Are the Celtics lying about Kevin Garnett’s knee? Or at least dancing around the precise nature of the surgery he had in the spring?
I noticed a few days ago that Bill Simmons tweeted this about KG’s right knee injury:
1 more KG note: This wasn’t a typical knee injury. They had to re-attach tendons to his kneecap with staples. @injuryexpert will back me up.
I thought at the time that this was the first I had heard about any re-attaching of tendons running behind KG’s injured right knee. I plum forgot about it until Red’s Army reminded me today.
We’ve written in detail about KG’s knee injuries (yes, plural) and interviewed one of the leading surgeons in the U.S. on the subject. To review: KG had bone spurs in his right knee, something the team knew about before the season. The organization and KG decided he could play through the pain the spurs cause.
But then KG strained the popliteus tendon in the same knee in Utah. The bone spurs apparently caused damage to the tendon. The surgeon we interviewed told us that a strained popliteus is a relatively rare injury for a basketball player, and that the tendon problem, combined with the bone spurs, suggests Garnett may be developing an arthritic condition. Still, the surgeon said rest would help the tendon recover to 100 percent capacity, though Garnett may experience off-and-on problems going forward.
But now we’ve got Simmons’ tweet mentioning the tendon being stapled to KG’s kneecap. This would contradict literally everything the media has reported and everything Celtics officials have said about the surgery.
Here’s a sampling of those reports:
From the Patriot Ledger on May 26: The All-Star forward had an arthroscopy procedure performed on his right knee and had bone spurs removed from the back of the knee at New England Baptist Hospital.
Later in the same article, the author describes the injury/ies this way: The tendon continued to swell whenever Garnett attempted to run, and Rivers declared him out of the entire playoffs just two days before the Celtics opened against the Chicago Bulls.
From Scott Souza at MetroWest Daily News last week:
The Celtics coach said yesterday Garnett was on schedule to hit the practice floor running when camp opens a week from Tuesday after undergoing offseason right knee surgery to remove a bone spur and calm a swollen tendon.
The word choice is key—surgery to “remove” bone spurs and “calm” the tendon. That fits with the most common public description of the injury—that the bone spurs aggravated the tendon, and that, presumably, without the bone spurs around, the tendon would recover. No stapling necessary.
Most interesting of all is this late May Boston Herald article in which Danny Ainge is quoted as saying the surgeons “didn’t have to touch the tendon” during surgery. (Note: That link to the Herald gives you only the preview of the article, since it has since been archived. The preview does not include Ainge’s quote, but Slam and a very reliable Celtics blogger both have the relevant excerpt up on their sites from posts they wrote the day the Herald piece came out).
So what in the world is Simmons talking about? Well, let’s start with @injury expert, the Tweeter Simmons says can back up his claims of a staple procedure. The injury expert is Will Carroll, probably the best-known and most well-respected reporter covering the sports health beat. (Not to go all Tory McClure on your, but you may know Will from Baseball Prospectus and many, many other outlets for which he has appeared/commented as an expert).
It turns out Will indeed Tweeted several times about KG’s injury last week. Here are the first two, from September 17th:
Kevin Garnett’s knee surgery may be getting the typical Boston treatment, but this was complex surgery. No 1, including Celts, know respond
More on Garnett — tough tendon, no comps, and for cripe’s sake STAPLES. Doesn’t that tell you, combined with last yr, that this is serious?
Then later, in response to an inquiry from our friends at CelticsBlog:
@celticsblog The popliteal tendon was the big issue. The spurs were causing tendon damage. Saying it wasn’t tendon is chicken/egg spin.
I emailed Will tonight to get a little bit more detail on the claims that Garnett had a surgery that sounds a bit more serious than a simple removal of bone spurs. He said he could not tell me anything about his sources on the Garnett situation but he did elaborate a bit:
I can’t talk about sourcing, but heard that this was more than just a simple chip/spur removal and that there was some repair work done to the tendon itself. That’s not uncommon or even a bad thing, it’s just that it’s much more serious than they’re letting on. I think the Celtics suddenly feel like they need to be the Pats in regards to information.
And here is Will’s prognosis:
Given the information I have, I don’t think Garnett’s “done” or even going to be out significantly longer, but I do worry that he’s going to have maintenance issues.
Of course, KG isn’t playing full contact basketball yet, and that has fans bracing for the worst. The Simmons tweet adds to that paranoia. The good news here is Carroll telling us that even if the stapling reports are true, they don’t necessarily mean KG will be limited or unhealthy all season. The bad news is that we have two prominent reporters/writers essentially accusing the organization of at least covering up the precise nature of the surgery and at worst lying about it outright.
And it doesn’t really seem like something the team needs to be evasive about.
In any case, this certainly warrants close, close attention.