A doctor explains Joel Embiid’s foot injury

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With Joel Embiid’s foot injury adding so much confusion to the NBA draft, I asked Dr. Ben Wedro of MD direct to help provide a little clarity – at least about the top-rated center. If you’re looking for help on the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker debate, this isn’t the place (though I’ll have more on that tomorrow).

Q: What might have caused Embiid’s foot injury?

The navicular is located in the mid foot and is responsible for helping maintain the arch of the foot from heel to toe and transverse stability of the foot. It and the ligaments that attach to the mid foot to flex at the beginning of a stride and lock as the foot pushes off.

They are responsible for taking the load of the weight of the body as it comes down an distributing it. So, when you’re 7-foot-whatever and 300 pounds [ed: Emiid’s listed weight was 250 pounds at Kansas], that takes more load than if you’re me and and 5-9, 160. It’s one of those things that happens unfortunately. I don’t know if we’re built to be 7 feet.

Causes include increasing activity too quickly, poor equipment (in this case, perhaps poorly fit or supportive shoes) and bone insufficiency. Normal with the latter, it is due to osteoporosis but in a large 7 footer, it may be that the bones in his foot may not be able to support the size of his body.

When it is injured, it often takes time to make the diagnosis of the navicular stress fracture because it is not easily seen on x-ray.

Q: Considering his back injury also, is it possible Embiid’s bones are weak?

Unlikely. He’s a healthy guy. The think you think about with people with back fractures and bone problems is osteoporosis, and that’s more a disease of aging. You see that in older people, especially women who haven’t deposited calcium in their bones earlier on in life. They have a calcium deficit. So, that’s unlikely the case.

His bones are probably fine. His height is a problem.

Not a problem. You can’t teach height. But it puts more stress on the anatomy of the bones in the body to distribute all that pressure that comes through jumping and running.

As to the relationship with his previous back injury, the only relationship I can think of is being deconditioned and increasing practice and play time too quickly.

Q: What do you make of two screws being inserted into his foot?

The fracture needs to be stabilized and the screws are used for internal fixation. This is the expected procedure.

With either operative or non-operative approach, up to 90% of athletes can return to their  level of competition.

Q: Do you think that percentage is lower for elite athletes, because they must climb back further to a higher level?

They have more incentive to do that or facility to be able to do that. They have more people around them to get them there.

He goes eight hours a day, six days a week. That’s their full-time job, and he has a team of people – from a chiropractor to massage therapist to a physical therapist and a doctor – working on your foot six hours a day.

Q: How can he and his team minimize of suffering another injury?

Part of his rehabilitation and evaluations of his injuries in his rehab will be looking at his footwear and seeing how they can help him with that – whether that’s orthotics or a specially built shoe for him – would probably be appropriate.

You have to work hard on his mechanics. The people will be looking hard at how he lands, how he takes off, how he runs and try to minimize the amount of stress on his feet by doing that.

They’re not going to tell him not to run fast. They’re not going to tell him not to jump high. They’re going to try to work with his natural athletic ability and maximize it.

So, if Embiid returns to full health, preemptively limiting his minutes to avoid future injury would be no more effective than employing that strategy with any other player?

That’s right.

As long as they’re comfortable that his mechanics are together. Let’s say they find – and I don’t know this – but let’s presume he has mechanical issues with his gait or his jumping or whatever. if they don’t correct, then that’s a different story – or if he cannot correct that.

If they find that he is mechanically sound and he’s fully recovered and he has no pain, then he should enjoy a long, healthy career.

That leaves a lot of ifs, though it is helpful to know exactly where the uncertainty remains.

Is he a normal 22-year-old? Is he the next Greg Oden? If we all knew the answer, we could predict the future.

Report: NBA approves list of social-justice messages for jerseys

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The plan for NBA players to put message of social justice onto their jerseys?

Despite snags with using the names of victims of police brutality, it’s on.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

The National Basketball Players Association and the NBA reached an agreement Friday on social justice messages that can be displayed above the number on the back of jerseys when the league resumes play July 30, a source told ESPN’s The Undefeated.

The list of the approved suggested social messages, per the source, for the back of the NBA jerseys: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.

Missing from that list: Free Hong Kong.

OF COURSE the NBA has a list of approved messages. The NBA can promote social justice. But there are going to limits to running a protest movement through a multibillion-dollar corporation. This is a league that allowed an owner to remain in place for years after his racism and sexism came to light, brought up its attire rules when players wore “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirts and still requires its players to stand for the national anthem. There was no way the league would allow more-controversial slogans on jerseys.

Now, “I can’t breathe” is an approved message for a jersey, because the middle has shifted. Customers and employees want to see companies support racial justice. Society is changing.

Fundamentally, the NBA is not. Its still a business concerned with making money.

Praise the NBA for doing good. But also don’t lose sight of the bottom line.

Pelicans top assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will not joint team at restart

Pelicans Jeff Bzdelik
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It’s still unknown whether Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry, 65, will be able to accompany his players to Orlando for the NBA restart.

What we do know: Pelicans’ associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik, 67, will not join the team due to underlying health concerns. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.

Bzdelik is known as a defensive specialist, one who helped turn the Rockets defense around a couple of years back with a switching scheme. While the Pelicans defense was not sharp early in the season as the team battled through injuries, they were a top 10 defense after the All-Star break.

After negotiations by the NBA Coaches Association, coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando based on their age alone. There must be other underlying factors. That appears to be the case with Bzdelik.

Bzdelik was the head coach of the Denver Nuggets for three years and has been an assistant coach for a number of teams.

The loss of Bzdelik hurts, but it becomes exponentially more difficult for the Pelicans if Gentry is not the head coach. Where does that stand? “I have no idea, I really don’t,” Gentry said in a conference call with reporters this week. He added he plans on coaching, but the decision on whether he can attend is not his.

The Pelicans are not alone, the Lakers will not have assistant coach Lionel Hollins on the bench either.

New Orleans enters the restart with the best chance of any team in the West to finish with the nine seed and force a play-in series with Memphis (that series is two games, the Pelicans would have to win both). While New Orleans is in a virtual logjam with Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio, it is the Pelicans who have the easiest schedule.

And, Zion Williamson looks ripped and ready.

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Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins ‘red flagged,’ will not travel to restart

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NBA coaches cannot be blocked from travel to Orlando for the NBA’s restart based on their age alone. There had to be other underlying factors.

Lakers’ assistant coach Lionel Hollins, 66, has such a condition and will not be traveling to the restart with the team. Via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel hinted at this speaking to reporters Thursday.

As part of getting approval to be in the bubble in Orlando, everyone — whether it be players, coaches, team staff — had to submit a medical evaluation, helping the league screen the most vulnerable to COVID-19 should they become infected. Hollins, the former Grizzlies and Nets head coach, was held back on that count.

The Lakers still bring an experienced and deep coaching staff to the Orlando restart with Frank Vogel and the head coach, Jason Kidd as his lead assistant, plus Phil Handy, Miles Simon, Mike Penberthy, and Quinton Crawford.

The Lakers will be without starting guard Avery Bradley, who has chosen to stay home with family rather than take the risks playing in the restart.

The Lakers begin the restart as the betting favorite to win the title behind the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo to sit out NBA resumption at Disney World

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Several players have decided to sit out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World:

*Jordan lands in a gray area. He tested positive for coronavirus, but was unclear how quickly he’d recover. It sounded like he decided to sit out before seeing how his health progresses.

Now, the first star – Pacers guard Victor Oladipo – joins the list.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided to sit out the resumed 2019-20 NBA season, Oladipo told The Athletic.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo told The Athletic. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

“We totally respect and understand Victor’s decision to not play in the restart of the NBA’s season,” Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said in a statemnt. “The first priority for our players is, and always will be, their health, whether that be physical or mental health.  Victor has looked great in workouts, but the timing of the restart and lack of 5-on-5 activity makes it difficult to for him to commit to playing at the high level he expects with regards to further injury. His future health is the No. 1 priority and we look forward to having him back at full strength for the 2020-21 season.

“This is not a unique situation for our team, playing without key players like Victor and Jeremy Lamb. This team has shown great resolve in responding to adversity and we fully expect this will be no different. We remain excited about what they can accomplish in Orlando “

Oladipo is a competitor. He proved that growing up and in the NBA.

He’s also one of the many people thrown into an impossibly difficult situation by the coronavirus pandemic.

Oladipo missed more than a year due to a torn right quad tendon and was just ramping back up when the league shut down. The long hiatus exacerbates injury concerns. He took his time exploring his decision.

Though it’s past the stated deadline for withdrawing without facing discipline, presumably Oladipo will face similar consequences. His base salary would be docked $1,842,105 plus $230,263 for each playoff game Indiana plays (up to $3,223,684 in total lost base salary).*

*With league-wide revenue way down, no players will receive their full base salary.

This decision raises questions about the long-term future of Oladipo, who’s headed toward 2021 unrestricted free agency. He just signaled that he’s not absolutely committed to heling Indiana win at all costs.

Maybe that’s only a product of these circumstances. But bet that teams interested in signing him – ahem, Heat – at least took notice. And surely so did Indiana, which could always trade him before free agency.

It’s unclear how big of a short-term loss this will be for the Pacers, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Oladipo is an excellent two-way player when healthy. But he mostly struggled while playing a big offensive role in his return. Though he played better his last few games, there’s no telling how he would’ve picked back up after this long layoff.

Indiana’s place looks similar, with or without Oladipo. The Pacers can still win a playoff series with the right matchup. They probably won’t go further.

Beyond this season? There was already plenty of intrigue around Oladipo’s situation. This will only add to the speculation.