Amar’e Stoudemire got his MRI back this week, and the diagnosis is a bulging disc in his back. This is a similar injury to the one that postponed Baron Davis‘s debut with the New York Knicks this season. While it’s not thought to be as severe as a herniation, a bulging disc is serious injury…..and it may even change Stoudemire’s game forever.
I know what you’re thinking…who’s this cat pretending to be a doctor? Well, I speak from experience. I’ve had a herniated disc in my back, more than once (though it was the same one each time). I can still play basketball, and play it at a pretty high level…but I can’t play as frequently as I want to or even as hard as I want to. As a young man you couldn’t stop me from driving to the basket…now my preferred shot is the jumper, even if contested.
Amar’e Stoudemire, while a professional athlete, will feel similar limitations when he returns from his injury. It’s not a conscious thing…it’s just the effects of the injury. His back has taken on a deformity due to years of twisting, turning, and bending. That pounding has left a permanent impact on his spine, to the point where the muscles could no longer keep the discs in place. STAT’s back has learned bad habits over the years and it’ll try and repeat them…call it muscle memory.
Going forward for Amar’e, I don’t expect to see the same high-flying dunks or aggressive rebounds on the court. Sure, you’ll see them once in a while but they won’t be the norm. I think the days of Amar’e Stoudemire the All-Star are long over (not that he was one this year). He’ll start to live outside with the jumper and, on defense, do a lot more reaching than position D. Can you blame him?
Many of you might be having visions of ex-Knick, Larry Johnson. The artist formerly known as Grandmama in Charlotte was transformed into ‘LJ’ in New York due to a bad back. He was a much more grounded player in N.Y., without the high-flying dunks that got him all his endorsements as a rookie. He was limited by a back injury much less sever than a disc issue. Nevertheless, Larry had a very successful career as a Knick. He had every post move imaginable as well as a solid defense on the block. He was as big a reason for that team’s success as Allan Houston or Latrell Sprewell were. For what he played through, he’s my favorite Knick of all-time.
Sadly though, I don’t think Amar’e has the kind of footwork to have an LJ-esque transformation. He came out of high school and learned to play the game off Steve Nash lobs in Phoenix. With diminished mobility and explosiveness I think we’re going to see Amar’e the role player from here on out…..turnaround fadeways and running floaters.
But as long as he’s playing, he’ll deserve a medal for his valor.
Just ask Larry Bird…when you got a bad back, getting out on the court is half the battle.