WHEN your team's elevated first-round pick continues to suffer back pain four months after it supposedly first surfaced, with no relief in sight, all concerned parties might be preparing to panic right about now . . . if they didn't know better.
Unlike creative writers (apparently Mike D'Antoni, too) who claim sources led them to believe Danilo Gallinari may need surgery to correct a bulging disc.
According to those who may not know how to read the results of Gallinari's two non-fictional MRIs (administered by a New York physician paid by the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] New York Knicks , and by a Los Angeles doctor hired by agent Arn Tellem) but who passed English comprehension, the two specialists fully agree the 20-year-old Italian is not a remote candidate for an operation.
"It's unclear what's causing the pain to linger and why it keeps re-occurring, which is why we intend to focus on different elements," a Tellem confidant said. "As for the MRIs, both doctors read them the same way, and both concur Danilo does not need to go under the knife."
A bloated bulging disc is apt to hit a nerve in the spine, thus the contractions of pain when the body moves or is jarred. X-rays show Gallinari's disc is hardly bulging. Just to be on the safe side, additional MRIs are planned by the Knicks.
In view of the findings, some people within the Knicks organization are wondering - not in a wicked way, honest - if Gallinari's distress might be as much mental as physical.
Nobody questions the sincerity of his anguish; it's his threshold for pain that's in question. That's where the head trip comes into play. Badly sprained ankles, broken bones and torn ligaments are less frightening than back problems, I submit, because they're unambiguous.
The injury is obvious, and so is the solution. Back trouble is invisible to everyone - fans, teammates, management, investigative journalists, etc. - exempting the tortured soul wracked by pain.
All that's on that guy's mind 24-7 is a worst-case scenario. That thought of a doctor possibly having to operate near one's spine makes the fearless flinch. It sounds so unpromising. Did someone throw out the foul phrase "career-ending"?
Some already have jumped to that conclusion . . . despite the fact [Only registered and activated users can see links. ] Quentin Richardson is still shooting and rebounding and running around in a Knicks uniform four or five years after back surgery.
In appropriate time, the preponderance of professional athletes learns how to fight through normal wear-and-tear pain, just as they learn when not to push exercise to extremes. They find out by becoming practiced at trusting what their bodies tell them and believing the advice of hand-picked trainers and doctors versus a medical staff on the payroll of team that's paying millions to players to perform vs. being pampered.
For the time being, Gallinari probably has little clue whether he should rest and rehabilitate, how much pain he can tolerate, or if the Knicks' doctors truly have his best interests at heart. That's why the team and Tellem are functioning in unison; they are trying to do all the right things.
Once that's out of the way - and we're getting close, I've got to believe - Gallinari and the Knicks will have reached the moment of the truth. In all likelihood, he will have to come to grips with the fact the pain is not going to go away any time soon.
At the same time, if doctors tell him he's not going to hurt his back any worse than that, he must have faith in what they say, or defer his dreams into the hereafter.
Obviously, the doctors must be positive they're correct about that before putting his career at risk. That's what they're waiting on.
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