Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Should We Be Worried About Conley's Injury?

Spartacus mentioned in the Daily Links post that #4 overall pick, Micheal Conley has a posterior labral tear in his right shoulder. He is expected to miss at least 2-3 weeks of action. Conley injured the shoulder in the third quarter of the 11.17.07 game versus the Dallas Mavericks.

I want to take this opportunity to delve a little deeper into this unfortunate situation.

Are the Memphis Grizzlies Cursed?

Yes, particularly at the PG position. What else would someone living in Memphis say? The negative, woe-is-me attitude isn't totally unjustified. First, the franchise lost out on being able to draft potential superstars LeBron, Melo, or D-wade in 2003, then again with Oden or Durant in 2007. Memphis fans have yet to see a playoff victory. And now it seems that new Grizzly PG acquisitions are destined to get hurt in their first year on the job.

Damon was signed in the summer of 2005, then blew out his knee in December of that year and is just now fully recovering. Kyle Lowry was drafted in 2006, then severely damaged his wrist in the 10th game of the year and missed the rest of the year. Now the 2007 #4 overall selection has a posterior labral tear in his right shoulder within the first month of the season, despite having a hard time finding playing time this season. With a fan base ready to see Conley play sooner rather than later, this injury is hard to stomach. So it seems that anything less than 3 quality point guards is a recipe for disaster for the Grizzlies.

Should we be worried about this injury?

I don't yet know if we should be worried, but I'll admit that, yes, my gut feeling is that I am worried about this injury. I'm worried that Conley will miss significantly more time than suggested right now. And I'm worried that this could be the start of long term problems to that shoulder.

First, the good news. The injury is in the right shoulder and Conley is left-handed. Tillery also says that

this injury isn’t too serious. Posterior labral reattachment provides consistently good results, allowing the athlete to return to competition without worry of complications. It’s mostly a football injury.

Being someone that sustained a major shoulder injury playing high school football, I admit that I'm a little more ignorant on shoulder injuries than I should be. I don't think my injury was the same as Conley's. In fact, my injury was initially misdiagnosed and then required surgery a year later. It was a nightmare and I have tried hard to forget as much as possible about the injury and grueling rehab process, though I am reminded everyday by the throbbing that still exists.

Originally, Conley's injury was said to be a "sprained shoulder", and I was under the impression the implication was that the injury was minor. I am always skeptical of injuries when the initial diagnoses is not correct and proves too optimistic.

Anyway, I found this page helpful in re-educating me about shoulder injuries. The about.com link lists 3 types of labral tears.
--SLAP Tears
--Bankart Lesions
--Posterior Labral Tears

Posterior Labral Tears are also called internal impinchment and is said to be caused from pinching of the tuberosity (top of the humerus) against the labrum. The link says that Labral tears do not typically require surgery, although they can. And the posterior labral tear is seen mostly in athletics, particularly football and baseball.

I also want to mention Lamar Odom. I am not entirely up to speed on Odom's injury history, though I do know he has suffered from shoulder problems in the past. At the end of last season, Odom was sidelined for the rest of the year because of a labrum tear in his left shoulder. The injury required surgery. It was the same shoulder he had surgery on 2 seasons prior. Most likely, Conley's injury is much less severe than Odom's. I hope. I also don't think Conley has a history of shoulder problems, like Odom had.

How will this affect Damon?

I would think the possibility of trading Damon in the short-term is nearly ruled out, although I doubt that was much of an option yet anyway. The injury is sure to stunt Conley's development this year and thus could make it less likely that Conley is ready to be handed the keys by the time the trade deadline comes in February. Right now, I would still say trading Damon by the trade deadline is more likely than not, but this injury certainly provides a solid reason for keeping Damon around all season. One future scenario that I think is now a possibility is that Damon will stay all season and just be bought out after the season is over.

Can we trust the 2-3 week timeline?

It is reported that Conley will miss at minimum 2 to 3 weeks. Tillery also says Conley is out 'indefinitely. I am making a guess that this injury will keep Conley out at least 6 weeks, if not 2 to 3 months, although I have no real basis for my opinion, other than a gut feeling that the 2-3 weeks is much too optimistic. Plus there is no real reason to rush this rehab process. Conley wasn't playing much, Damon and Kyle are playing fine and the kid is still only 19 or 20 years old. Last year, it seemed that Lowry's injury was under-reported, then eventually ballooned into needing 3 different surgeries and keeping the wrist inactive for longer than expected. Something tells me this injury to Conley might play out in a similar manner.

I suggest you forget about the 2-3 week timeline and just be ecstatic if Conley returns before the calendar says 2008. The Grizzlies can't afford to rush Conley back. 5 days ago it seemed that the future was ready to be the present, but now it seems the future is back to being the future.

Addendum: Posterior Labral Tear is fully explained on this web page for those interested in the science aspect.


AC said...

I agree that the team should be overly cautious with Conley's shoulder and keep him out until he's 100% ready to play. He's as pure a point as you can find in the NBA, and the Griz will need him healthy for the future development of the team.

In the meantime, it's probably best to continue starting Damon, but Lowry should get more minutes. Damon is better at running the offense, but his back-court defense is creeping up on "terrible," while Kyle's outside shot is approaching "reliable."

Neither of them have the innate drive-and-kick ability that Conley has, so it looks like the Griz's full potential may be put on hold yet again. Maybe there is a curse.

zack said...

thanks for the comments, ac...i agree with ya...

ChipC3 said...

I think the injury to Conley will slow him down a little but it won't have an effect on Damon being traded by the February deadline. Trading Damon has more to do with what is best for the Grizzlies and not how it affects Damon, Mike or even Kyle in the short run. Even if Conley is out all season the Grizzlies could survive with Kyle and a patchwork of Navarro, Miller or even a CBA guard could fill in as the PG of last resort.

All this is assuming that Kyle has beaten out Damon for the starting role which we all can agree should happen long before February's deadline.

ChipC3 said...

Correction: I said "Even if Conley is out all season the Grizzlies could survive with Kyle and a patchwork of Navarro, Miller or even a CBA guard could fill in as the PG of last resort."

What I meant to say was: "Even if Conley is out all season the Grizzlies could survive given the right deal with Kyle and a patchwork of Navarro, Miller or even a CBA guard could fill in as the PG of last resort.