Preseason Watch #1

In my last entry, I ranted & raved about unimportance of the NBA preseason. With the blog story of the week ill fit for a basketball blog (Jon Stewart Rips Crossfire a New One) I’m forced to eat my words and discuss the NBA preseason. I touched on a few things in preseason that would interest me, and I’ll try to discuss each of them before the season starts.

Today’s topic: Allan Houston’s health. So far Allan Houston has not appeared in the three Knick preseason games. At the time of this writing, it’s been 209 days since Houston last played in an NBA game, and 498 days since his surgery. Put in that light, it’s hard to be an optimist on H20’s outlook for this season. So I decided to do as much research on his condition as a small time blogger can without a team of doctors or private investigators. My main source of information? The internet, which includes hosts of newspaper and medical articles.

On June 10th 2003, Allan Houston had “microfracture” surgery on his right knee. According to the AP Press:

“Dr. Norman Scott, the team physician, said the operation was to remove loose cartilage and stimulate growth.”

Microfracture surgery is done for those who have worn down their cartilage, causing the bones to directly rub against each other. This causes the joint to swell, become stiff, and cause pain, which is also known as arthritis. Since cartilage doesn’t grow back naturally, this surgery drills holes into the bone to stimulate a scar tissue growth that eventually acts like cartilage, reducing the friction between the bones.

Houston doesn’t have to look far to find someone who has gone through this procedure. Current teammate Penny Hardaway had the same surgery in May of 2000. Penny played in 80 games in 2001, the most since 1995. He missed 24 games the year after, and only 6 last season. Hardaway had numerous health problems prior to this surgery (he missed 118 games from 96-98), so that he recovered so well is promising. Other NBA players that had microfracture surgery were Kidd, Webber, Najera, Kittles, and Mashburn. Kittles’ story is another that would give Knick fans hope. The former-Net had surgery and missed the entire 2000 season. The year after he played in all 82 games, and has missed only 17 games in the 3 years since. On the other hand, not all the surgeries have been as promising. Eduardo Najera has missed 58 games over the last two seasons. Mashburn will miss the 2004-05 season, and may have to retire. Kidd and Webber have had it recently, so it’s too early to tell what kind of recovery they’ll have.

Athletes in other sports that have come back successfully from microfracture surgery are Bruce Smith, Rod Woodson, and Scott Hamilton. Some on the unsuccessful column are Eric Swann, Terrell Davis, and Andre Wadsworth. The one commonality among those that have responded negatively to the treatment is having multiple injuries and surgeries. Eric Swann had 7 different operations on his knees, and Terrell Davis had surgery twice in 6 months on the same knee.

Even with all this information what can we say about Houston’s chances for this year? Some of the players I’ve mentioned have come back from their injuries, others haven’t. Unfortunately, I don’t have the research to give an accurate prediction. It does seem that the players who haven’t healed properly had compounded or more severe ailments to begin with. Additionally, I don’t know how severe Houston’s injury was prior to the operation. Two different studies say the recovery rate is 75%, but these are for the general population. I’d imagine athletes exhibit more stress on their joints than the average person.

The Knicks and Houston are tight lipped on his progress, staying vague about his return date. It could be that they just don’t know when Allan’s knee will heal. It could be that the news is too bad to reveal to the public. The only thing I can say is this: I’d have a more positive outlook on the season if Houston appears on the court healthy during the preseason.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

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