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Monson: Those damn yanked-knees are killing the Jazz

First Published      Last Updated Apr 22 2017 06:51 pm

When Rudy Gobert fell to the court seconds into his first playoff game then started crawling up the floor when he couldn't stand on account of a damaged knee, the Staples Center crowd looked on in disbelief. Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey's reaction ran deeper.

"He was trying so hard to get up," Lindsey said. "It was emotional watching him try to get up."

Every other part of Gobert's mind and body were a full go, completely able, completely functional, so ready, so eager to play in the most important series of games of his life. And inside of two seconds, an athlete that had risen so rapidly to an All-NBA level this season couldn't rise to his feet.




Let's come right out and say it all plain here: The knee sucks.

No, no. It really does.

Don't know exactly who to complain to about it, but … the joint is straight substandard. It's flawed. It's ill-suited for modern sports. Not sure it ever even was suited for hunting and gathering. It neither can absorb the rather routine trauma put upon it nor complete the tasks asked of it in the steady drumbeat of high-level games, or even at the 40-and-over-rec-league level, at least not without getting sprained, strained, dinged, tweaked, bruised, hyperextended, dislocated, torn or blown.

It is one of the most susceptible joints, the most injured joints in the body, and when it is damaged, it whines like a twitch. It renders a sufferer useless, best case for a couple of weeks, worst case for a lifetime. If the ligaments in the joint are repairable but severely popped or bent, even with the most advanced surgical technologies and rehab methods, it can take a full year for recovery.

Just ask webmd.com: "Most people have had a minor knee problem at one time or another. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or injury. Knee problems and injuries most often occur during sports activities …"

Don't the Jazz know it.

The knee can block the ascension of a player, can compromise the purpose, plans and progress of an entire team.

Five Jazz players have been affected adversely by the joint's vulnerability and imperfection this season: Dante Exum, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and Gobert. All of those guys are still in the throes of dealing, to some degree, with a bad wheel.

With any good fortune, Exum is just about over the trauma that cost him all last season and required special attention through all of this year. Burks is out. Gobert is out. Favors and Hood are playing but continuing to deal with knee conditions that would not, will not heal, at least not until the season is over and they can rest long enough for the hurt to subside.

"I'm in pain," Hood said. "I try to do what I can to help it, to play with it. But it's painful."

Favors said he's good to go, but anyone who watches him play knows the lift and explosion that were once a regular part of his game at both ends of the floor are absent. Hood missed 23 games and was compromised in many others, including the ones he's playing in now. Favors missed 31.

Sadly enough, those two players are being counted on to raise their games, to carry a heavier load now that Gobert's knee is injured.

It's hard not to think about Gobert, and the influence he would have on this series as an absolute Jazz strength has become a weakness. The Clippers are like a prize fighter, firing off body shots at a well-conditioned opponent who is in the ring with broken ribs.

Nobody on the Jazz is making excuses. The players are just doing what they've done all season, straight in the face of adversity. They are playing on. Down 2-1 in the series, they've been in every one of them. Friday night's Game 3 loss was particularly difficult for them to handle. But it's admirable on the whole. Inspiring even. That's what makes their present circumstance all the more cruel. Gobert was the one guy who had been rock-steady and healthy all season. As many others were dropping out from injury, he was the constant, the pillar, advancing his game.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder just sighed when he was asked about that, then he set his jaw.

"We have to keep going, keep competing," he said. "I'm proud of this team's resilience."

Added Lindsey: "We have to overcome, not complain."

It's not their fault they are compromised.

It's the knee's. Those damn yanked-knees.

Lindsey said Gobert wants to play, but the Jazz are being cautious: "We have to do the right thing by him. He has to be right. … There's the possibility I may have to save him from himself."

Along with other maladies — from broken fingers to busted toes — the Jazz have had those knees torn, bruised, twisted, hyperextended, rested, rehabbed and recycled. And so they are not their normal selves.

Win or lose in this series, though, one thing they said they will not do is give up and fall to their knees. The knee may be flawed, it may be ill-suited, it may hurt, as joints go, it may suck. But the Jazz will stand on theirs, no thank you, come what may.

"Eventually, we'll put this to bed," Lindsey said, "and have great continuity."

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

 

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