Are the Knicks Trying to Kill Their Players?

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This man is not a medical professional.
This man is not a medical professional. Photo: AARON JOSEFCZYK/Corbis

When you walk into Madison Square Garden, you are greeted by a massive wall mural of the Knicks' three most marketable, three most expensive players: Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. The Knicks are paying them a combined $53,002,987, which is almost exactly two thirds of the entire payroll. And all three of them currently have knee injuries. That's not how this is supposed to work.

The Knicks lost 117–94 to the Denver Nuggets last night, but that was the least of the Knicks' concerns. Chandler hurt his knee in the first half and didn't return, and Carmelo, who missed a few games with knee issues and has looked off and gimpy since returning, flew back to New York after the game to have his knee drained. (It's as gross as it sounds.) As bad as Carmelo has played since rushing back, and as quickly as he zipped off to get that knee scoped, the question hangs there: Why was Carmelo playing in the first place if he wasn't ready? Carmelo admitted it was probably a mistake, saying after the game, "I was always concerned. I was just kind of being naïve ... just trying to psyche myself out and say 'I can do it, I can do it.'"

Part of that, one suspects, was because Carmelo wanted to play against Denver, his old team, in front of his old fans, but that's stupid. (And didn't matter anyway; the crowd booed Carmelo, but not with much gusto.) But, considering Tyson Chandler has already said that he'll be fine to play tonight despite his own knee injury and that he "doesn't want it examined," a logical person has to ask: Who in the world is in charge of determining if players are hurt over there? It's not Dr. Tyson Chandler, after all. In sports, athletes always want to play, even when their bodies aren't allowing them to. It is the job of doctors to tell them they can't, to know what is better for them than they do. This is why doctors exist.

Apparently the Knicks have switched this. If a player thinks he can play, he does. This is the sort of mind-set that ends up with your three most important players out with knee injuries. Our own Seth Rosenthal from Posting and Toasting went ranty about this late last night:

I respect the toughness and urge to fight through injury and I'll acknowledge again that I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes, but...what the fuck? Melo says he was being naive, but you know who isn't — or at least shouldn't be — naive? Doctors. The Knicks employ real doctors with medical degrees who, unless the chain of command is seriously gnarly here, have the power — the obligation! — to say "nuh-uh, guy. If you're scared of needles then you can nuzzle a teddy bear while we jam a crazy straw into your patella. This isn't an option."

Yeah, that's pretty much dead-on, particularly the image of Carmelo nuzzling a teddy bear. The Knicks are in the midst of a five-game West Coast swing that they're already 0-2 on, and they're in danger of going winless. And the thing about that is that it's fine! The Knicks are in terrific playoff position and need all these guys healthy for, you know, the actual playoffs. If the Knicks have to strap Carmelo and Chandler to gurnees and lock them in a closet to get them to rest, that is exactly what they should do. And more than anything: They need to deputize those doctors a little bit. The doctors are your friends, Carmelo. The doctors are only trying to help.