Friday, March 15, 2013

Why are the Knicks so Terrified of MRI’s?

First off, this is all purely speculation and opinion! Do not think that I have any insight into the thoughts of either the athletes or doctors or training staff of the New York Knicks!

Now that we got that out of the way, my experience interning for the athletic training staff of a D1 program has led me to witness a few patient, doctor interactions that had nothing to do with my own body. This may help people understand the thinking that goes on behind the scenes in the training room with injuries that need to be managed.

The human body has a miraculous way of accommodating for minor injuries suffered anywhere on its anatomy. Have a degenerative joint issue? You can rehab the surrounding muscles to strengthen the entire joint and take the percussive stress from jumping, running, etc. and distribute it along the musculature instead of the bone mass.

Seth Rosenthal: stop cowering in fear! It's just a diagram.

This is where things get tricky. No two human bodies are exactly the same. A chronic tear in my medial meniscus may have no pain when I run, jump, cut, or anything of that sort. In addition, many people have what are called Osteochondral Defects, or OCD’s. This literally means a hole, bump, or imperfection to the bone surface that that person may never feel pain from. They can perform athletically at an elite level, live without arthritis, and never think twice about it for the rest of their life.

Bringing us back to the doctoral side of things, any appearance of defect muscularly, in the bone, or any cartilaginous structure would require said doctor to recommend the proper treatment. By not doing so, the doctor would be liable for lawsuit if the player decided that the doctor should have forced a procedure or treatment against the player’s best wishes, and the player gets hurt further.

"Damn, Melo! Already wearing a headband? What is a trainer to do now?!?!"

Still with me? Good. So we know Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are high class athletes with a long history of pounding their knees and other joints around on a basketball court. Who knows what will show up if they get an MRI on their knees? It could be something that has to do with the problem, or it could simply be irritation from a bone bruise, or anything else. However, if they gets an MRI and ANYTHING shows up out of the ordinary, the doctor has a legal obligation to tell the patient/athlete and that holds some ramifications ethically as well.

"Knee Solidarity, BRO"

Tyson Chandler had a problem with this in his voided trade from Charlotte to OKC with his toe. While there is cartilage damage (ASSUMPTION!!!!), he is able to play with no ill effects even though most players would not be able to adjust to the physical pain from that damage. Many years later, Chandler is rockin’ out with no ill effects from the toe.

So in the end here, if the doctors and trainers are able to perform manual tests on the athlete to ensure no ligamentous, cartilaginous, or immediate bone damage, then if the athlete declines MRI, there is nothing they can do to force the athlete to get an MRI. Further, by forcing an MRI, they might uncover a problem that is not actually a problem at the current moment that will force a star player to sit out for a reason that is not even related to their current injury.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Bad, The Terrible, and The Horrendous

Pulling some positives from the Knicks’ 3/13 loss to the Nuggets.

While I sat at my kitchen table last night, slowly pulling out my hair to imitate the pain Tyson and Melo must have been feeling in their knee joints, I couldn’t help but ask myself if there was anything positive to take from this debacle of a performance against the fast-paced Nuggets squad. In short, not really much; however, if we dig deeper, the ultimate optimist can always find something good in the worst of situations.
"Man, you really think you're finding positive from last night??"

With that said, we must first acknowledge the horrific:

Tyson Chandler’s knee was contused after smashing into Corey Brewer’s own knee during an off-ball maneuver performed to place him in better offensive rebounding position. Please, please, PLEASE may this only be a bone bruise and not a more significant ligamentous injury. It seemed as if he was able to place weight on it, but not produce locomotion with said weight, so hopefully the Knicks’ fear of MRI/x-ray machines is warranted and Tyson can play going forward.

Melo's like, "You serious Tyson. Gotta out do this 'contusion' you claim to have."

Carmelo started off looking more spry and energetic than the game on Monday in Golden State. Unfortunately, all said fluidity of his knee joint seemed to cause some discomfort as he sat on the bench to start the 2nd, and worsened during the time he took for a break during halftime. I am not too concerned about the long term implications, but why is Melo not doing more work on the sidelines in between court time to keep his knee joint loose? ROGER HINDS?? Maybe I was not watching closely enough.

Finally, once the Knicks lost their two “healthy” stars to their separate knee issues, and without STAT already, they never had a shot at making this game close at all. Even worse, the big 21-1 run in the second quarter came when our two stars were still plodding along at a snail’s pace compared to the Nuggets Run-n-Gun attack. Time and time again, the interior of the defense was beaten by open cuts to the rim by bigs that beat our men down the court off missed AND made baskets. When that wasn’t enough, they would kick around the perimeter, pump fake, and drive and dish until they found an open dunk or three in the half-court. Basically, everything the Nuggets were advertised to do, they did.

Onto the bueno:

Iman Shumpert (20 points, 8-10, 4-5 from 3) looked brilliant last night. Early in the game, I noted multiple times where his active hands on the ball and his energy in using help defense to disrupt a lesser ball-handler or passer created a loose ball opportunity for the Knicks. Once Chandler subbed out, the team defense declined so much, it is hard to pin any specific problems on Iman. On the offensive end, he displayed some improved handles and confidence in changing directions off the dribble, albeit without the finishing touch around the rim early on as he missed one early attempt. From there on out, he took well set jump shots that found the bottom of the net. Whether it was directly off the catch or set up off his own dribble, Shump made sure to set his feet, elevate strongly, and flick his wrist softly to create a good backspin into the net. If he can confidently stroke it like that going forward, I feel pretty good about him playing big minutes come playoff time.

GOTCHUUU GALLOOOO. Look at that knee trust!

Kenyon Martin (5 points, 4 boards, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 4 hard-ass fouls) showed that what he lacks for in athleticism and burst, he makes up for in attitude, tenacity, and positioning. He hit the deck a couple of times to make a hustle play and was generally good at being in the right spot to contest inside shots. The downside; he is no Tyson. Take away the 7’1 frame and gangly arms of an octopi and you are left with someone who can’t swat away many shots, but will at least throw some hard fouls out in the paint and not be named Kurt Thomas or possess Kurt Thomas’ awkward arm/belly/everywhere flab.

Kurt Thomas was so much fun to watch in garbage time. Pretty much any time. That doesn’t mean he is a good player in the NBA at this stage of his career, however, FUNNY to watch.

James White came out BLAZING! Dude finished with 10 points?! He got to dunk in garbage time, too! YAY!

I guess this is a long enough comeback post. Point remains, game was overall sucky, just have to look hard enough to pull out a few positives; even if they are few and far between.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Catching up on a few NBA Rookies

Now that a few weeks of the NBA season are in the books, I want to take a look at some of the rookies who have caught my eye, good or bad. Unfortunately, I have not seen every rookie play with my own eyes so I will only comment on the ones which I have been able to study so far.

Ricky Rubio- Season Stats- ESPN

Right now, he is a top 5 distributor in the NBA. He sees passing lanes that nobody else sees and executes his passes equally well with either hand or both. One of my favorite parts about watching him is the flash he uses mixed in with perfect fundamentals. While he may make his passes looks overly flashy, he really is in complete control of the ball. Also, he is extremely adept at utilizing bounce passes to fit an assist into the tightest of windows. While this skill is stressed at the youth level, the majority of NBA players use chest passes when a bounce would lead to a safer attempt.

Aside from his distribution, Rubio has been a pleasant surprise in all other facets of the game as well. He plays a decent on-ball defense for an un-athletic PG and plays very well off the ball. He gets his hand into passing lanes and is willing to do work on that side of the floor. Also, while his shot isn't the prettiest, he is still shooting 46% from the field and 47% from 3 point land. He doesn't seem to force any attempts due to his pure love affair with the passing aspect of the PG position. As long as he isn't depended on for his scoring prowess, he should continue to develop into a top-5 all around PG, rather than just distributor.

Iman Shumpert- Stats

His game against Memphis was downright ugly; there's no way around that. However, Shumpert has proven to provide a spark to a New York Knicks team that needed one on the defensive end. While sometimes over-aggressive, he provides some of the tightest man defense I've witnessed. This can lead to him getting beat off the dribble by quicker guards, which has happened, but also forces lesser ballhandlers into turnovers. He is one of the most athletic guards in the NBA and he certainly uses his 6'5" frame to his advantage on the defensive end.

On the offensive end, he has had an up and down showing so far. It is obvious that he struggles hitting his own shot off the dribble but certainly possesses the dribbling skills to create his own shot consistently. Not showing very much 3 point shooting ability, Iman has shown he can hit shots in the mid-range and finish at the rim. At times, he needs to work on getting the ball to the rack instead of settling for a questionable jumper. He is very strong coming off the pick and roll and driving into the lane. So far, he has been all over the place as a playmaker, but has shown a few flashes of brilliance. Right now, he is best suited at the 2 guard, but it is certainly not out of the question that he can develop the necessary vision and consistency hitting the open man.

Brandon Knight- Stats

Coming out of Kentucky, he was known to be an athletic specimen and a work in progress running the point. He is strong defending the pick and roll, usually getting over the pick before help is needed from a hedging big man. He has shown capable of getting to a spot for the shot he wants and finishing, but his selection could use work. He is very active on the boards and has a smooth handle on the ball. Would like to see him improve as a playmaker but otherwise a pretty well rounded athlete and player.

Derrick Williams- Stats

He has looked the part so far in his time off the bench. He is already a more efficient scorer than Michael Beasley and plays competent defense using his athleticism but can get bullied in the post. Smooth in transition and has shown explosiveness that scouts were drooling over before the draft. Also, his 3 point shot is very well real and alive at the NBA level. He's only shot 32% behind the arc so far but shows good form and confidence in the shot that you know more will start to fall. Definitely a player to be excited about.

Josh Harrellson- Stats

Obviously a homer pick here but I've spent too much time watching Knicks' games to not mention him along with his fellow rookies. From the moment he stepped on the court for New York, he has provided interior toughness and help on the glass. He has an NBA body, built for anchoring in the post and maintaining position in the paint on rebounding opportunities. He has shown the ability to alter a shot without fouling and get his hands in on the ballhandler to create loose balls. On offense, he is limited to put backs, when he even makes those, and a surprisingly polished shooting stroke. He has hit 10-30 from 3 so far. Much better than anything the Knicks could have been expecting. He is obviously not gifted athletically, often looking like he has cement shoes, but makes up for it with savvy. He is not a player that will be a starter, but he looks to have a productive career off the bench as a glue guy for someone's frontcourt.

Pineda for Montero Breakdown

Welp... this was unexpected, to say the least. After the Yankees swung and missed on Felix Hernandez, offering a pu pu platter of top prospects, they "settled" on the other young fireballer from Safeco in Michael Pineda. Of course, they were required to include their own blue-chip prospect, Jesus Montero, but they come out of this deal looking like winners. The other pieces in the deal, Hector Noesi to Seattle and Jorge Campos to New York, are nothing to be forgotten about but the main focus is on the two top pieces in the deal.

 I can never love you again...

Pineda is a physical specimen, standing in at 6'5 and 245 pounds. He is almost primarily a FB, SL pitcher using those two pitches a combined 94% of the time. His CH is still a work in progress and probably a necessary weapon to reduce his fly ball rate as he moves from the best pitchers' ballpark in baseball to a New York launching pad. Pineda is a pitcher who relies on his velocity and movement more than sink to get outs. The large confines of Safeco field definitely help a pitcher who allowed a HR/FB of 9.0 and a GB/FB of .81. According to FanGraphs, the league average for HR/FB percentage in a given year is 10.6, but this year it was 9.5, showing he gets a large number of outs in the air. While that may be a good strategy in Seattle, it's one that will lend him to a little more trouble this year. However, he has shown to possess way above average stuff which will keep balls out of play or induce weaker contact. Including last year at the major league level, Pineda has never averaged less than 9.0 K/9 since 2008, his minor league rookie season. Keeping the ball out of play is a great indicator of success and he also does well in keeping the free passes down. His K/BB was 3.15 against major league competition last year and never below 4.0 in the minors. He definitely demonstrated good command for a young pitcher.

After performing beyond expectations prior to the All Star break, Pineda did fall back to Earth in the second half. His innings have increased at a normal rate since he was brought into the Seattle system, but he did make a jump from around 130 innings to 171. With any young pitcher, you must be concerned about the potential for injury. However, Pineda's size and safe handling being brought through the Mariners' system point towards him maintaining his health and success. While there are certainly concerns in trading for a young arm, the Yankees did their best to secure one that was not thought to even be on the market. As long as his arm holds up, he looks to be the perennial number 2 starter for the Yankees, offering plenty of innings and strikeouts as their offense provides him with more wins than Seattle could promise. 

In 2015, this may be the last evidence of Montero as a catcher

As for the Mariners, they received one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball. This would be considered a nice win in a vacuum but it looks as if Montero might be a bat without a position. With first base occupied by Justin Smoak and Mike Carp, to a lesser extent, the Mariners are forced to make a tough decision with Montero. In his time behind the plate in the Yankees system, scouts have come to a consensus that his future is not there. While they might be more optimistic than I, it will be a tough sell to keep Montero at catcher if all hell breaks loose when he tries to block a ball in the dirt. He is a stiff receiver and doesn't show the requisite athletic ability to shift his feet and consistently block balls in the dirt or throw out base stealers at the major league level. He seems destined to man first base or even just be relegated to full-time DH duties for the Mariners. 

However, the reason that Montero is so highly regarded is because of his offensive abilities. He has a fluid swing and is very adept at controlling the strike zone, something he has proven at every level. Presently, he provides fantastic contact with a high OBP due to his patience and plenty of present power. As he continues to mature, his power could provide a few 30 HR seasons. He generates plenty of hard contact with good loft in his swing, leading to a high percentage of line drives and fly balls, something that plays into his power potential. In his prime, we could be looking at a .280/.375/.480 with 30 HR. 

So while Seattle receives one of the few MLB ready sluggers that the minors have to offer, New York grabbed a proven young starter with a big arm. Gotta think that the return for the Yankees will help them more in the present, but this also clears up money for the Mariners when Felix's contract runs up. Not having to pay Pineda big arbitration numbers certainly leaves space to extend their ace within their budget. I think that New York "wins" this deal because it fills a present need with a player that should be there for the long haul. Why Seattle wanted to trade Pineda now is curious from a talent standpoint, but they do add to their lineup a player that should be able to anchor an offense. The fact that Montero likely doesn't have a position pushes this towards a "win" for New York. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Am I Missing Something: Riffing on the BCS title game

Following the game on TV and Twitter last night, I couldn't help but be confused about the general disappointment with the quality of play between LSU and Alabama. After being treated to plenty of offense-first BCS Bowl Games, there were many complaints about being bored by the elite defensive effort offered up by the title contenders. I want to examine a few season statistics before giving my reasons why I found the game to be exciting to watch, aside from the BCS Bowl setup or the fact that it was a rematch.

The Alabama offense was 69th in passing yardage, 16th in rushing, 20th in points for, and 1st in total defense. LSU was 106th in passing, 22nd in rushing, 17th in scoring, and 2nd in total defense. Throughout the season, the speed and talent on both teams' offenses were too much for smaller schools to handle. However, the real reason they were both title contenders is on the defensive side of the ball. Les Miles and Nick Saban are two of the best defensive minds in recent memory in the college ranks. Add that to their positions at highly regarded football programs and it is easy to understand why any elite defensive prospect would want to join their team.

So the question remains: Why is elite defensive football boring? This wasn't due to offensive ineptitude on either side. How can Jordan Jefferson make a pass in the pocket when the interior of his offensive line is being collapsed by some of the greatest sized and talented defensive linemen that college has to offer? The Alabama linebacking core both stuffed the run the entire game and provided stifling coverage over the middle to limit any gains on dump offs. It seemed that after every LSU back or receiver touched the ball over the middle, there were at least four guys surrounding him ready to wrap him up. Dre Kirkpatrick and the secondary were containing any screen or pass after minimal gains. Sure, Les Miles could have been more inventive in play-calling, but sometimes, a great defense can't be beaten.

On the other side, LSU's defense was generally exceptional throughout the game as well. However, there was an obvious mismatch in height on the outside, which McCarron exploited multiple times. Honey Badger was tight in coverage, but the over the shoulder passes to the outside are impossible to defend at his size. This was how Alabama marched down the field the majority of the game. Because of LSU's inability to stay on the field on offense, their defensive unit wore out much quicker than Alabama's.

The overlying point here is that the game we all watched (some of you begrudgingly) featured defense like we hadn't seen in any other Bowl game. This wasn't supposed to be a game full of slants-turned-touchdowns or missed assignments leading to a 63-56 final. This was a game that featured NFL caliber defenses against mismatched offenses. You know, the same story with any team that played either of those defenses during the year. Instead of complaining the entire night about the low score, it would have been pertinent to enjoy the rarity of such discipline at the collegiate scale. That either coach could take a group of extremely athletic young men and turn them into a impenetrable unit is something that should be celebrated. Not every game can be sexy, so we should enjoy the ones that are played right.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Time for a Playoff

Everybody loves March Madness. On the night of Selection Sunday, or the Monday after, every sports fan prints out their brackets and make their predictions for the next three weekends of excitement. Everybody knows exactly what is going to happen, or so they think. And for the next month the world revolves around college basketball and 65 team's quests to be the national champion.

The money raised by the NCAA from their Division 1 College Basketball Tournament is astounding. Over $500 million dollars is raised, and the NCAA uses the money to fund itself and many other tournaments, along with giving money from it to the conferences and the individual schools.
Now imagine another March Madness. One in say, mid-December to early January. Call it Holiday Madness. Another large amount of money in for the NCAA, another month of excitement and self-promotion for the NCAA. Another excuse for ESPN and other sports networks to turn a tournament into something bigger, a part of the national culture.

It's time for the BCS to go. Not go all the way away, but it is time for the Bowl Championship Series to become just that- a Series. Not a bunch of exhibitions at the end of the season, with one counting as the National Championship. It's not fair, it's not right, and it's not fun. It's time for a new system to be put in place that will stop the questions that the BCS always creates. The BCS committee is meeting Tuesday about possible changes to the system, but wide-ranging changes, such as a playoff with more than 4 teams, are considered unlikely.

I'm not just saying it's time for a change, I have a proposal as well. It will be a sixteen team playoff bracket. The winner of each conference gets an automatic bid. If it was this year, this would give automatic berths to 11 teams, starting next year it will be 10 teams (Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference are combining into one conference next season). Independents would be eligible for automatic bids to this tournament in the same way that Notre Dame would currently be eligible for a BCS berth now- at least 10 wins and a top 8 BCS ranking, or as an at-large bid. The remaining spots would go to the highest ranked teams according to the BCS rankings. Seeds would be given out by the BCS rankings (which would need to be expanded beyond 25 teams). Each team would play one game per weekend, starting two weeks from the conference championship games. Games would keep their Bowl names and sponsors, and there would be other bowl games on the side for non-playoff teams, and traditional New Year's Day Games will still be held.

Let's use what this year would look like for an example. This would be the first round of the bracket. (If a team was unranked in the BCS poll, I went to the USA Today Coaches Poll)

First Round
1 LSU (SEC Champions) vs. 16 Louisiana Tech (WAC Champions)
Armed Forces Bowl- Thursday December 15- 4:00

8 Kansas State (At-Large) vs. 9 Wisconsin (Big 10 Champions)
Chick-Fil-A Bowl- Thursday December 15- 8:30

5 Oregon (Pac 12 Champions) vs. 12 Southern Miss (C-USA Champs)
Sun Bowl- Friday December 16- 1:00

4 Stanford (At-Large) vs. 13 West Virginia (Big East Champions)
Alamo Bowl- Friday December 16- 4:15

3 Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champions) vs. 14 Northern Illinois (MAC Champions)
Champs Sports Bowl- Friday December 16- 8:30

6 Arkansas (At-Large) vs. 11 TCU (Mountain West Champions)
Pinstripe Bowl- Saturday December 17- 1:00

7 Boise State (At-Large) vs. 10 Clemson (ACC Champions)
Outback Bowl- Saturday December 17- 4:15

2 Alabama (At-Large) vs. 15 Arkansas State (Sun Belt Champions)
Capital One Bowl- Saturday December 17- 8:30

Second Round
1/16 vs. 8/9
Gator Bowl- Friday December 23- 4:15

5/12 vs. 4/13
Cotton Bowl- Friday December 23- 8:30

3/14 vs. 6/11
Orange Bowl- Saturday December 24- 4:15

7/10 vs. 2/15
Sugar Bowl- Saturday December 24- 8:30

Third Round
1/16/8/9 vs. 5/12/4/13
Rose Bowl- Monday January 2- 4:15

3/14/6/11 vs. 7/10/2/15
Fiesta Bowl- Monday January 2- 8:30

National Championship
Allstate BCS National Championship Game
Monday January 9- 8:30

This proposal isn't without it's flaws. There are teams that seem more worthy than some conference champions are left out (Michigan, Virginia Tech, South Carolina). However, there will be bubble teams in any system. Another problem would be deciding which bowl and time slots would get which matchups, however they could be a committee created which would decide this.

What do you guys think? Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or other problems or proposals in the comments section.

BCS Preview #4- BCS National Championship Game

Today we have the final of our five BCS Bowls of the season. All debates about whether this system is better or worse then a playoff aside, these figure to be some of the best games of the year. Today we have the BCS National Championship Game.


The rematch of the century is happening. After their epic defensive struggle on November 5th, the #1 LSU Tigers will face off again versus the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide. This game promises to be another defensive struggle. In their first meeting, the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 9-6 in overtime, in a game which saw Alabama kickers Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley combined to miss 4 out of 6 field goals.

Both teams feature strong running games, and capable passing games. Alabama has Heisman Trophy finalist Trent Richardson at running back. Richardson, a power back, ran for 1583 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. He is also the Crimson Tide's second leading receiver. Quarterback AJ McCarron has thrown for 2400 yards and 15 touchdowns as well this yard, mostly looking toward Richardson and leading receiver Marquis Maze, who had 56 receptions. For LSU, they have employ two quarterbacks and four running backs. At QB, seniors Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson lead the way. Lee is a pocket passer, and leads the team with 1306 yards and 14 touchdowns against only 3 touchdowns. Jefferson, a dual threat quarterback who was suspended for the first four games of the season due to a bar fight and subsequent arrest, has taken over as the starter since LSU played Alabama. He has thrown for 684 yards and 6 touchdowns versus only 1 interception, and rushed for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns as well. He is a very good option quarterback, which will add to LSU's offensive arsenal. Except to see both quarterbacks tonight. Their main target will be Rueben Randle, a Junior who leads all LSU receivers with 50 catches for 904 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Tigers also have four running backs who have over 300 yards this season. Sophomore Michael Ford leads the way with 755 yards and 7 touchdowns, followed by Sophomore Spencer Ware, who has 700 yards and 8 touchdowns. Sophomore Alfred Blue is next, with 539 yards and 7 touchdowns, fourth is Freshman Kenny Hillard, who has 320 yards and 8 touchdowns. Combined, they have run for 2314 yards and 30 touchdowns.

This game will be about the defense though. Alabama leads the nation in defensive yards allowed per game at 191.3. LSU is second at 252.1. LSU has a pair of All-American cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne and Heisman finalist Tyrann "The Honey Badger" Mathieu. Mathieu, a sophomore, had an amazing season, with 71 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Claiborne, not to be outdone, also had 6 interceptions. LSU also got great pressure on the quarterback, recording 37 sacks as a team. Alabama is led on defense by linebackers Courtney Upshaw, who had 8.5 sacks, and Dont'a Hightower, who led Alabama with 81 tackles. Both were All-Americans.

The defenses will decide this game. If one offense is able to break the other, then this game won't even be close. But with the way both defenses have played this season, this is unlikely. The team that makes the most big plays and wins the field position battle will win the game and the national championship tonight.

Prediction- LSU 17, Alabama 12