There's been no shortage of discussion about Chandler Parsons this offseason; the Dallas Mavericks swingman played a central role in the (house-)arresting summertime drama surrounding DeAndre Jordan's defection to Dallas, subsequent decommitment and eventual re-signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. What has stayed pretty quiet, though, is the exact nature of the surgery Parsons had to repair the late-season right knee injury that he reaggravated during the Mavs' first playoff game back in April, ending his first season in Dallas and leaving Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle and company with one more question mark heading into a long summer.
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Summer's over now, with teams all over the NBA map holding Media Day sessions. Parsons won't be on the court with his compatriots as Dallas returns to work, though, and it's evidently because initial reports on the severity of his injury were close, if not bang-on; the forward had a "minor hybrid" microfracture operation, according to ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon:
The Mavs and Parsons have been vague about the details of the operation, which was announced simply as an "arthroscopic surgery to address a cartilage injury in his right knee."
Sources told ESPN.com that the operation, which was performed by team physician T.O. Souryal, included a bone marrow transplant from Parsons' right hip to help regenerate the cartilage damage from late last season that caused him to miss all but one game of the playoffs.
The location of the cartilage damage was in the "best possible spot," a source said, because it is in a non-weight-bearing area of the knee. That was the primary reason that a traditional microfracture surgery, which would require a longer recovery period, was not necessary.
That last bit figures to be pretty important.
Reading "minor" next to "microfracture surgery" confused me. How can an injury and procedure responsible for some of the most significant and superstar-career-altering downturns of last decade be "minor?" It's worth noting, though, that there are levels and shades of grey here; "not all microfracture surgeries are equal," as In Street Clothes' Jeff Stotts wrote back in 2014:
Microfracture is a technique and not a specific surgery like Tommy John surgery. It generally carried out when damage has been sustained to the articular cartilage of the knee but it can be performed on other joints including the ankle. In the case of Stoudemire the injured cartilage was located on the proximal surface of one of the two lower two leg bones. However, occasionally the procedure will also be carried out on the kneecap when the cartilage surrounding an athlete’s kneecap, the patella, is damaged. [...]
The average recovery time for the surgery depends on the location of the procedure and the size of the area repaired. If a repair is done to a weight-bearing bone like the tibia or fibula the athlete will likely not return to play for at least six to eight months with rehab and recovery often extending longer. If a patellar repair is carried out, the recovery time may be slightly reduced and an athlete can return four months later. However it may take six months for a complete return and a brace will likely be worn for the majority of those six months.
Parsons went under the knife on May 1; a four-month recovery timeline for the comparatively more minor version of the microfracture procedure would've put him in line to be back on the court four weeks ago. Parsons, however, has not yet been cleared to join the Mavericks for the start of training camp. He's aiming to be back on the court when Dallas opens the 2015-16 regular season in Arizona against the Phoenix Suns, as is high-priced free-agent acquisition Wesley Matthews, who's still working his way back from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in March while a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Even if both Parsons and Matthews make it back onto the court for Opening Night, it remains very much an open question whether Dallas' mended wings will be capable of shouldering the significant shot-creating, shot-making, defensive and leadership roles they'll be expected to play for a Mavericks team reconfiguring itself without departed bookends Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler. Veteran reclamation project point guard Deron Williams could join with living legend Dirk Nowitzki and bounce-back big man Zaza Pachulia to keep Carlisle's crew steady in the early going with Parsons and Matthews find their sea legs.
Any delay in that search, though, could prove fatal for the postseason chances of a Dallas club that will need all hands on deck to avoid taking a significant step backward. And with the Boston Celtics holding Dallas' 2016 first-round draft pick should it fall outside the top seven, that lost step could be particularly damaging for the future prospects of a franchise that must start preparing for life after Dirk. If Parsons, too, has lost a step after undergoing even a "minor hybrid" version of one of the game's most daunting procedures, the outlook becomes even darker in the long-term than it is in the short-term.
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