Color me cautious in the extreme by what Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks decided to do with his shoulder.
“I’m ecstatic going from a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum to not needing surgery,” Anthony told reporters in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday. “Let me take that back: taking a risk in not taking surgery and letting it heal on its own. I took a huge risk in doing that. It meant I had to put more time in the offseason to do what I had to do to get it right.”
Let’s parse that, though.
It was obvious that Anthony was playing with a significant shoulder injury, with the injury stemming from getting his shoulder essentially pulled out by Sam Young during the April 14 win over the Pacers that both clinched the second seed and, at the same time, sowed the seeds for their loss to the Pacers.
But right, a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff that require surgery aren’t injuries that typically just heal. Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m definitely not a doctor who has seen Anthony’s tests. And if Anthony managed to avoid surgery, and now finds himself 100 percent healthy, that is a perfect outcome and was well worth trying.
Anthony doesn’t sound like that, though. He continues to respond to questions about how he feels the same way he did on Media Day, by essentially saying he hasn’t felt 100 percent since he was a kid, but he’s fine, under the circumstances.
So why not have surgery to heal a shoulder that he described as “real messed up”?
“I would have been out four, five months because of the severity of the tear,” he said.
Okay, let’s assume he meant 4-5 months of the season, though that isn’t clear- he could have meant 4-5 months from date of surgery, which he could have had in June. Even worst-case, that puts him back on the court in February/March. Could the Knicks have made the playoffs without him for that long? Not necessarily, but probably, especially in the top-heavy East.
More to the point, though, can the Knicks do anything in the playoffs with Anthony playing at far below his healthy capabilities? You saw how limited their offense became against Indiana last May. Can what he did withstand the rigors of an NBA season? And there’s always the chance, while managing an injury, of making it worse, or while managing it, suffering a cascade injury.
This sure seems like a big risk to take. Then again, Anthony is not guaranteed anything right now, and wants to opt out of his contract next summer to get a max deal. Coming back in March jeopardizes that, along with the season.
So I’m not arguing that what he’s done here was the wrong move, though I think I’d be inclined to get it fixed and get on with my career healthy. It’s a big risk, though, like Anthony said, and we don’t know how this roll of the dice has landed yet.