We’re not doctors, and neither are the types that own, run, coach, or (until Pau Gasol returns from the summer with a surprise to announce) play for NBA teams. Because those who follow the NBA for so long are allowed a minor, slim look at a repeated series of similar injuries, though, “not doctors” are allowed the chance to act like doctors when discussing the sorts of injury setbacks that can derail a sports franchise.
Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo wanted to remind all of us, and especially Comcast SportsNet’s Michael Barkann, of as much when going over the “indefinite” leave currently placed on aching Sixers center Joel Embiid, a rookie who has missed the better part of three seasons with a series of foot and now knee woes.
Embiid’s “minor meniscus tear” had many wondering if he’d be out for the season when he was classified as “day to day” on Feb. 18 and on “indefinite” medical leave on Feb. 27. Barkann, like many of us, wondered why Colangelo hadn’t given in to the idea that his soon-to-be 23 year-old center just undergone surgery with his future in question, and Philly’s 22-37 season just about over.
Colangelo would have none of it. From Rob Tornoe at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Are you a doctor now?” Colangelo shot back at the host. “With all due respect, medical injuries are injuries that require care and attention.”
“When I take information that comes from the medical team, including doctors and the training staff and the physiotherapists, we apply it as instructed and we do that to protect the athlete,” Colangelo added. “In a case of jumping into someone’s knee to operate, when the circumstances are known but the conditions and how he’s reacting to certain things are still unknown, I think you go through the planned progression of steps as prescribed and evaluated by doctors, not by a general manager and certainly not by a television co-host.”
“So you play a doctor on TV, I think I could do the same,” Colangelo added.
It should be noted that Colangelo was having fun with Barkann throughout, despite how severe his words might read.
In the end, we can only follow Joel Embiid’s doctor’s advice. Or, the advice that Bryan Colangelo relays as “Joel Embiid’s doctor’s advice.” The Sixers are well within their rights to closely monitor his situation while initially refusing invasive surgery, an operation that would be Embiid’s third as a pro, still harboring the hope that he could return after an “indefinite” period of rest in time to play in a few games before the end of 2016-17.
After all, I’m not Sam Hinkie, and we are not tanking.
After all, the offseason additions to the 2016-17 Philadelphia 76ers under Colangelo include Ben Simmons (zero games this season), Ersan Ilyasova (recently dealt for Tiago Splitter, who hasn’t played for weeks due to a calf ailment; Colangelo: “As far as long term, him fitting in and being part of something, I don’t see that at this date … [Splitter is] setting himself up for an opportunity to play somewhere next year”), the returning Embiid (31 games, so far), Jerryd Bayless (three games), Sergio Rodriguez and Gerald Henderson.
Even without the added heft of Philadelphia’s history under both Hinkie and Colangelo, though, this feels dodgy. Just clinging to the notion that you’re interested in returning a gimpy Joel Embiid to the lineup in a month seems like an overreaction to the sorts of calls that have understandably questioned Philadelphia’s approach to injuries and injury discussions over the last few years.
It feels like Colangelo and the 76ers are goofing around with us again. It feels like they’re giving us the same business they gave us with Simmons, and the same business the team’s front office denizens of years past gave us about Nerlens Noel (who missed all of what would have been his rookie year, while seemingly eminently capable of playing a third of the 2013-14 season) and Embiid himself (who missed two whole professional seasons on the dime of Philadelphia season ticket holders while recovering from pre-NBA injuries).
The overwhelming majority of both the season ticket holders and the obsessed thousands who can’t afford such primo seats (but still ravenously pore over all things Sixer-y) didn’t want Noel and Embiid dragged out for token appearances, though. Not with the possibility of re-injury up in the air, not to ruin what could otherwise be a future Rookie of the Year season (though both Noel and now Embiid will see those chances shot to hell), and not when there are games to lose and lottery balls to pick up.
This appears to be the plea of beaten Philadelphia 76ers fan. They’d like it if the team would come clean with things, especially when it is in regards to a big man who for 31 spectacular games looked exactly like what Greg Oden should have been prior to the litany of knee, leg and foot injuries that ruined that particular No. 1 overall pick’s NBA career a decade ago.
Jones fractures, like the one Ben Simmons suffered last summer, usually don’t take this long to return from. A “minor meniscus tear” is a legitimate, if rarely reported, thing. Colangelo’s circumspect revelations from a week ago and from Monday not only allow him to play coy with the media (and, by extension, his team’s fans) but also set up a timetable that could run from a few days to (what we all expected from the outset) enough weeks and months to sit Joel Embiid for as long as it takes to finish a season.
With Embiid telling anyone who will listen (via Dan Feldman at Pro Basketball Talk), as he should, that he’s not exactly a fan of the way Bryan Colangelo and the Philadelphia 76ers franchise discussed his terms of return last week:
“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.
“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”
Bryan Colangelo did not meet with any media but Comcast on Monday night, leaving coach Brett Brown yet again to answer for his team’s multi-fold prospects on a game night.
We’ll remind that Colangelo himself copped to the idea that he should have classified Joel Embiid as out “indefinitely,” rather than the “day-to-day” classification that still allowed him (for a dubious week or so, while we all looked on and took notes) to pretend as if he was cool with his 7-foot, 250-pound center returning to a team some 15 games under .500 with a month and a half left to play in another rebuilding season.
So, no, we’re not doctors. And we’re not even as good a Fake Doctor as Bryan Colangelo, who dresses immaculately and, probably more importantly, has access to all manner of high-end medical information about the players he’s charged with not only benefitting from, but protecting so as to ensure the success of his own investments, either inherited or sought out personally. He cares about these guys and his team.
You can’t blame anyone for leering at the 76ers and Bryan Colangelo, though, as they answer questions following indefinite periods of rest.
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