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Putting KG’s Knee to Bed…For Now

One interesting nugget from this Boston Herald story on the successful removal of bone spurs from Kevin Garnett’s right knee: The team knew about the bone spurs before the season started and concluded they weren’t enough of a problem to require surgery. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the Herald:

The fact that Garnett and the Celtics are not active now in the NBA playoffs has followers of the team wishing a decision made before the season could be revisited. Garnett’s spurs showed up then, but they were not deemed a significant problem.

“Well, yeah, if you know it’s going to be a problem and you know he’s not going to be able to play in the playoffs, sure you’d do things differently,” Ainge said. “In hindsight, it’s always easy to look back. And we discussed it again in February. We looked at all the possibilities and made the decision. But you have to understand there were no guarantees even with the surgery. I’m certainly not second guessing our medical staff or the people that were consulted.”

Two things to note here: 

1) KG very well could have played the entire season with bone spurs. The spurs cause pain, but players play through them all the time. It was the strained popliteus tendon in KG’s knee on top of the spurs that hiked the pain up to a level at which KG could no longer play effectively, as Scott Souza pointed out yesterday

2) We spoke recently to our old friend Dr. Donald Rose, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the U.S. and the man who educated us on KG’s knee injury back when he went down in mid-February. (To refresh: He’s a professor at NYU, the lead surgeon for the Cirque du Soleil dance troupe and worked for the 76ers in the mid-1980s). 

The doc told us that the popliteus tendon/muscle strain is a “very unusual injury” for a basketball player, and one that requires extensive rest and rehabilitation. The tendon strain plus the bone spurs likely suggest that KG is developing an arthritic condition in his right knee, something that is not unusual in a player who has logged as many high-intensity minutes as Garnett. (As we understand from Rose and some research, the body produces bone spurs around joint areas when the cartilage around the joint has been worn down). 

We obviously asked Dr. Rose about the chances of a full recovery. He said there is no doubt KG could (and likely will) be 100 percent by the opening of next season, but that there will always be a risk of knee problems if Garnett has indeed developed some form of arthritis. 

All things considered, this is (mostly) good news. And the Celtics knew this was the risk they took in dealing a young big man (one with a knee problem now, sadly) for an aging one. Here’s Doc in the Herald:

“Oh, yeah, we knew what we were getting into, and it was worth the gamble. No question. He brought us one banner already, so clearly it was worth the gamble.”

Agreed. 

For what it’s worth, here’s Bob Ryan and Tony Massarotti discussing (on video!) whether the Celtics could have won the title had KG and Powe been healthy.