Amare Stoudemire, Chris Paul and The NBA's Four Other Ticking Time-Bombs
With Brandon Roy undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on both knees last week, the prognosis is grim for the Trail Blazers' franchise guard. While Greg Oden's yearly surgery melodrama occupied most of the spotlight, it was Roy's knees that truly worried the team:
There’s damage and deterioration, and two league sources with direct knowledge of the medical prognosis on Roy say his days as an NBA All-Star, a franchise player, are probably over.
“There’s no real hope of it improving,” one league source with direct knowledge of the medical prognosis told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. “It’s just about trying to manage it now. He’s not going to be the franchise superstar that [Portland] thought he would be. This isn’t something they consider ‘fixable.’
For a franchise brimming with championship hopes, Roy's injury is a devastating blow. Not only was the entire team built around him, but he just signed an $82 million extension last season.
Now they are faced with the same dilemma facing the Houston Rockets, who had built a championship-contending around Yao Ming. With Yao's long-term future looking increasingly bleak, the Rockets can either blow up their roster and re-build or hop aboard the "mediocrity treadmill" -- not good enough to make any noise in the playoffs, not bad enough to pick up another franchise-type talent in the draft.
Every NBA franchise lives in fear that their franchise player could be next, but these six teams have the most reason to be concerned:
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
In eight NBA seasons, Wade has yet to make it through 82 regular-season games unscathed. A 6'4 guard who makes his living throwing his body recklessly around the paint, his playing style is almost guaranteed to cause an injury at some point.
In three different seasons, he missed upwards of 20 games, causing significant damage to the Heat's playoff seeding. At various points in his career, he has injured his shoulder, his knees, his hamstring and his wrists.
While the Heat just signed him to a mammoth 5-year extension, the good news is the additions of Chris Bosh and LeBron James relives a lot of the burden of shot-creating Wade had for some pretty untalented Miami Heat squads. And as he gets older, Wade will probably follow the model of most superstar shooting guards -- spotting up on the perimeter and posting up for turn-around J's, which takes much less of a toll on your body than venturing into the lane.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Only in his sixth NBA season, Bynum has already undergone two major knee surgeries. Playing in the media-spotlight of LA for a championship-contender hasn't helped either, as Bynum has constantly faced pressure to rush back for the playoffs.
Lakers backup center D.J. Mbenga said that the injury that Bynum played through was so bad that, "I saw his knee sometimes after games and I couldn't believe myself."
While LA has had enough talent to overcome Bynum's constant injuries, he is one of the team's youngest players and their best bet to build a championship contender in the future as Kobe Bryant continues to age.
The big question is, at 7'0 285, is Bynum's body just too big for his own good? Can his knees and his ligaments handle the wear and tear of jumping and cutting in 82 regular season games across 6 months? Or will he follow the path of similarly super-sized giants like Oden and Yao?
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Probably the most exciting player in the NBA, Blake Griffin has been putting on a one-man aerial exhibition all season long. Not only is he 6'9 250 with a 35' vertical, but he has the body control of a shooting guard when he's in the air.
The problem is that the human body is simply not designed to absorb that much power and speed; the "brake pads" in his knees can only stand so much. He already missed the entirety of his rookie season after tearing his knee on a non-contact injury.
Just look at the other power dunkers his size -- Kenyon Martin, Antonio McDyess and Amare Stoudemire -- all have had significant knee injuries as they have gotten older. So enjoy Blake Griffin when you can, because he could be gone before we know it.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Garnett's knees wrecked Boston's chances of repeating in 2009. Most scary of all, it was a non-contact knee injury that occurred as he fell to the ground, suggesting some kind of structural problem.
It's been over two weeks since he strained his calf in a similar non-contact injury against the Detroit Pistons, and there is still no time-table for his return to the court. The similarities between this injury and the one two years have to make Boston cringe, as the Celtics played a similar game with the public all that year too, never disclosing how serious the injury was.
For better or worse, KG has always played at maximum intensity every time he stepped on the court. Now, after 16 seasons and nearly 1,200 regular season games, you have to wonder how much tread is left on his tires.
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
At the tender age of 25, Chris Paul is already having to revamp his entire game in response to a knee injury. He missed over 40 regular season games last year while recuperating from surgery.
But this wasn't an ordinary procedure, the doctors didn't repair the torn meniscus in his left knee, they removed it. The meniscus is a pad of cartilage that acts like a shock absorber for the knee, without it, there is just bone-on-bone friction in the knee, a precursor to micro-fracture surgery.
While Paul is a skilled enough player to transition his game, the blazing fast speedster who took the league by storm may already be gone. In 2006-2007, 30% of his shots were inside the paint. This season, only 17% are.
Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks
While Knicks fans have been justifiable excited by the most exciting team to play at MSG in some time, a dark cloud hangs over the future of the franchise.
Lost in the hubbub of the free agency process, was this small tidbit: Amare's 5-year $99 million contract was completely uninsurable.
The New York Post reported that the deal is uninsurable because of Stoudemire's past eye and knee injuries; Stoudemire had microfracture surgery on his left knee in November of 2005 and required surgery for a detached retina in 2009.
While Amare seems to have recovered from the still controversial injury, his cloudy injury history was the main reason why the Suns let him walk for nothing this off-season.
Suns officials were not so sure. Doctors advised them that the new cartilage might last for only six or seven years. If it deteriorated, Stoudemire’s valued athleticism could go with it.
“Our best estimate was that we thought Amar’e had two or three really good years left in him,” said Steve Kerr, the former Suns general manager, who now works as an analyst for TNT.
Stoudemire is now five years removed from microfracture surgery. Year 7 would coincide with the 2011-12 season — the second year of his five-year, $100 million contract with the Knicks.
And while his knees look fine now, just ask Portland fans how Brandon Roy's knees looked in the fall of 2009. It's going to be an interesting few years in NYC.