A case of seriousinjuryaphobia

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
10:43
AM ET
Matt McHale is the founder of the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog By The Horns. You can also follow him at Basketbawful. Follow him anywhere else and he'll file a restraining order.

All hail mighty Science! For it has brought us many delights and wonders, such as six-pack ab implants, computers made out of recycled cardboard and a Wearable Instrument Shirt that can transform an average air guitarist into an Air Guitar Hero.

However, Science does more than cater to our fanciful whims. It also identifies the things that scare us. And based on a quick Google search, pretty much everything scares us. Anthophobia is the fear of flowers. People with Consecotaleophobia are afraid of chopsticks. Those suffering from Lutraphobia are terrified of otters. Seriously.

Oddly enough, Science has failed to define a term for one of humankind's greatest and most paralyzing phobias: The fear that your favorite team's star player will suffer or may have already suffered a debilitating injury.

Well, if there was such a phobia, Celtics fans are feeling it right now. In fact, they've probably been feeling it all season.

It's no secret that the return to health (and subsequent rejuvenation) of Kevin Garnett has been the special ingredient in Boston's magic sauce this season. KG's Player Efficiency Rating is back up in the 20s, his rebounding percentages are the highest they've been since his Minnesota days, and his Defensive Rating of 92.8 leads the league (Dwight Howard is second at 93.1 and Joakim Noah is third at 96.8).

Then there's this little statistical factoid from ESPN Stats and Information: "Data from the Elias Sports Bureau shows that the Celtics typically outscore opponents by 14.9 points-per-48 minutes when Garnett has been on the floor this season, and outscored by 3.6 points when he has been out of the game. The difference (18.5 points-per-game better) ranks third among NBA players, trailing only Nowitzki and Steve Nash."

Long story short: Garnett is absolutely critical to the Celtics' ultimate success.

Of course, this has been the case ever since KG arrived in Boston, which is why Garnett's surgically repaired knee is a hot topic for Celtics fans everywhere. As much as they may have thrilled to some of the sweet alley-oop dunks he's thrown down this season, I'm betting thoughts like "OhmygodIhopehedoesn'tblowouthisknee!" have crossed a mind or two. Or thousands.

Then KG suffered a leg injury during an uncontested dunk. Limped down the court. Crumpled to the floor in pain. And suddenly that nameless dread had become reality.

Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog is keeping a stiff upper lip. Although it's worth noting that his post title of "Don't Panic!" contains the word "Yet" in parentheses.

Anyway, Clark writes:
It is easy (very easy) to draw a line of comparison from this injury to the ones that plagued Kevin Garnett the last couple of years. Seeing him crumple to the floor without any noticeable contact with anyone else is downright terrifying. And it doesn't hurt that the team has played poorly (with or without KG) since Christmas - continuing a dreary trend. So are there any reasons for optimism? Call me an eternal optimist or blind faith follower, but I think so.

First of all, not all injuries are created equal. The early word is that it is not the knee and not a fracture as we originally worried. It is a calf muscle injury, which still has to be taken seriously (and we await the results of the MRI) but hopefully, hopefully isn't as bad.

Secondly, perhaps we can take that same history that gives us the creeps and take heart from it as well. A couple of years back when we lost Garnett (even though we didn't know we had lost him for the year yet) the rest of the team stepped up and played very well down the stretch. Don't forget we were up 3 games to 2 on the Magic that year. In addition, the team essentially took last winter off before rallying together for a run to the finals.

If the Celtics can weather this latest storm maybe they can get some guys healthy again. Rondo is close, West could be next, and Perkins is itching to get back on the court - who knows, maybe Jermaine O'Neal will make an appearance too ...what's that you say, he's playing already? Missed that. Anyway, whenever Garnett comes back, he'll hopefully have enough support to ease back into the rotation (well, KG doesn't do anything half speed, but you know what I mean).

I have to give Jeff credit. He's somehow emitting rays of sunshine despite the fact that over half of his team's 12-man roster has been or is currently injured (Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal, Delonte West, Semih Erden and now Garnett). I'm sure it helps that the Celtics are 24-6.

But depending on KG's MRI results -- Doc Rivers says we'll know more later today -- seriousinjuryphobia may end up defining the rest of the Celtics' season.

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