The Utah Jazz (1-0) won the battle last night by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers (0-1), 97-95, in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs. But the war has been made that much more uncertain because of the loss of Rudy Gobert. The star center has been the one constant for the Jazz this season. There have been 23 starting line-ups this season, and he was in 22 of them. And while Quin Snyder had to worry about who was healthy enough to play at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, Rudy stepped up to the plate and played in 81 of 82 games.
And in the first play after winning the tip over National TV commercial pitch-man DeAndre Jordan, he was injured and had to leave the game. The Utah Jazz released a statement today.
The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who left tonight’s win at the LA Clippers at the 11:43 mark of the first quarter and did not return:
Gobert was initially examined at STAPLES Center by the Utah Jazz medical staff and underwent X-rays on his left knee, the results of which were negative. He was then transported off-site for further magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing, which revealed no ligament damage. He has been diagnosed with a left knee hyperextension and bone contusion. He will continue to be reevaluated and further updates will be provided when appropriate.
For me, one of the most reliable sources of news comes from Yahoo! Sports / The Verticals Adrian Wojnarowski and his padawan Shams Charania. Shams had the scoop here and posted this BEFORE the Jazz had their release, forcing their hand. (As always, the Jazz PR are very reticent to reveal anything behind their curtain.)
Utah center Rudy Gobert has been diagnosed with a hyperextension and bone bruise in his left knee but has no structural damage, league sources told The Vertical.
Gobert, 24, underwent an MRI late Saturday night and the injury casts doubt on his availability for the series, league sources said.
Gobert suffered the injury just 13 seconds into the Jazz’s 97-95 Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Utah won on a game-winner by Joe Johnson and with an impactful performance from Derrick Favors (15 points, six rebounds) in place of Gobert.
Gobert, a leading candidate for NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a cornerstone for the Jazz, averaged 14 points, 12.8 rebounds and a league-leading 2.6 blocks in 81 regular-season games.
Other people were on the case, as well. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon communicated with Rudy directly:
Rudy Gobert hopes he will be able to return during the Jazz's series against the Clippers. "Trying to get better... https://t.co/VkkqYLrF1g— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 16, 2017
Rudy Gobert hopes he will be able to return during the Jazz's series against the Clippers. "Trying to get better every day," he said via text message. Gobert suffered a hyperextension and bone bruise to his left knee on the opening possession of Utah's Game 1 win.
And The Score added some more, a bit from head coach Quin Snyder:
Coach Quin Snyder wasn't nailing down any return dates, noting to reporters that it's "literally wide open," when asked on Sunday, though a Saturday night MRI revealed no ligament damage to Gobert's left knee.
That’s not where the story ends, though. Not at all. Conjecture is high in this case. We’re getting some people saying that this appears to be a) not horrible, but b) more akin to what happened to Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. Nance got injured in December and was out “indefinitely” with a bone bruise (which is what a contusion is, as we all know by now) that kept him out of a lot of games.
From one of my favorite gambling sites (and no, I don’t gamble, but their network of spies and insiders have a lot of information that goes outside of NBA PR filters):
- Tue, Dec 20, 2016 08:43:00 PM - Larry Nance needed help to get back to the locker room on Tuesday vs. the Hornets after appearing to tweak his left knee. He was battling Cody Zeller for a loose ball and grabbed at his left knee in pain in what could be a non-contact injury. Nance couldn't put any weight on his left leg as his teammates helped him to the locker room. Stay tuned for an update, but Julius Randle will have to log heavy minutes if Nance misses time.
- Tue, Dec 20, 2016 08:55:00 PM - Larry Nance has been diagnosed with a "left knee injury" and will not return to Tuesday's game vs. the Hornets. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game just a few minutes after he went to the locker room and he's expected to get X-Rays. It looked like a non-contact injury and Nance couldn't put any weight on his left leg as his teammates helped him back to the locker room, so this doesn't sound good. The Lakers will provide an update after the game. There are no speculative fantasy pickups here, as we'll likely just see a lot more Julius Randle if Nance misses time.
- Tue, Dec 20, 2016 09:04:00 PM - X-rays taken on Larry Nance's left knee came back negative. While this is good news, Nance isn't in the clear yet and will have an MRI in Miami on Wednesday morning. We aren't expected to get another update until Wednesday afternoon, but right now we don't know much about the severity of his left knee injury. There are no speculative pickups if Nance is forced to miss time.
The rest of his time-line follows as being ruled out of the Lakers very next game almost 24 hours before that game. Being diagnosed with a bone bruise the next day, but with no structural damage - which is where we are in the Rudy time-line.
A few days later he was given a time-line of missing four weeks. Nine days after the injury he was doing some weight-bearing work on the treadmill. A week later he was progressing at the proper rate, and expected to return on time in another two weeks. A week later he was playing 1 on 1 in practice. Another week later he was doing “almost everything” in practice. Nance Jr. was at full speed in practice shortly after that but not yet cleared to play in games. He played his first game from the injury on January 22nd, where he came off the bench to run for 10 minutes in a 122-73 blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
So it was 32 days from the first day after being injured to seeing the NBA court again. Not including the Hornets game where he got injured, Lakers fans saw Nance Jr. miss the next 16 games. Utah does not have 32 days between now (first day after being injured) to Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers. But if we are going to say that the Jazz take this to a Game 7 then that means that game is played on April 30th. That’s still only 15 days from D-day, though. So if Rudy is AS HURT as Larry was, then he’s only going to be half recovered (in terms of time, healing isn’t on the same normal 1:1 curve) by the time Game 7 comes around.
This means that even if the Jazz take it to the Max, that Rudy - if as injured as Larry was - isn’t going to be there.
The first assumption there is if the Jazz take it to the Max. The second is, obviously, if Rudy is as hurt as Larry is. The third, unstated one, is that if the two players have the same healing ability.
We know that Rudy is motivated to play and help his team win. It’s the NBA Playoffs. And he busted his butt all season long to get the team here. He wants to play. Heck, he was TRYING to play after getting hurt, crawling back on defense when he couldn’t even stand. But motivation isn’t the same thing as a clean bill of health.
Option A: Rudy isn’t as hurt as Larry was
This means that he’s not going to need 32 days to recover. This could mean 5 days. This could mean 30, but not 32, days. We don’t know. We can hope, though.
Option B: Rudy is hurt MORE than Larry was
If we look at this in terms of binary probabilities then it’s possible that Rudy is hurt more if it’s also possible that he’s hurt less than Larry was. In this case we suppose that it would take even MORE time for him to be back on his feet and at full strength.
Option C: Rudy plays hurt
Gobert is old school, but we all remember what happened to Mehmet Okur who shortened his career by playing hurt. I don’t want to do this to a 24 year old.
There are other options, but this is a sports blog. I want to keep this simple for me and for you. We’re hearing that Rudy Gobert is walking around, trying to stay in good spirits in their team hotel room. He hasn’t flown back to Utah. He’s still in LA. The conjecture here is about his health, and it’s speculation from non-professionals. I can’t write about that. But it gives me hope that Rudy is not as hurt as Larry was. We do not have any, on the record, statement about that though.
What would I do, if I was the Jazz?
I wouldn’t play him at all during this playoff run. He has nothing to prove. And this team has nothing to prove either. They are playing with the house’s money right now. They won a game in the NBA Playoffs, which is more than the team did in 2012 when the head coach decided to start Josh Howard.
It’s more important to have Rudy Gobert 100% healthy than to risk it just to make the second round. Also, it gives the Jazz more crunch time minutes to help evaluate Derrick Favors (who missed so much of this season), Jeff Withey (unrestricted Free Agent), Boris Diaw (non-guaranteed / partially-guaranteed final year of his contract), and others.
Some feel that Favors is going to be traded this off-season. I think he has the talent and heart to be useful for this team. He showed it last night. He showed a lot of people who forgot what he can do. I’m all for seeing more of it.
I’m not for having Gobert come back in some Willis Reed way for a 1st round series, let alone the NBA Finals that Reed came back for. (By the was, Reed scored just one basket in that game.)
I love Rudy. I love Rudy healthy more than my own desire to see the Jazz eliminate the Clippers. Until we learn more this is my official statement. If we learn more, and it’s more good news, then we have to re-evaluate the situation.
After all, if he’s REALLY healthy and good to go for Game 3 or 4 (April 21st or 23) then I’m not going to be mad. I just don’t really trust the Jazz medical staff though. But that’s just me.