Despite the apparent severity of his shoulder injury, the Knicks have not said whether Carmelo Anthony has undergone an MRI.
Heading into Friday's must-win game in Toronto against the Raptors, things are as bleak as can be for the Knicks.
Beyond the fact that the team is on the brink of playoff elimination, Carmelo Anthony is still hampered by the injured shooting shoulder that he has variously described as a "dead arm" and a "deep bruise."
If it seems like Anthony doesn't actually know what's wrong with his shoulder, well, the Knicks might not know, either. First, the organization called Anthony's injury a "strained right shoulder," and said X-ray results had come back negative. But the Knicks, who have been off since Sunday's loss in Miami, still haven't given Anthony a more-detailed MRI exam, which could highlight any ligament or tissue damage.
The decision to bypass the MRI has left fans to wonder why the Knicks seem content with knowing less, rather than more, about the health of their best player.
It's clear that Anthony hasn't been himself since suffering the injury. He has shot just 3-of-15 when left wide-open in the Knicks' past two games (both losses), with his outside jumpers getting an average of 14.3 feet of arc, a half foot less than in his first 73 games of the year, according to SportVU player-tracking technology. Those numbers back Anthony's rationale for not attempting a single fourth-quarter shot in Miami: He couldn't generate the power.
One can hardly blame coach Mike Woodson, who is fighting to hold onto his job, for using an injured Anthony the same way he would a healthy Anthony. But it is surprising how little Woodson knows about the player he's putting on the court.
"Only Melo knows the severity of his pain," said Woodson. "If he tells me he's hurt, and that he can't play, it's my job to sit him. But I don't know that he would ever tell me that."
Understanding the depth of Anthony's shoulder injury is vital for both sides. The Knicks have to decide how much the 29-year-old forward, who will be a free agent after the season, is worth on the market. Similarly, Anthony should be concerned about whether he could do any further damage to his shooting shoulder before going into free agency.
(He partially tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder at the end of last season, an injury the Knicks either didn't initially use an MRI test for, or didn't announce at the time.)
So why did Anthony bypass the MRI for this latest injury? A team's medical officials usually decide which tests a player will or won't undergo, so there is a chance that the Knicks' staff, which wasn't made available to comment for this article, simply decided against examining Anthony's shoulder more closely.
Anthony has a history of reluctance when it comes to medical procedures and exams that might highlight a need for surgery. Last season, when it was clear he needed to have fluid in his sore left knee drained, he played through the discomfort at first and acknowledged his fear of needles. "I'd rather get the natural treatment and see if the fluid can drain out by itself," he said at the time. He also chose to let his left shoulder heal on its own rather than undergoing a procedure to fix it.
There's also the possibility that Anthony did in fact undergo an MRI exam, but team officials, invoking the HIPAA privacy law, are shielding results from the media. It wouldn't be the first time: When Anthony had knee and elbow surgeries in 2011, the Knicks never announced them. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert also had knee procedures in 2013 that the Knicks never announced, presumably for the same reason.
After suffering a knee injury in Denver last March, center Tyson Chandler suggested that MRIs weren't necessary for veteran players who could gauge the seriousness of their injuries. "I know my body," he said.
But what about rookies? Last week in Utah, for example, rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr. hurt his left ankle so badly that he was initially taken out of the X-ray room in a wheelchair. Hardaway couldn't put any weight on the ankle, and said he had "never had an injury like that," but again, the team never performed an MRI on his ankle. (Hardaway did not miss any time with the injury, though, prompting Woodson to say he was "surprised," given how badly Hardaway appeared to be hurt.)
Everything in Anthony's multimillion-dollar shooting shoulder may be fine in a few weeks with some rest and recovery. But with Anthony shooting terribly as the team fades from contention, and with a franchise-altering free-agent decision a few weeks away, there is no reason why the Knicks shouldn't be investigating the depth of the problem.