Mavs Rondo Injury: What Dallas Faces Now
The Dallas Mavericks received unsettling news on Monday as it was revealed point guard Rajon Rondo suffered orbital and nasal fractures in his collision with teammate Richard Jefferson in the opening minute-and-a-half of Saturday's win at Orlando.
"My thoughts go out to him,” said Jefferson at Monday's shootaround at the AAC in preparation a visit from Minnesota -- the first game of at least a handful Rondo will miss. "I want him to get better soon. He’s a tough dude and a tough guy. ... It’s a significant loss, but we have to (deal) with it. He’ll be back sooner than most.''
There are two issues Dallas will grapple with now as it moves forward without a player in Rondo who, despite some struggles since the Dec. 18 trade with Boston to acquire him, is the Mavs' assist leader and by far their best perimeter defender. There is the medical issue ... and there is the on-the-court issue.
THE MEDICAL ISSUE
To understand the injury you have to understand the composition of the human skull. The skull is compromised of two primary parts, the neurocranium, that houses the brain, and the facial skeleton. The facial skeleton is comprised of 14 interconnected bones, pieced together like a puzzle. Sadly, as Rondo now knows, the individual bone can be fractured following a direct blow or collision.
The most commonly fractured bone in facial skeleton is the nasal bone. However a neighboring area of the face known as the orbit is also vulnerable to injury. The orbit, or eye socket, is made up of bones from both the neurocranium and the facial skeleton and includes the maxilla (the upper jaw), the frontal bone, and the cheekbone.
Fractures to the area generally occur following direct contact, particularly the vulnerable orbital floor. The severity of the fracture depends on multiple aspects including size of the fracture, whether or not the affected bone or bones have shifted, and any associated soft tissue and muscle damage. Surgery is often required if the involved bone or bones displaces or significant damage to the eyeball has occurred.
Recovery time for recent NBA players to suffer significant facial fractures appears directly connected to whether or not surgical intervention was necessary. Of the nine most recent facial fractures that did not require surgery, only former Thunder forward Lazar Hayward missed more than six games. Tyler Zeller missed four games following a zygomatic fracture while with the Cavaliers but his return was delayed by an associated concussion.
Things get more problematic if surgery is warranted. Each of the last nine players to require surgery to fix a facial fracture returned in no fewer than five games. The average number of missed games following these injuries is nearly 13 games. Orlando’s Victor Oladipo was the most recent victim of a facial fracture and he missed the team’s first nine games of the year after suffering an orbital fracture in preseason action.
It has yet to be determined whether or not Rondo will need surgery to fix his injuries. By describing the damage as an orbital fracture and considering he also broke his nose, it seems likely that the floor of the eye socket (a possible combination of the maxilla and zygomatic bones) near the nasal region is the area of concern.
Concerned Mavs fans looking for a sliver of good news should keep in mind that, as we've often noted at InStreetClothes.com, Casey Smith and the Dallas medical staff are among the best in the business. And in this case, they have had previous success managing a similar injury. During the 2009-10 season former Mavs guard Jason Terry was back in action two weeks have suffering an orbit fracture that needed surgery.
Rondo has already been ruled out for the next three games, starting Monday against the Timberwolves. (Friday, Feb. 6 UPDATE: Late this week the Mavs announced Rajon Rondo is out for the remaining three games before the break as he recuperates. Dallas remains hopeful surgery is not needed.) If surgery is required than it seems likely he will sit through the All-Star Break and potentially longer. Expect the Mavericks to provide an update later in the week after consulting with various specialists.
When Rondo does return it is likely he does so while wearing a protective facemask. Each of the listed players was forced to wear a facemask when they returned to action. The NBA facemask has been donned by an assortment of players including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and most famously, Richard Hamilton. Players often report problems adjusting to the mask, which could be a setback for Rondo, a player known for his excellent vision.
THE ON-COURT ISSUE
At shootaround, coach Rick Carlisle was asked whether Rondo's absence would alter roles elsewhere on the roster.
"Not really,'' Carlisle said tersely. "Why would it change? ... It's next-man-up when you lose a player. Our guys have worked hard all year, so we should be ready.''
But really ... "Be Ready'' aside ... it will indeed have that changing impact. The Mavs pride themselves on their depth and they'll get a chance to showcase that with various options. Point guard Raymond Felton (little-used otherwise) could move into the starting unit like he did earlier this season when Rondo was sidelined for a sore Achilles. That move would allow Devin Harris and JJ Barea to remain in their normal roles on a bench that has struggled as of late; Carlisle will announce his starters about 18 minutes before tipoff, as is his custom. And the Monday starting point guard and rotation can be different from what Dallas does in Golden State on Wednesday and in Sacramento on Thursday.
“We like Raymond,'' Carlisle said. "He’s kept himself ready, and he’s a pro. Barea and Harris are guys whose minutes are going to go up now some. And I’ve just got to make sure nobody is getting flooded with too many minutes. That’s one of the challenges.”
The Mavs did have Chandler Parsons back at the workout Monday after having missed both games of the weekend roadie, back-to-back wins at Miami and Orlando. And Ricky Ledo (who sources tell DB.com had, pre-Rondo injury, requested to simply be left in Frisco rather than to be pulled back and forth to simply wear street clothes with the big club) has been recalled from the Texas Legends to add to the depth.
Another almost certain impact? A decline in an area where Rondo has been indisputably helpful: defense. Coop helps us with the math: Pre-Rondo the Mavs allowed 102.7 points, 45.7-percent shooting and 39.2 percent on threes, ranking them 24th, 20th and 30th in the NBA in those categories. Since the Rondo add: Dallas is at 99.2 points, 43.8 percent and 33.4 percent in those categories, jumping to 15th, 10th and sixth in the league.
And one more impact: Even more on the shoulders of Monta Ellis, who already plays a point guard-like role in many cases. Whomever does team up with Monta in the backcourt to join the starting five will have his hands full with Dallas set to take on Ricky Rubio, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul over the next 10 days.