Alex Len will be hearing his name called by David Stern during Thursday’s NBA Draft, potentially as the No. 1 pick, but while the rest of the prospective lottery picks have been spending their spring working out for various NBA teams, Len has been laid up on crutches.
The 7-foot-1 Ukrainian had surgery back in May on his left ankle to fix a stress fracture, meaning that his preparation for the draft has involved quite a bit of rehab.
This kind of thing happens.
Basketball players get injured, and 7-foot-1 19 year olds are anything but immune. Just look at Nerlens Noel, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL, and Anthony Bennett, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury he suffered during the season.
The injury itself shouldn’t be a huge concern.
What could be a concern, however, is how this injury was handled by Maryland’s training staff. Let’s start with the beginning of Len’s appearance on Grantland’s Job Interview Series with Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose (video embedded at the bottom). At the :30 mark:
Bill Simmons: “Were you playing with it and it didn’t feel right, or you knew right away that something was wrong?”
Alex Len: “I played like half of the season on this.”
BS: “You were playing hurt?”
AL: “Yeah, but I didn’t know. I just found out after the season.”
The conversation continued at the 9:00 mark:
Simmons: “So, like the last month of the season you were playing hurt?”
BS: “And you knew it? Did you tell anybody?”
AL: “Yeah, I told my trainers, but we treated it like a regular, like, ankle sprain. We did a lot of treatment. Icing, stuff like that, steam. But we decided to do MRI after the season. After the season, we found out I had a problem in there.”
Jalen Rose: “Bill, when you’re in college they don’t want you to get [the MRI] during the season. It benefits them for you to finish the season.”
BS: “I don’t love that idea. The MRI should have happened before.”
Why didn’t the MRI happen during the year?
According to a Maryland spokesperson, Len underwent an x-ray in early March. It was looked at by team doctors and came back negative. The training staff began treatment on the injury — ice baths, stim, etc. — and Len was held out of practices, and it helped decrease his pain. Three days after the season ended, Len got an MRI and a second opinion, and that’s when the stress fracture was noticed.
Injuries are never an exact science. It’s quite possible that Len’s injury didn’t require surgery until a setback that happened after the season. And it’s important to remember that Len just turned 20 last week. He’s a competitor that wants to be out on the court; he may not have been completely honest with the training staff about how bad the injury was hurting him.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.