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NBA AM: Knicks Title Hopes Hinge On J.R. Smith
Posted By Lang Greene On August 2, 2013 @ 10:28 am In NBA | No Comments
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The feeling of optimism surrounding the New York Knicks franchise is at its highest levels in well over a decade. Last season the Knicks won 54 regular season games, which was their highest victory total since the 1997 campaign. The team also advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Not resting on their laurels and following up on their success, the team has had a solid summer gearing up for next season. The club acquired former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani from the Toronto Raptors, re-signed veterans Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni, drafted promising wing Tim Hardaway Jr. and signed former Defensive Player of the Year Metta World Peace.
But perhaps the Knicks’ biggest move of the summer was securing reigning Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith’s autograph on a three-year deal reportedly worth $18 million.
Smith was a key driver in the team’s success last season averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 36 percent shooting from three-point range.
However, shortly after the news of Smith’s re-signing came word the veteran guard would be sidelined three to four months after having surgery to repair the patella tendon and arthroscopic surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his left knee. The surgery was performed in mid-July so based on the initial estimates the guard could be ready by the start of training camp or could possibly miss some early season action.
But the question isn’t when Smith will get back on the court, it’s how effective will he be and whether or not he’ll be able to return to the dominating form of last season.
HOOPSWORLD spoke with Dr. Derek Ochiai, a leading Surgeon and Sports Medicine expert based in Arlington, VA, on what to expect from Smith once he returns to action from the two surgeries.
“The meniscus should heal, and most of the time, this is not a chronic issue with modern repair techniques,” Dr. Ochiai said. “The patellar tendon part of the surgery possibly may not ‘fix’ the issue completely, and sometimes even after the surgery, an athlete may have some continued, although less, pain in the front of his knee. The patellar tendon injury would be more worrisome from the standpoint that it could continue to be a lingering issue long term, which could potentially limit explosive jumping.
“Repair or debridement (where the torn part of the meniscus is trimmed away and the meniscus does not have to heal) of a torn meniscus in the knee is a very common operation in sports medicine. Chronic patellar tendonitis requiring surgical treatment is less common, since many times this can be effectively treated non-operatively.”
The Knicks said the condition of Smith’s knees were “chronic” and “gradually worsened” as the season went on, which may in turn limit the athletic guard’s explosiveness upon return to the rotation. Due to the commonality of the meniscus repair, the biggest obstacle for Smith will be the guard’s response to the patellar tendon surgery.
“Once a meniscus heals after surgery, there really should not be any lingering effects,” Dr. Ochiai said. “For patellar tendon surgery, there might be more visible lingering effects. The things to look for would be changes in vertical leap and changing how [Smith] lands after dunking.
“The patellar tendon is under a lot of stress from jumping. In fact, a term for chronic patellar tendinitis is ‘Jumper’s knee.’ For chronic patellar tendonitis, the surgical options are cutting away the damaged part of the tendon, which can be pain producing, or trying to induce a healing response such as with the FAST procedure that Pau Gasol underwent.”
Despite the new (and re-signed) additions to the roster this summer, the key for the Knicks to continue their bid in becoming legitimate title contenders is the health of Smith. The veteran guard was the team’s second leading scorer last season, behind Carmelo Anthony, and alleviated plenty of offensive pressure for the All-Star forward.
According to Dr. Ochiai, all signs point toward Smith returning to form sooner rather than later. However, the patellar tendon surgery is definitely an area of concern for a guy who does rely a great deal on his elite athleticism.
The Knicks need a completely healthy Smith in order to keep their positioning in the rapidly improving top half of the Eastern Conference.
Be Sure To Check Out HOOPSWORLD’s Ongoing Top Six By Position Series
These articles have sparked plenty of debates all week long. Do you agree? Disagree? Have your own list in mind? Check out each of these columns and leave your thoughts in the respective comments section.
Top Six NBA Point Guards In 2013-14 (Joel Brigham)
Top Six NBA Shooting Guards In 2013-14 (Jabari Davis)
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Look out for the Top Six NBA Centers entering the 2014 campaign by senior writer Tommy Beer, which will go live this afternoon.
Former No. 1 Pick Greg Oden Set To Make Free Agent Choice On Friday?
Free agent center Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2009 but has six suitors lined up for his services. The Miami HEAT, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs are all rumored to be in interested.
Be sure to check out HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy’s in-depth column on the future of Oden, which includes a league executive’s thoughts on the center’s private workouts.
Oden is expected to make a decision on his future on Friday.
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