There may not be an NBA team in the league that is having as quiet a meltdown as that of the New Orleans Pelicans. Sure, the 27-47 team has been in the news lately for the complete meltdown due to injuries that have sidelined every recognizable face on the roster. There was also a "Woj-bomb" pointing to a recent blame game in between general manager Dell Demps and first-year head coach Alvin Gentry. However, what some people fail to realize is that the situation in the Big Easy may be worse than what we all see.
The latest injury circumstances surrounding 23-year old power forward Anthony Davis should be the tell-tale signs. Davis had surgery Thursday, March 31 on his left knee, and that’s just the newest injury. It was also revealed that Davis had been playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder for the past three seasons. I’m no expert, but shouldn’t that be alarming in the slightest bit to the staff, especially the medical staff?
Alas, some news outlets are beginning to question the medical staff/equipment because of Davis’ troubles. Former LSU center turned current radio personality T-Bob Hebert voiced his concerns over The Brow’s ongoing shoulder injury. “While I respect and understand Davis’ decision [to play through injury], sometimes it is the medical staff’s responsibility to protect a player from himself. The Pelicans training and medical staff already has a bad reputation and, whether it’s fair or not, this news just reinforces the perception of incompetence.”
Writers of The Bird Writes, SBNation's Pelicans blog, actually questioned the competence of the team’s medical staff in October — before all the latest drama of this season. Joseph Billiot answered the 1-10 scale question with, “10, It's time for a second opinion. It feels like a lot of the Pelicans players and staff don't respect the medical staff enough to even listen to them anymore.” Oleh Kosel also wrote “re-injuries scream inadequate rehabilitation, lack of prevention or other faulty procedures might exist. (Evan's knee, Anthony Davis' shoulder, and Holiday's tibia are just too much coincidence.)"
I just don’t understand how no one saw it sooner. One has to go back further than Davis’ years with the team to witness injury-prone players. David West and his knee, Trevor Ariza and his ankle, Tyson Chandler and his ankle and toe, swapping Chandler for Emeka Okafor and his everything (including knee and toe). Even Chris Paul had knee surgery while in a Hornets uniform.
To add insult to, well, injury, with just nine games remaining in the 2015-’16 season, the Pelicans lost two more players for the rest of the season. Alonzo Gee was diagnosed with a complete tear in his right quad after the team’s Monday night victory against the Knicks at home. In the same game, Jrue Holiday sustained an eye fracture amidst an impressive 22-point performance. Aptly so, it was his first game back after missing two games with a toe injury.
Speaking of toe injuries, many are questioning how Davis even passed his physicals to play all these seasons with a bum shoulder. Remember Chandler? In 2009, a trade involving Chandler to the OKC Thunder was rescinded, not a la David Stern “basketball reasons,” but because he failed his physical with the Thunder. The team doctor, Dr. Carlan Yates — the person who performed surgery on Chandler in 2007 to correct his turf toe — said that there was too great a risk of re-injury. Chandler — who was shocked, said he felt no pain in the toe at the time. The games he missed that season were unrelated to the toe.
I said all that to say, it is very well possible that a nagging Davis injury “slipped by” team doctors the way it did with Chandler, which finally got flagged by an outside doctor. Eventually, one has to wonder what is really going on in Nola for these injuries — and serious ones at that — to continue to be the theme song for the team. I once got told by someone on the team going through his own injury concerns that he did not trust the team doctors and that the team’s facilities weren’t up to par with others in the league. He added that this was the reason most guys choose to rehab in another city while coming back from injury instead of doing so in New Orleans.
Granted, this was prior to the use of the $16 million training facilities built for the Pelicans right next to the Saints practice facility. It was boasted that the new facility would have state-of-the-art equipment and floors strategically built for comfort for the players’ legs. Alas, here we are. Back at it again with the multiple season-ending injuries. What he said about not trusting the doctors was a big red flag for me. I doubt much has changed.
To add to Davis, Holiday, and Gee, the Pelicans also lost Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Quincy Pondexter for the season, and that’s not counting the rest of what’s left of the roster who missed significant time due to injury as well, such as Kendrick Perkins.
The Pelicans made a big move in hiring Gentry, albeit this wasn’t the best season premiere. Yet even Gentry, who has 27 years of NBA coaching under his belt, sounds blown away at the “bad luck” of his current team. After losing Holiday and Gee, he joked that the team might need to find a voodoo doctor to help fight away injuries.
Davis should be the absolute center of this team from here on out. Tracy McGrady, who knows a thing or two about knee and shoulder injuries, said that Davis not playing at least 70 games in a season in his NBA career so far is “alarming," and it is. At least Dwyane Wade won a championship before he had knee and shoulder surgery four years into his career. This current season is Davis’ fourth and he’s only seen one winning season. That’s a problem. Of course that means bringing in the correct championship pieces to help Davis, but if he’s not healthy, there is no championship. If rings are not enough motivation, the Pelicans have 145 million reasons to do everything they can to keep this man healthy.
i write about sports and stuff. Sports radio co-host. Work in pro sports. My opinions are not an endorsement of my employer. Don't fine Marshawn Lynch.