Pekovic Out for 7-10 Days with Bursitis

Steve McPherson —  January 28, 2014 — 5 Comments

Nikola-Pekovic-doesnt-have-crawling-down-just-yet-but-hell-get-there.-Jordan-Johnson-NBAE-Getty-Images

As you may have heard, an MRI on Nikola Pekovic’s right ankle revealed bursitis, which will sideline him for at least 7-10 days. In case you’re curious, bursitis is swelling in the bursa (fluid-filled sac), in this case the bursa in Pek’s ankle that helps ease friction and rubbing between things like bones and tendons. WebMD says overuse can increase the risk of bursitis, and that includes high-risk activities like gardening, carpentry and — presumably — jumping and banging into 250 to 300 lb men on a semi-nightly basis.

This is, of course, real unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected. Although Pek had played in all 44 games so far this season, a look at his past seasons make it reasonable to assume he’s going to miss at least 5-10 games a season just because he’s a giant human being. It’s worth noting that as a person’s height increases, the strain on the legs increases geometrically, not arithmetically, meaning that anyone approaching 7’0” as Pek does — and especially at nearly 285 lbs — is exerting tremendous strain just by walking around, much less playing basketball.

There are other silver linings to this cloud as well. The Wolves are riding a wave of positive momentum after going 3-1 on their most recent roadtrip. They’re still only right at .500, but there have been encouraging signs on the court, including at long last some deodorant wins. (Blowouts are anti-perspirant wins: no sweat. Ugly close wins are deodorant wins: you’re going to sweat, but you’re not going to stink.)

There’s also the possibility that a little adversity on the way through an upswing can have a galvanizing effect, especially on the guys like Ronny Turiaf (who barely needs galvanizing, of course) and Gorgui Dieng who are going to have to step up in Pek’s absence. A little over a week ago, when the Wolves faced the Jazz at home, Adelman related a great story about his days playing with ex-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan in Chicago.

“I still remember the 6th game of the playoff series against Detroit where he broke his foot in the 1st quarter and played the whole game,” Adelman said. “Just kept getting shot up. He knew he wasn’t going to play the 7th game; they said you can’t hurt it anymore, but he played that whole 6th game. We won that 7th game for one reason: when he came up the old Chicago stadium on crutches, the place just went nuts and our whole team just went up another level and we ended up winning that 7th game. I really believe it was all because of reaction to him coming up the stairs.”

Nothing so dramatic is going to happen with this injury (hopefully), but we saw at the start of last season how a Wolves team that was missing both Rubio and Love to start the year rallied and played surprisingly well for a while until they just couldn’t sustain it. In a lot of ways, I think that divide is what separates foundational starters from the bench: the starters have to be there for every game, but in short bursts, the bench guys need to hold it together and exceed their own expectations of themselves. And they can often do that for these short bursts while a starter is injured. But as we saw last season, eventually it starts breaking down. Guys play more minutes than they’re accustomed to, have to adopt roles they’re not entirely comfortable with.

Gregg Popovich more or less forces this on his bench throughout the season in these short bursts where he rests his starters, and the result for the Spurs is that when they get into the playoffs — even with a shorter rotation — the bench is ready when they’re called on.

If the Wolves can maintain the momentum they’ve built up on the road recently through Pek’s injury, it could end up being a net positive for the team: a chance for the bench to solidify itself and a chance for Pekovic to get some rest and come back strong.

Steve McPherson

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5 responses to Pekovic Out for 7-10 Days with Bursitis

  1. Assuming this is not too serious it could be a blessing in disguise for the Wolves as you say, taking a few games off midseason is good for big men, and I feel like Adelman was riding Pek a little too hard to try to win games (averaging 35.4 mpg in losses, that’s a lot for a 290-pound true center). Hopefully this will cause Adelman to get a little more creative with rotations/matchups and find some meaningful PT for Dieng over the next 6-8 games. On the other hand they have 9 games before the All-Star break against NO, Memphis, Atlanta, LAL, OKC, NO, Portland, Houston and Denver . . . if Pek is out all those games the only gimme in there is LAL. You assume at least a split against NO and they probably can beat Denver at home but they could conceivably lose all the other games without Pek. That puts them at 25-28 going into the All-Star Break and the game that follows is against Indiana . . . if making the playoffs this year is the number one priority (which frankly I am not convinced that it is), this is a tough stretch to go without Pek.

  2. Not sure what you meant by “the strain increases geometrically, not linearly”, but for the geekier in the audience, here is an article (written by myself) looking at the math of how the frequency of stress-related injury increases with height: http://gravityandlevity.wordpress.com/2009/05/12/yao-ming-and-the-froghopper/

    Short version: the force experienced by bones and joints increases as the cube of a person’s height, whereas the ability of the body to withstand force (which is determined by the cross-sectional area of those bones and joints) only increases as the square. Being tall is tough.

  3. Finance observer January 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Brian: I think when Steve is talking about strain increasing geometrically, he means it similarly to your article. The geometric vs. linear effect is like compound vs. simple interest: the interest in the current year is calculated using both the original amount and the interest accumulated from previous years, just like the strain per additional inch of height compounds on top of what strain was already there. I believe your article describes the idea exponentially, but someone can definitely correct me if I’m wrong.

  4. Steve McPherson January 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Brian: Thanks! This is exactly the thing I was looking for and couldn’t find while I was writing this. Not sure if I read your post or someone else’s, but that’s what I was trying to say in my imprecise way. I guess what I meant was geometrically vs. arithmetically, although based on what you’re saying, I think it’s a level above that in terms of cubed vs. squared. Basically, I was just trying to emphasize that the increase in stress as height increases goes up in an increasingly sttep curve, not a 45º angle.

  5. I blame the Star and Strib for this. Had they not published the article of how Pek was avoiding injury with his new workout regime none of this would have happened.

    kidding aside, I do hope that Dieng is able to step up and produce. So far he has only been getting in at garbage time and with the rest of the end of the bench so not a real way to showcase his skills as that group never seems to play as a unit.

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