Musing Aloud About the Elton Brand Injury

What's the deal?  Is this injury 4 months or season-ending?

There have been various reports describing a ruptured Achilles tendon as 'typically season ending.'  The report from ESPN.com news services goes even further:  

Achilles tendon injuries typically sideline NBA players for at least a year, which would theoretically threaten Brand's availability for all of the 2007-08 season.

I'm not a doctor, but as far as I can tell, saying that it's typical to be sidelined 'at least a year' is simply wrong.  My guess is that the misconception stems from the fact that most players are lost for the season after such an injury.  BUT, most injuries occur during the NBA season, which lasts less than 6 months (not counting the playoffs).  So probably 90% of the time, a ruptured Achilles does indeed end a player's season, even if they're only sidelined 4 months.  As I mentioned Friday, Voshon Lenard went down during the first game three seasons ago and returned in the penultimate game.  He was out basically the entire season, but not a year.  

No one's going to come out and say what the recovery period is without also giving a lot of disclaimers.  But the recovery is shorter with surgery, and six months is almost always listed as a non-agressive target.  eMedicineHealth.com has a more optimistic possibility for ClipsNation:

Return to running or athletics is traditionally about 4-6 months. With motivation and rigorous physical therapy, elite athletes may return to athletics as early as 3 months after injury.

Obviously, Elton's injury occurred in early August, not during the season.  We still have almost 3 months before the first game.  It would be almost unheard of for him to miss the entire season.  We know he's going to work hard to get back out there.  I would not be shocked to see him play in December.

I saw somewhere that Elton Brand might have played his last game as a Clipper.  What's up with that?

Ramona Shelburne from the Long Beach Telegram did indeed raise the specter of EB having played his last game in red, white and blue.  She basically extrapolated a couple of things - the misnomer that this injury would end his season, and the fact that he can opt out of the final year of his contract next summer.  But as I pointed out above, in all likelihood EB will play this season.  If however he were to miss the entire season, that would pretty much guarantee that he would not opt out of his max contract.  When was the last time someone decided to test free agency early, coming off a season-ending injury?  It makes no sense.  I mean, I don't expect EB to opt out regardless, but only an idiot would opt out after missing 9 months with a '4-6 month' injury.  What GM is going to step up to that?

For his part, Elgin Baylor simply refused to comment on the contractual questions.  

I don't want to get into any contract stuff right now.  All we're thinking about right now is Elton and making sure he's OK.

We'll see EB play for the Clippers again.  That is, unless he gets traded.

So what about that?  Should the Clippers be starting over completely, and trade EB?

In a word, no.  In three words, no, no, no.  I can give you more no's if you like.  

The injury to Brand (along with the injury to Shaun Livingston and other factors such as Cassell's age) makes the 07-08 season essentially a lost cause.  But, surprisingly perhaps, the roster that Baylor and MDsr put together, the team we all were so excited about in 2006, is almost as valid today as it was then.  Almost.  Think back to the Iverson trade talks:  Kaman, Brand and Livingston were the untouchables - these are the three guys the Clippers are building around - you may not agree with it, but that was the plan.  The bad news is, all three of them have suffered major setbacks since the 2006 playoffs - Kaman had his poorest season as a pro, while the other two have of course sustained major injuries.  But why would you start over now, when at any rate they each have deflated trade values for these same reasons?  You take your lumps in 07-08 (and you also take the high draft choice that comes with it), you cross your fingers, and you see what happens in 08-09.  It may be a long shot, but if all three of your 'untouchables' bounce back, you've still got the core of the team that you thought had a chance to contend in 2006, and Elton Brand is still only 30 in 2008.  Besides, who are you going to start over with who is better than Elton Brand?  By PER and various other statistical measures, he's one of the best values in the NBA at the maximum.

What are the Clippers' chances now in 07-08?

Here's an interesting tidbit:  the Clippers were 0-2 without Brand last season, including one of the worst losses of the season, the dismal defeat against the Hawks in Staples Center.  But, the team was 3-0 without Brand the prior season, winning by double-digits at home against Orlando and Seattle, and then beating Dallas in a meaningless game the last day of the season.  I'm not suggesting that they are going to be OK without EB, but it is an interesting microcosm of the last two seasons:  in 06-07 the Clippers played well enough to win even without their best player, but in 07-08 it simply wasn't the case.  

Elton Brand is Mr. Everything for the Clippers:  he's their leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading shot blocker, and best low post defender.  He's not only the starting power forward, but also the backup center.  Kaman is obviously the key to the team being able to play it's 'normal' game.  If he plays like the top five center he's being paid to be, the team remains legitimately dangerous.  An inside-out offense, with Kaman working the low block, and kicking to shooters (with the addition of Thornton, the team could actually put several decent shooters on the floor at one time) could be effective.  But in order for it to work, Kaman will have to make a high percentage and make good decisions and passes from the post: not exactly his forte.

If Kaman is unable to provide a consistent low post threat, the team will be hard-pressed to score.  Offensively challenged already, losing your leading scorer is not the way you want to start the season.  Corey Maggette will get lots of touches and will get to the line, but unless Thornton surprises us, there's no one else on the team who can get their own shot.  

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