alex len

Why did Alex Len wait to get an MRI until after the season?

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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?”

Len: “Yeah.”

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.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.