I could care less the Boston Celtics lost tonight, 104-92. I honestly don’t care at all about that. Not even a little bit. I’m not even going to discuss the game, except one injury.
Because Kevin Garnett’s injury is far more important than a late-December game against the Detroit Pistons. Obviously.
First, let’s discuss the official reports. The injury was not a fracture, which is both good and bad. Good, because no bones are broken. Bad, because that means the injury is something else.
In this case, what does “something else” mean? The team reports the injury is not to Garnett’s knee. Officially, it has been labeled a “muscle injury to the outside of his right leg, below the knee and above the ankle.” Garnett has an MRI scheduled for tomorrow, which should reveal the full extent of the injury.
For now, the Celtics don’t seem too worried. In his postgame interview, Doc Rivers said, “I don’t think it’s that bad, so I’m not concerned. He may miss some games.”
I know I’ve ever been more relieved to hear the Celtics’ emotional anchor “may miss some games.” At first, all I thought was, “Shit, his season is done!” Next, I thought, “Fuck, if he’s done, there’s no way the Celtics win a title.” Finally, I thought, “If he misses this year, and next year’s a lockout, we might have seen the last of KG’s entire career tonight.” I almost cried, honestly.
I’m telling you, I had a pit in my stomach the size of a boulder. That’s what happens when Kevin Garnett injures himself, and especially when the injury looks so similar to his 2009 injury. Check it out:
Those two injuries look awfully similar, no?
(Note: I am about to speculate. I am no doctor, but I did a lot of research and the following speculation is a partially-educated estimate.)
According to A. Sherrod Blakely, the muscle injury is directly below the right knee. His report was slightly different (and more detailed) than the team’s official report, which sounded like a kindergartener pretending to diagnose his friend. A “muscle injury to the outside of his right leg, below the knee and above the ankle”? Really? A comparison to that description would be if James Naismith had explained, “the free throw line will fall at some point between midcourt and the peach basket,” or if someone told you, “Bang a left turn after the third set of lights and before the ninth set of lights.”
Oddly enough, the injury, as Blakey describes it, is the exact same spot KG injured in 2009. In 2009, KG suffered a strained popliteus tendon, which was complicated by bone spurs that had bothered him all season long. The popliteus tendon, located directly below the knee, attaches the popliteus muscle to the knee. KG’s injury tonight was in very close proximity to the popliteus tendon, and looked almost identical to the ’09 injury.
Thankfully, KG, at least as far as I know, isn’t bothered by the same bone spurs he was in ’09. By “as far as I know,” I mean that the x-rays came back negative. If the Celtics are truthful about no damage seen in the x-rays, then it’s safe to assume KG has no bone spurs.
In ’09, KG’s bone spurs, according to Jackie MacMullan, were vicious. “The spur was so large it had to be broken into pieces to be removed,” MacMullan wrote. “In hindsight, his medical team concurred, it was amazing he played as long as he did.”
Of course, the Celtics claim the injury is muscular, which would further rule out the strained tendon he suffered in ’09.
If the injury is muscular, as the Celtics insist, the KG likely wouldn’t miss more than 3-4 months. The other muscles below the knee, besides the popliteus, are the plantaris, gastrocnemius, semimembranosus and plantaris. Damage to tendons or ligaments could be more detrimental, and more likely to require surgery, as “muscle has more tissue to help it sustain a resistive load.” If the Celtics are right about KG’s injury being strictly muscular, this is good. Even in the worst case scenario (of muscle injuries), I imagine KG would return ready for the playoffs.
Why do I even speculate when the Celtics don’t seem overly concerned? The Celtics are one team I don’t trust when it comes to injuries. They have taken the term “Belichickian” to another level. Remember back in 2009? We all thought Garnett would be back before the playoffs. Why? Because that’s what the Celtics led us to believe. They completely shielded us from the truth, which was that Garnett’s knee was worse than any of us knew, and that he would need surgery (and months of rehab, AND a year of being a shell of himself) before returning to normal.
If the Celtics were the Blazers, I could trust them. When Greg Oden injures himself, the Blazers tell you about it. When Brandon Roy is missing certain ligaments, the Blazers let you know. But if Oden had played on the Celtics, we probably would have heard he sprained his knee. And if Roy had played for the Celtics, they probably would have told us he was just bothered by a bruise. The C’s have a way of understating most injuries, a way of concealing the truth behind a veil of fibs.
All of which is why I’m not quite ecstatic to hear about KG’s muscle injury, which — if all the news is truthful — would not be the worst thing in the world. A muscle injury isn’t great, but it certainly beats the alternative. I can live with KG missing a few months, and then returning mostly healthy for the playoffs. What I can’t live with is a repeat of the ’09 knee injury, which could honestly end KG’s career.
Is the “this is a muscular injury, and an MRI will be administered tomorrow” news good? No, not at all. As Doc Rivers said, “You’ve heard me say it before. Injuries when no one’s around are always severe ones.”
But the Celtics don’t seem convinced the injury is overly severe, and — for now, at least – I’m willing to hesitantly believe them. Maybe it’s because I want to believe them, or maybe it’s because I think they’re actually telling the truth. I can’t tell.
Either way, I have my fingers crossed. The Celtics season could be decided tomorrow in a doctor’s office. I’m queasy just thinking about it.