his eye. "Conjunctival abrasion" is a mouthful, but basically, it means that his eye got scratched. The eye heals, but this is both painful at the time of injury and uncomfortable afterward.
An abrasion often feels like there's something constantly in the eye. The natural reaction is to itch, but that is counter-productive. With children, doctors often have to put goggles on them to make sure they don't make the damage worse.
For Odom, he may need goggles of his own once he gets back on the floor. That shouldn't be too much of an issue for him if needed, and he won't miss any time. Odom has been key for the Clippers recently, filling in for Blake Griffin as he heals up from a minor hamstring strain.
Eric Gordon (HAND)
Eric Gordon returned to the Pelinets lineup Tuesday night and poured in 20 points. The hand that cost him a game didn't appear to be an issue at all, but the team was right to be cautious.
Injuries have been the biggest obstacle to Gordon's ascendancy and make many question whether he can ever live up to his potential. This most recent hand issue occurred in an area where Gordon had a previous injury, which makes teams more cautious but makes imaging like X-rays or MRIs more difficult to read. Often, the healed area shows additional uptake, much the same way an injured one can in the early stages.
They'll continue to watch this, but Gordon appears past this one and the New Orleans Hornets medical staff can focus on keeping him away from the next injury.
Wesley Matthews (ELBOW/ANKLE)
Lasers? Electric shocks? Ultrasound? Wesley Matthews has done that and more in an effort to stay on the court for the Blazers. Matthews is dealing with both an elbow injury and a high ankle sprain. While Matthews seems more worried about the elbow and it's effect on his shooting, I'm still trying to figure out how he's playing through a high ankle sprain.
A high ankle sprain is not actually an injury to the ankle. It's an injury to the ligament that connects the two bones of the lower leg, a joint known as the syndesmosis. (You can see why "high ankle sprain" is easier to type and say!) The injury affects lateral movements, exactly the type basketball players have to make.
The advanced treatments do seem to be helping, or at least maintaining Matthews' ability. The tougher part for a medical staff is to keep that up and to prevent any kind of exacerbation that would set back the healing process. The rest of the break will help, but the Blazers are going to have to find ways to keep Matthews' process moving forward.
And yes, really. Lasers.
Greg Oden (KNEE)
The trading deadline needs to pass before Greg Oden can sign with a team. I won't pretend to understand the byzantine financial rules of the soft-cap NBA, but having a date to sign and a team's medical staff to work with should be a positive step for Oden.
What that signing won't mean is that Oden will return. As I explained in this article, Oden's knees are making progress, but not enough for him to play this season. Oden will never be mobile, but there have been significant positive steps in his ongoing rehab after another set of microfractures were put in his knee.
The Cavs seem to be in the lead for Oden's services, due to his comfort with both the area and the Cavs medical staff. No matter where he signs, ignore the suggestions that his return could help the team now. It's about next year.
Will Carroll has been writing about sports injuries for 12 years. His work has appeared at SI.com, ESPN.com and Rotowire.com.