Eric Bledsoe, during the game in which he injured his knee (Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe is injured, he’ll need exploratory knee surgery on his right knee, he’ll be out for an indefinite period of time, and it appears as if nobody in the NBA is immune to these sorts of things.
The Suns were supposed to be above all this. In a season that has seen star after star go down with significant injuries, piled on top of a campaign known as much for its scores of teams that were designed to punt the season to accrue better NBA draft lottery odds, the Suns were their typical notoriously healthy self. Even better, though most picked Phoenix to end up around the bottom of the standings in the Western Conference, the team has surprisingly vaulted into the seventh seed in that bracket, running up a 21-13 record on a pace that would win them 51 games.
Along the way, the team has built up a deserved reputation as one of the more entertaining teams in the NBA to watch, as many national television viewers learned on Wednesday night when thesquad piled on the Minnesota Timberwolves on their way to a comeback win. That won’t come to a screeching halt without Bledsoe, the team has looked just as fun in his absence since leaving a Dec. 30 contest against the Los Angeles Clippers, but things will be dicey for a while as the team determines just how bad his knee injury is.
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, one of the leading contenders for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, is out indefinitely after the team determined that Bledsoe needs a surgical procedure to repair cartilage in his right knee, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that the exact scope and severity of the injury will not be known until Bledsoe is in a surgeon's care, but he is suspected to have suffered meniscus damage in his Dec. 30 return to Los Angeles to face the Clippers.
The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro followed up:
Bledsoe's agent & Suns won't comment. So likely true. MT @ESPNSteinLine: ESPN sources say Bledsoe out indefinitely, needs surgery on knee.
— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) January 9, 2014
The Suns have split the 10 games that Bledsoe has missed this season, which is still a fine response in a season where most picked the team to win fewer than 20 contests, but not the sort of mark a team needs to land a playoff spot out West. If Bledsoe does have a torn meniscus, he will need the sort of reconstructive surgery that has knocked Derrick Rose out of the 2013-14 NBA season, and the same one that kept Russell Westbrook from participating in the bulk of his team’s 2013 playoff run, an injury that has necessitated two follow up surgeries in the months since.
Meniscus tears aren’t as severe as ACL tears, and the recovery time is faster, but lingering aftereffects haunt meniscus tear sufferers in ways that don’t dog ACL patients. The dreaded microfracture surgery is sometimes employed should a player’s knee never return to full strength, especially if the doctors decide to trim the torn meniscus in order to encourage a speedier return to the court. That was the case for Dwyane Wade (and luckily, not Rose and Westbrook) when he tore his meniscus in college, and though he’s never undergone microfracture surgery, he has suffered from knee issues throughout his career.
The Phoenix Suns’ medical staff has long been noted for their fine work, so it’s unlikely that they’ll try to push Bledsoe to take a riskier, pound-foolish procedure – even if it means Bledsoe has played his final game with the Suns, with the team and Bledsoe unable to agree to a contract prior to this season, making him a restricted free agent this summer. In subsequent interviews, new Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has promised he will pay “whatever it takes” to retain Bledsoe this summer.
The fourth-year guard is averaging 18 points per game in his first year with Phoenix, alongside 10.1 combined rebounds/assists and 1.5 steals. His Most Improved Player of the Year candidacy might be skewed because his uptick in contributions has more to do with playing more minutes this year, but his per-minute numbers have jumped in accordance with his new role in Phoenix.
The Suns recently signed former Phoenix guard Leandro Barbosa, coming off of ACL surgery, as depth; and the team has more than enough with Goran Dragic leading the show to continue the team’s movement-obsessed ways on offense, but this will be a drag to fan and franchise alike. Luckily, these are only meniscus fears at this point, but even those are almost too much to bear, in a season where everyone seems to be coming down with something.
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