Feb 6, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) against the San Antonio Spurs at the Target Center. The Spurs defeated the Timberwolves 104-94. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Rubio and Drawing Inspiration from torn ACLs, broken jump shots

In the wake of Ricky Rubio’s first 4th quarter benching since Terry Porter-gate and the 2-12 performance (with 10 assists and 6 turnovers) which, perhaps, played a small part in bringing it on; the great bastion of sports journalism — the online wall street journal has a silver lining that may be appropriate for such circumstances.

Chris Herring writes:

Athletes who tear an anterior cruciate ligament will inevitably face questions about whether they’ll ever be the same.

In basketball, when players return from this injury, many of them definitely aren’t the same: They’re better—at least when it comes to the crucial area of midrange shooting.

Because the rehabilitation for the injury allows them to stand, but not to do anything vigorous, NBA players who suffer it find themselves making do by playing what amounts to an endless game of H-O-R-S-E.

Letting the fact that Ricky has already returned and is still struggling from mid-range slide, what follows is some non-scientific examples that could lend some inspiration to the offseason optimism of one wunderkind point guard’s workout plans:

To find out, the Journal looked at 34 NBA players who have torn an ACL since 2003. To factor out the effects of age, we limited the sample to the 20 players who were 26 years or younger at the time of the injury. Since coming back, those players have shot 42% from 16 to 23 feet—up from 38% before their injuries, a fairly significant improvement.

That statistic looks even more persuasive when you consider that for players in that age range who have spent at least five years in the NBA and did not sustain an ACL injury—midrange shooting actually declined to 39% in their most recent season from 40% when they were rookies, according to Stats LLC.

Among those showing improvement after ACL work are Utah’s Al Jefferson and Los Angeles Clippers guard Willie Green. Memphis guard Tony Allen’s midrange shots stayed the same after ACL surgery, while former Orlando forward Pat Garrity’s became slightly worse.

The sample is likely to grow: In 2012, when labor talks delayed the season and dramatically reduced the number of days off once it began, five NBA players suffered ACL injuries, up from an average of less than 3.5 over the last decade.

Rose and New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert went down within hours of each other last year on April 28, the first day of the playoffs. Days later, Knicks guard Baron Davis tore his ACL. All five of last year’s victims were point guards.

Over time, ACL surgery has become much less intrusive—enabling players who were once sidelined for a year or more to return within eight months, if not sooner, which might start to reduce the improvements to shooting.

David Altchek, a knee surgeon and NBA medical consultant, forbids his players from doing any basketball-related activities for two months after surgery to allow swelling to go down. After 12 or 16 weeks, Altchek says he allows players to begin doing “light shooting,” meaning set, stationary shots rather than jump shots.

But in months four to eight, he says, the medical protocol is shoot, shoot, shoot.

“Your knee isn’t even strong enough to do jumping for a while,” said Shumpert, a 22-year-old who made his season-debut in January. “It’s a lot of set catching and shooting; probably more than I’d ever really done before.”

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