Terps Didn’t Really Do Len Dirty

Last week we linked up Grantland’s interview with Alex Len. Now an exchange contained therein is making the rounds. Here it is:

Bill Simmons: “So, like the last month of the season you were playing hurt?”

Alex Len: “Yeah.”

Simmons: “And you knew it? Did you tell anybody?”

Len: “Yeah, I told my trainers, but we treated it like a regular, like, ankle sprain. We did a lot of treatment. Icing, stuff like that, steam. But we decided to do MRI after the season. After the season, we found out I had a problem in there.”

Jalen Rose: “Bill, when you’re in college they don’t want you to get it [the MRI] during the season. It benefits them for you to finish the season.”

Simmons: “I don’t love that idea. The MRI should have happened before.”

This was picked up by Denver Stiffs, Run the Floor, Duke Basketball Report, etc., each speculating that Maryland took advantage of Len. Sample headline: “Did Maryland Mistreat Alex Len?” From Denver Stiffs:

The University of Maryland put their 25-13 record and NIT appearance ahead of their player’s safety. When the NBA implemented their age requirements in 2006, stating that players must be 19 years-old to enter the NBA draft or at least one NBA season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school, it was supposed to be a good thing for college sports. Well, this Len injury stinks of something rotten in the college system.

The NCAA needs to look into this.

I mean, that really got out of hand fast. Let’s turn to the Baltimore Sun, which reported on this over the weekend:

“After an X-ray of Len’s left ankle in early March came back negative, the former Maryland center told coaches that the pain began to decrease, a university spokesman in explaining why Len didn’t undergo an MRI until nearly a month later.

[ ... ]

The Maryland spokesman told the Sun that three days after the initial set of X-rays were taken, team doctors told coach Mark Turgeon that they agreed with the initial diagnosis and asked the team’s training staff to monitor the injury. Part of the treatment included holding Len out of a number of practices.”

So, yeah, while it’s unfortunate that Len will need crutches to shake David Stern’s hand on Thursday night, it’s not clear that Maryland is to blame for that. Like, at all.

We kicked this around over email this weekend, and here’s some of the Mr. Irrelevant staff reaction:

“Way too much is being made of letting players fight through injuries, especially in D.C. This is just a story on the heels of RGIII against Seattle, Bryce post wall-run, etc. Turg, Terps did no wrong.

[ ... ]

I think the new fad is to second guess the treatment of every injury. Players want to play and generally aren’t 100% truthful with injuries. They don’t want to sit out. In this case there is no guarantee that an MRI would have shown anything at that time. And it’s not like his draft stock has been hurt. He’s going top-10.”

Personally, I think it’s easy to point fingers from afar, but once you start peeling back the layers it stops making sense. For example, what’s Maryland’s motivation for having Len play in the NIT? If anything, they would’ve been better served giving those minutes to returning big man Shaq Cleare.

Don’t let that get in the way of a good headline, though.

One thought on “Terps Didn’t Really Do Len Dirty”

  1. It’s a grey area of social and peer pressure, not the outright abuse implied by headlines. The pressure to play through pain certainly exists, but that’s all it is: pressure. That’s to be expected from any sports team. That pressure is manifested in broad terms (coachspeak: “there is a difference between being hurt and injured”), and through a system where it’s left to the player to decide how much pain he can tolerate. So how much the player internalizes that pressure, really depends on that player.

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