Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

January 13, 2010

Griffin done for the season

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 9:12 pm

Leave it to the Clippers. Just yesterday, in trying to sound a note of optimism, I wrote that the long-suffering Staples Center B-team was the only playoff semi-contender to receive a surefire jolt of top-shelf talent. I presumed that jolt to come from Blake Griffin and that reports that he was going to return this time next week were accurate. Sad to say, Griffin has been declared out for the season after an examination revealed that the non-displaced stress fracture of his left patella has not healed enough for him to play. As a result, Griffin will undergo surgery that will sideline him four-to-six months.

As it turns out, the insight offered by Dr. Bill Carroll in a Kevin Pelton Unfiltered post at the time Griffin was originally hurt were uncanny in their prescience:

“Patellar stress fractures are relatively rare injuries–normally seen in distance runners and those who jump high and, more importantly, land,” wrote Dr. Carroll in an e-mail. “Prognosis will depend on two factors, (1) whether the patellar retinaculum is intact (and it usually is in a stress fracture) and (2) the direction of the fracture–transverse or longitudinal.

“The bad news is it sounds like they intend to treat it conservatively rather than surgically attach wires–conservative treatments usually lead to less successful results and subsequent reinjury if the athlete is to continue to perform at a high level. I have seen the ESPN replay of the injury and it appears to happen when he landed after dunking–since it is a stress fracture, that event can actually be no more than the ’straw that broke the camel’s back’ as a stress fracture is the result of repeated microtrauma–a case where subthreshold traumas accumulate and become threshold trauma.”

The Clippers gambled on Griffin’s recuperative ability and lost. Now, as Pelton pointed out in an email to me, “Griffin would have lost his season either way but had they done surgery in October he would have had a chance to do more this summer whereas now he’ll be rehabbing possibly long enough that he won’t be able to play in the summer league.”

The big unanswered question at this point, and we’ll attempt to address this as The Story Unfolds, is whether this unfortunate sequence will rob Griffin of any of his transcendent athleticism. Griffin is not entirely dependent upon his leaping ability, quickness and speed, but those qualities are a big part of what marked him as a five-star prospect. He’s got plenty of skill, too, but there will be a lot of anxious eyes on Griffin when he finally does make his return.

Clipper fans are surely disappointed, but if you’re a Clippers fan you are probably numb to a certain amount of disappointment. NBA fans in general are the losers here. For the second time in three years, the league’s top overall pick will not set foot on the floor in his rookie season. It’s a shame.

As I was at Welsh-Ryan Arena for Wednesday’s Northwestern-Wisconsin game, I spoke to Lanny Bradford, a staff athletic trainer for Northwestern about the injury. Bradford hadn’t heard specifically what Griffin’s injury was until I told him. He thought the Clippers’ rest-and-rehab over surgery decision was probably reasonable.

“If it’s not displaced and everything is still in line and (the fracture) is not all the way through the bone there really isn’t anything to fix,” Bradford said. He added that doing the surgery now is “Probably just to heal it faster. He’s making a lot of money and he’s a really big investment.”

As for my concerns about this injury affecting Griffin’s athleticism, Bradford said, “It’s a unique enough injury that it’s difficult to say for certain, but with the proper treatment program and rehab, I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t (return to full strength).”

Let’s hope so.

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