The Pelicans ended this NBA season with the most players to miss games due to injury. On top of that, the Pelicans ended the season in the top 5 of the league in the quality of the players who missed games due to injury this season.
So who is to blame for the Pelicans injury woes? The Pelicans medical staff, front office, and players? Perhaps no one. Maybe it is all just bad voodoo or in a more sinister plot twist, the Illuminati?
The truth is, it is really hard to tell (yes, I'm not even ruling out the illuminati).
Here are some objective facts:
Quincy Pondexter hurt his knee sometime last season and continued to play the last two months of the Pelicans playoff run. Soon after the season ended, Quincy Pondexter had "arthroscopic knee surgery". This season, Quincy Pondexter was upgraded to questionable on some injury reports in the early part of January; however, he was later ruled out for the season. On January 20th, Quincy Pondexter underwent "season ending knee surgery" on his left knee.
Tyreke Evans also suffered a knee injury during the Pelicans playoff push, which he also continued to play through. After the season, Tyreke underwent "arthroscopic knee surgery" on his knee. He returned for training camp, where he then suffered a knee contusion. He sat out the first two months and came back in early December. Almost a month later, Tyreke started to miss the occasional game due to "tendonitis" in his knee. In early February, Tyreke was shut down for the season to have his third surgery in nine months. This surgery was presumably to relieve tendonitis on his knee.
Jrue Holiday had a compression fracture in his right knee, which was diagnosed sometime before he was ever a Pelican. In 2014-15 NBA season, Jrue Holiday missed a significant amount of time due to a recurrence of his compression fracture. He would return just in the nick of time to help the Pelicans make the playoffs. During the 2015-16 NBA season, Jrue Holiday would spend almost the entire season on a minutes restriction as a result. In late March, Jrue's season would end due to a orbital fracture
Anthony Davis suffered a partial tear in his left labrum in 2013, during his rookie season. He would go three years without fixing the issue. Davis would go on to miss several games the following two years due to the partial tear in his labrum. He has decided not to get his labrum fixed, which would require invasive surgery. Anthony Davis did have a regenerative procedure done on his knee in March to regrow cartilage.
Eric Gordon fractured his right ring finger on January 20th. Gordon returned on February 27th. On March 5th, Eric Gordon re-fractured that same finger.
Bryce Dejean-Jones suffered a "right wrist injury" on February 20th . BDJ would play two more games before being diagnosed with a "fractured right wrist."
Here is some opinion about those facts:
The one thing that scares me when you list out all of those injuries is that every single player listed played through some sort of injury. I'm not a doctor, but that doesn't stop me, or anyone for that matter, from recognizing patterns of bad behavior.
Any speculative person could deduce two reasons for this: One, the Pelicans medical staff, likely full of the best medical experts in New Orleans and across the country, aren't giving sound medical opinions. Two, the Pelicans as an entire organization are not taking what the Pelicans medical staff says with the necessary caution and respect it deserves.
You see, medical decisions are rarely just made based off the doctor's decision alone. For example, take Anthony Davis' recent injury situation: Top Pelicans brass, independent doctors, Anthony Davis, and Davis' own people met to discuss what the proper path for the young superstar would be going forward.
To those asking: A meeting took place with AD, his reps, #Pelicans mgmt/coaches and independent doctors. Consensus reached to end his season— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) March 21, 2016
Just using Occam's razor, it appears more likely that the Pelicans are not treating their medical issues with the necessary respect and authority it deserves. This assertion has been supported somewhat by the Pelican's own admissions. In a report done by ESPN's Justin Verrier, Quincy Pondexter, who missed the Pelicans entire season had this to say when asked if he played hurt to end the previous season:
"Yeah, who cares. I might've. I don't know. I don't know if I could have hurt it more or whatever happened. I wouldn't change that for the world. I sacrificed my body for the team, for this great organization and for myself because I love the game so much. I didn't really care about hurting myself even more. At the end of the day I would still have to have surgery, no matter what time it was. A little bit more wouldn't have hurt it."
In a subsequent podcast, Verrier would go on to report that the Pelicans were now taking a more "conservative" approach, which is good, if not a little late. One would have hoped that this franchise would have taken a more "conservative" approach after being top 5 in injuries just two seasons ago. But alas, here we are still.
The most concerning thing about this entire situation is the complete lack of culpability this organization has shown from the top down. When asked about all of the injuries this season, Alvin Gentry had this to say:
That quote is actually pretty funny, and possibly true if you ask a Voodoo doctor. It is also next level blame shifting. Pointing out that everything that has gone wrong this season is a result of "bad luck" or "voodoo magic", helps protect anyone from actually being blamed.
Success has many fathers, and failure is an orphan.
The solution to resolving the Pelicans injury woes is probably not hiring a Voodoo priest (I know I am going out on a limb there). By that same token, it is probably not necessary to fire the Pelicans medical staff. If the problem is with the attitude and culture surrounding the Pelicans team, I'm not sure what good firing the unappreciated medical staff is going to do.
Instead, imagine a world in which the team emboldened their medical staff with actual power. Teams have done this in the past. According the Amin Elhassan, the Phoenix Suns gave the power to their medical staff to actually fine players for not showing up for workouts and rehabilitation sessions. The 76er's also reportedly fined Joel Embiid for missing a rehab sessions this season.
Steve Kerr, the GM back when we have proof that that policy was still in practice, is now the coach of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors seem to be enjoying really good injury "luck". Gentry who came from the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns likely has some working knowledge about how this policy should be implemented.
At this point this organization has to stop blaming bad luck or saying they are cursed by some voodoo priest and look at how they can change. Doing the same thing year after year, as we can see with the recent trends in the Pelicans injuries, is likely to get the same result.
*** If you have an opinion about something I wrote, be sure to leave it in the comments below. For more brilliance you can follow me on twitter @jdbillio.