Hidden Injury Alters Perspective of What Is and What Could Be for Anthony Davis

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterMarch 25, 2016

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 16: Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 16, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

There's nothing wrong with having opinions. It's just they are faulty if formed on the basis of lack of information. The truth is only out there if someone can inform us of it, and that remains unchanged even in this era of NBA League Pass putting every game out there.

Anthony Davis' torn labrum in his left shoulder, and the revelation that he had been playing with it for the past three seasons, changes what we know, and what we think we knew, about a player who finished among the top five in MVP voting last season.

On the plus side: Davis played through some degree of discomfort for nearly his entire career without anyone knowingโ€”and was not just impressive, but historically exceptional last season. So everyone should be geeked about what rare-bird heights he might now reach.

He just turned 23, and after discovering Thursday the shoulder injury is minor enough that surgery isn't necessary, imagine what Davis might do next season when he lets it fly freely after he did get his left kneecap fixed.

On the down side: This longstanding shoulder problem unfortunately means Davis is more injury-prone than we thought. And we already thought a lot about that, because he has missed at least 14 games every season.

Even if we cross "he's soft" from the list of options for why the New Orleans Pelicans have been achingly cautious about giving Davis games off in cases he has been questionable, there is now greater wonder among some NBA insiders if he rightfully needs to be coddled or is even genetically predisposed to injury.

Indeed, new information brings new perspective.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 20:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 20, 2016 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

The most important part of this is that Davis' labrum injury was just not that severe. The decision by doctor Neal ElAttrache to forgo operation wasn't a shock in that regard, even though Davis expected surgery would be needed.

It's his nondominant arm, and even after it worsened lately, he called it "actually pretty fine" Monday. Davis played at an elite level with it and could have continued on this season if not for his newer knee injury being more bothersome, and he indeed did undergo knee surgery Thursday.

Athletes often have played through torn labrums, and many times the tear in that cartilage or the cartilage pulling slightly away from the bone is more annoying than debilitating. ElAttrache said this type of posterior tear in the labrum doesn't always cause instability, and if it does as more time goes by then surgery can be done later.

That Davis wore a black AlignMed Posture Shirt underneath his jersey all of this season and part of last season (and using kinesiology tape on the shoulder before that) was one hint that he might be injured, though the shirt can work to keep healthy bodies functioning better, too.

When Dwight Howard played through his torn shoulder labrum in 2013, it was only after Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti got him in a resistance shirt from AlignMed, a company based in nearby Santa Ana, California, and also got it cleared by the NBA as a medical device.

Many NBA players have worn it since, including Pelicans teammate Eric Gordon. It's also worth noting that Howard's injury was mild enough that he never needed surgery to repair the labrum, an indication that rest could similarly help Davis now.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 28: Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers battles for rebound position against Aron Baynes #16 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on Ap
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

It's jarring, but not stunning, that Davis' injury didn't come to light earlier. To think no one noticed, discovered or dug out the truth for so long on what is going on with a prominent NBA player? Undeniably weird.

But the New Orleans Pelicans, under the leadership of Saints owner Tom Benson, lean toward an NFL-style approach with injuries: Why reveal anything you don't need to?

Maybe it made some sense that Davis and the Pelicans didn't want anyone to know, so that opponents didn't pull his arm back or pound him in the post any more than necessary. But certainly all those who saw New Orleans as a Western Conference playoff team and Davis as a leading NBA MVP candidate would've shifted gears if they knew that Davis' body wasn't right heading into the season.

But now we are left still wondering what lies at the heart of Anthony Davis.

Should we applaud Davis now for showing restraint and not putting his knee and shoulder through more games this season in pursuit of the potentially $23 million escalator clause in his contract if he makes the All-NBA first, second or third team?

Or should we view him stepping asideโ€”he said the knee has been bothering him for a while, but still scored 19 points before sitting at halftime of his final game, and he put up 27 two days before thatโ€”as still another indication that Davis doesn't believe in himself and possess the mental willpower that other superstars do?

No one can quibble with his ability to deal with pain now, but loving to play the game isn't the same as being able to will yourself and motivate teammates to a higher level.

Jan 19, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives past Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Timberwolves 114-
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Still, Davis figures to make the All-NBA third team at forward behind Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green anyway. And some will give Davis extra points by voting for him at center, too, a position he played roughly half the time last season under Monty Williams.

History is also on his side. Davis made the first team at forward last year playing 68 games, and DeMarcus Cousins made second team in only 59 games last season.

Nevertheless, an All-NBA honor and a massive financial reward won't change what a disappointment this season was for Davis. Shoulder or not, the limited growth Davis showed as a leader for an injury-riddled but uninspired Pelicans team was the story of their season.

Perhaps this multimonth break from basketball to recover is just what Davis needs to gain a new perspective of his own. He's young enough to make this a footnote in a Hall of Fame career.

Here's hoping a clean slate, a greater appreciation for his opportunities and a healthier body mean Davis' best is yet to come. If so, it could be legendary.


Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.


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