Friday April 17th, 2009

WALTHAM, Mass -- Another day, another round of questions for the Boston Celtics about injured forward Kevin Garnett. For the second straight afternoon Celtics players declared Friday their readiness to go through the postseason without their emotional leader. But the question is: How long will they really have to?

The Celtics have maintained that Garnett's injury, which they have called a strained popliteus tendon that is located deep inside the back of the knee, will prevent him from playing at all in the postseason. But SI.com contacted five trainers from different NBA teams, all of whom said they believed that Garnett could potentially play if Boston advances in the playoffs.

"I was really surprised when they announced he was done," one trainer said. "If that really is his injury, he could definitely be back on the court."

All five trainers agreed with what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has publicly stated: The surgery Garnett will undergo in the offseason to remove bone spurs from his knee has nothing to do with the tendon that has forced him to sit out for 25 games this season.

"Apples and oranges," another trainer said. "Bone spurs are basically the result of calcium deposits in the knee. When you have a guy like Garnett, who has played so many games and so many years, a surgery like that is not uncommon. And it has nothing to do with the tendon."

The problem with Garnett's injury, according to two trainers, is that it is essentially untreatable. Because of the location of the tendon, the only course of action is rest. Steps can be taken to manage the pain -- ice and ultrasound are two of the most common -- but the only way for it to heal is to let the body heal the tendon itself.

Recovery times vary. A league source told SI.com that Jermaine O'Neal suffered from a similar injury while he was with Toronto. O'Neal missed three games in November and 11 more between January and February with knee problems but has played in 39 of his last 42 games with Toronto and Miami.

"It really is unpredictable," one trainer said. "It's a thin, fibrous muscle and sometimes that makes it difficult for blood to get to it."

The fact that the Celtics are all but ruling Garnett out for the postseason makes several trainers wonder if the injury is more serious than they are letting on.

"There's probably a tear there," a trainer said. "I have a hard time seeing how a player with the pain tolerance of Garnett isn't able to play with a strain. Especially when you consider he has missed so much time with the injury already."

On Friday, Rivers said he had no plans to re-evaluate Garnett in the future. But when pressed, Rivers said that if the Celtics' training staff tells him that the All-Star forward is showing improvement, he would put Garnett through a workout to determine if he is game ready.

"The answer to that question is yes," Rivers said in responding to a query about whether he would reconsider his intial stance. "I hope they tell me [he's getting better]. I want him to play."

Said a trainer: "It's unlikely he can cause more serious damage to the knee by playing. It's just a matter of how much pain he can take."

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