We don’t want to pretend to play doctor, but this is a little scary.
It was presumed that Phoenix Suns combo guard Eric Bledsoe was suffering from a torn meniscus when the Suns announced he would undergo exploratory surgery last week. It’s the same malady that knocked Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose out for the 2013-14 season, and the same one that has forced Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook to line up for three surgeries in a seven month span in the wake of his tear.
There are two ways to repair the meniscus, in a basketball player’s case. One is to shoot for a quick recovery and simply remove the torn part. The other is to call it quits for four months or so, and attempt to repair the meniscus – this being the path that both Rose and Westbrook chose. It’s also the same path that Bledsoe chose in 2011, when he tore the same right meniscus, and missed four months of playing time while a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
It appears as if Bledsoe chose the quicker route with this weekend’s surgery, which is somewhat frightening. From the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro:
It was his second surgery in 27 months to address a meniscus tear in his right knee, which had been repaired in October 2011 and sidelined him for almost four months. Bledsoe is expected to return this season, perhaps sometime after the mid-February All-Star break, and that speedier timetable means that a piece of the same meniscus was removed rather than a repeat repair that would sideline him for months.
This weekend, Bledsoe is starting a recovery and rehabilitation program, which the Suns state gives him the potential to return in the season’s second half. He will be a restricted free agent in July, when the Suns can keep him by matching any offer sheet he receives.
“We were very pleased about the outcome of the surgery and look forward to Eric returning before the end of the season,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said after Friday morning’s surgery, performed by team physician Thomas Carter in Phoenix.
Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul, declined comment.
Again, this is a professional surgeon that went in and decided that this was the best course of action for Bledsoe’s recovery and future. They know what they’re doing, while we can’t even stop ourselves from overcooking pasta when the pressure’s on.
That doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to worry about Bledsoe.
Coro points out that it was “a piece of the same meniscus,” and not the entire meniscus – as Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade had removed while in college in 2002. Wade’s lingering knee issues as a result of that operation are well documented, he regrets taking the quicker course, and over a decade later he’s still forced to sit out games to buffer his aching wheels.
The declaration of “piece,” though, is in opposition, though, to what Phoenix-area radio host John Gambadoro reported over the weekend:
Bledsoe will return this season because his meniscus was removed not repaired. So 4-6 week to return.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) January 10, 2014
Phoenix’s training staff is known as the best in this particular business, as they’ve been able to prolong the careers of several aging players, players that tend to move on to other teams following a turn in Phoenix and watch as their bodies subsequently fall apart. If Bledsoe decides to stick with the Suns past his restricted free agency this summer, he’ll be in good hands.
It’s that free agency, though, that leaves the Suns prone to criticism about the quick fix route.
The team was predicted by most to end up in the Pacific Division cellar this season, but instead the squad vaulted out to a 21-13 record to begin 2013-14. The team has lost two straight since Bledsoe’s surgery appointment was announced, and they’re 5-7 without Eric (who is averaging 18 points and a combined 10.1 rebounds/assists) on the year. The team built itself a nice buffer by racing out to eight games over .500, but even with the current 21-15 mark the team’s presence in the 2014 NBA playoffs isn’t exactly assured. The West is DEEP.
For Bledsoe to return in 4-6 weeks is wonderful news, but not if it costs him years’ worth of knee pain and possible subsequent surgeries down the, all for his participation on a team that wasn’t supposed to win anyway – this year was supposed to be gravy. For Phoenix to worry about this season, with some Suns legends expecting their post-Bledsoe demise, seems a bit out of proportion with the long range model respected new general manager Ryan McDonough has cobbled together.
Then again, with two meniscus surgeries under his belt, it’s possible that the doctors in this situation thought they could do nothing more to the already-repaired meniscus, only going with the short-term removal because it was so badly damaged.
If that’s the case, then this is all a little scary. Get well soon, and stay well, Eric Bledsoe.
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