The Knicks will face the Bobcats Friday night without the services of center Tyson Chandler. Chandler suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fibula after colliding with Kemba Walker. The fibula is one of the two bones of the lower leg. It sits on the outside of the leg and supports the tibia but isn’t considered a primary weight-bearing bone. On the bright side no ligament or nerve damaged was detected but Chandler is still expected to miss a significant amount of time.
Chandler’s recovery is pretty straightforward. Since the bone did not displace, surgery will not be required and Chandler must simply allow for the fracture to naturally heal. Bone tissue generally takes between four-to-six weeks to mend to the point where basketball-related activity would be possible. However even at this stage, the callus that has formed at the fracture site is not 100 percent. As Chandler returns to the court, the broken bone will continues to strengthen itself, responding to the various stresses placed on and through it. Somewhere between three to six months later the bone should display the same biomechanical properties as a fully healthy bone. This doesn’t mean Chandler will out for the next three months but it does suggest that his risk of reinjury will be elevated for the at least six weeks following his return.
If Chandler misses a full six weeks of time the earliest he could return would be a December 18 game in Milwaukee, meaning New York would play 20 total games without their starting center. A 20-game absence would be right in line with the nine recent documented instances of non-displaced fibula fractures in the NBA. These nine cases include Kris Humphries, Carlos Boozer, Ben Wallace, and Steve Nash and carry an average of 19 missed games. Boozer returned the quickest, missing just eight games, while Humphries’ 40 missed games was the longest absence.
Chandler’s injury also puts additional strain on the recovery timelines of Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire. Martin has been nursing a sore ankle since training camp and Stoudemire is working his way back from his third knee surgery in the last two seasons. The Knicks were doing a good job executing a designed rotation and minutes restriction for each of these two players before the Chandler injury. However with Chandler out they will be forced to alter those plans at the expense of both veterans.
Offseason acquisition Andrea Bargnani should also see an increase in minutes, though his presence leaves a glaring hole on defense. With Bargnani on the floor, the Knicks allow 116.3 points per 100 possessions, a stark contrast from the 84.5 points per 100 possessions the team surrenders when Bargnani is on the sidelines. Additionally, Bargnani comes with an elevated injury risk of his own having missed substantial stretches over the last three seasons with a myriad of injuries.
Chandler injury is serious but could have been much worse. The real concerns will be how can the Knicks perform without him and what long-terms effect will his absence have on the health of his teammates. The schedule does not play in New York’s favor with 11 playoffs teams from last season slated in the next 20 games.