Love and Varejao Injuries
It was a dreadful week for injuries, with Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao standing out as the gloomiest stories. Love is out 8-10 weeks after re-fracturing the third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand, the same bones he broke this summer. Love has said that his bones had enough time to heal and weren't weakened, but he played with ongoing soreness and the coincidence seems too extreme for plausibility. I'm not sure if his doctors or the franchise should have been more cautious, perhaps forbidding him from returning prior to his original timetable (which he did, by a few weeks). It seems clear that Love was set on playing and was not pressured into a premature return, so I'll leave it at that.
Varejao's injury seems to only have been properly diagnosed late in his rehab. It was originally deemed a 'bruised knee' with a relatively short timetable for rehab, but continuous pain and a few MRIs later, he's out 6-8 weeks following surgery to repair a small 'split' in his quad muscle. The injury stemmed from AV's knee bruise, which itself seems to have been severe, and apparently it was small enough to have gone unnoticed in multiple tests. As recently as Friday, Jan. 4 the Cavaliers were dancing around reports which had surfaced a full week earlier in Brazil, suggesting Varejao had a torn muscle. "I know that he has had an MRI and it said that he has a muscle in there that is healing, but it hasn't fully healed and it's going to take time," Byron Scott said. "It's in a bad spot." It's anyone's guess how that prognosis led the Cavs to say that he could return on Wednesday, and as I re-read our blurbs at Rotoworld I'm forced to admit that we undersold the potential severity of the problem, swayed by a mirage return date. The Cavs may simply have been using a smokescreen until the diagnosis was confirmed, or maybe their desire to trade him led to some 'magical thinking' whereby he didn't need surgery...in any case, we know the outcome.
Most fantasy owners are probably forced to drop him, at least in daily leagues, since a return in late February/early March will come too late if you're not already playoff-bound. Taken together, the injuries of Love and Varejao exhibit some important (and nearly self-evident) things to remember. If one of the league's best shooters returns from hand surgery and is shooting well below 40 percent, while complaining of ongoing soreness...that's a red flag. If a guy is out 2-3 weeks and counting with a "minor knee bruise," that's a neon red flag, especially if mystery reports about torn muscles are surfacing.
I traded Tyreke Evans a few weeks ago because unnamed 'soreness' in his left knee had cost him around 15 games and he was seeking a second opinion. That seemed like a clear warning flag, and although he has since returned and reported 'no soreness' after his first game, I'm not at all upset that I unloaded him. I also traded Eric Gordon in two leagues this week, and I'm working to unload him in a third. With experience as our guide, the risk of injury is too great.
The Seattle Supersonics may have been resurrected this week after the Maloof brothers discussed selling the Kings to an investor group led by billionaire Chris Hansen, who already has a deal in place to build an arena in Seattle. Adrian Wojnarowski initially reported (on Wednesday) that the deal was “1st and goal at 1,” and Warriors writer Matt Steinmetz declared on Friday that it’s a “done deal.” However, George Maloof has since chimed in to say that no deal is imminent, and mayor Kevin Johnson and a billionaire investor are trying again to keep the team in Sacramento. Rotoworld’s own Aaron Bruski has been breaking this story since its inception, and he’s a must-follow on Twitter if you’re interested in the latest twists and turns.
My heart is overjoyed at the thought of the Sonics' return, but my mind is troubled by the circumstances. After watching Howard Schultz callously sell the Sonics to Oklahoma-based investor Clay Bennett, who ran to Oklahoma City after a transparently false "good-faith best effort" to secure their future in Washington, it's no fun to acquire a team under the same circumstances. It's a zero-sum game, wherein all of Seattle's gains are Sacramento's losses, and the fans there certainly don't deserve to have their cowbells silenced like this.
During their tenure as majority owners, the Maloof brothers have spent millions of dollars on the team while giving Sacramento moments of brilliant basketball. But the Bibby-Peja-Webber-Divac era was a long time ago. They've spent the past decade mismanaging the franchise (and their entire financial empire) while spurning the good-faith efforts of the city and their fan-base to keep the team in Sacramento. The coup de grace has been their blatant marketing of the team to out-of-market ownership groups. Virginia Beach? Really? The Maloof brothers (at least Joe and Gavin, I don't know enough about the rest) deserve all the scorn and opprobrium which is being heaped upon them. These are the guys who cameo in rap videos and boast of their high-rolling Vegas lifestyles (partly to burnish their playboy images for the sake of 'branding') only to plead poverty while asking taxpayers to foot the bill for a new sports arena. They wanted $1.2 billion from Sacramento taxpayers in 2006, and when that request was angrily rejected by voters they tried to re-locate to Anaheim, only to have the move halted by the NBA following a grassroots effort to keep the team in Sacto.
My joy at the Sonics' possible return is tempered for another reason -- I seriously dislike the Kings. Not because of their ownership, which would become a non-issue. (According to the Seattle Times, "[The Maloofs want] to maintain a say in how the team is run if they sell it to Chris Hansen, creating a possible snag in the sale negotiation ... The source said it goes 'beyond dollars and cents' and stressed how important being involved in the NBA has been to the family." Setting aside the absurdity of that request, subsequent reports suggest that a slight bump in the sale price has resolved the Maloof's lingering reservations. Still, there is no imminent sale.) I don't dislike the franchise or its fans, in the way that I blindly dislike the Lakers and always will regardless of who is wearing that loathsome gold uniform. I dislike the Kings' players, the coaches, and GM Geoff Petrie (though his departure this summer is all but assured).
My Sonics left Seattle in 2008 after Kevin Durant’s rookie season, with Russell Westbrook inbound and a pocketful of draft picks. They would be returning to Seattle with DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and a pocketful of cigarette butts. It’s all a moot point if the sale doesn’t go through, of course. Aaron Bruski appropriately suggested that the Maloofs are staging a bidding war, and that sounds about right. As things stand, the family is broke, beset by wrathful fans and baleful bureaucrats, and in dire need of some leverage.
My ideal scenario? David Stern holds a press conference in which he opens up a briefcase containing a single platinum coin valued at $435 million, reads an obscure NBA by-law in Latin, bangs a gavel, and thereby wrests control of the team away from the Maloofs. The team is then sold by the league to a beneficent group of Sacramento investors, and the final bill of sale includes a restraining order prohibiting the Maloofs from coming within 1/2 mile of an NBA arena. Stern then removes his suit jacket and tears open his dress shirt, revealing not a Superman logo, but a SuperSonics logo, before announcing that his final act as commissioner will be the placement of an expansion team in Seattle. Adam Silver enters, bowing, as Stern leaves to a rousing ovation.