Celtics to view Embiid's medical records

Celtics to view Embiid's medical records
June 21, 2014, 2:45 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Only a select number of teams will get a glimpse at Joel Embiid's medical records and the Celtics will apparently be one of them, according to a league source.

Embiid underwent surgery on Friday to repair a fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot, an injury that will sideline him for at least four months.

Boston, which has the Nos. 6 and 17 picks in the first round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, is expected to get some information relative to Embiid's most recent injury, but full access to his medical records is unlikely.

Austin Ainge, Boston's director of player personnel, had little to say when asked what the Celtics knew about Embiid's injury.

"Probably best not to share all of that," Ainge said. "I think we all want to know exactly what it is."

A consensus Top-3 pick prior to the injury, there's a growing sense that Embiid will slide down a few spots in next week's draft and potentially be there for the Celtics at No. 6.

"Even when you have a lot of information, sometimes it's still just a best guess," Ainge said. "So, I'm not sure what the conclusions will be by the doctors."

Still, the additional information no matter how small, will help bring into focus the kind of player the Celtics might be looking at, health-wise.

"Statistical models never measure health and character, guys get in trouble or don't work hard or the money gets to them," Ainge said. "We can't predict those things on the court. Nor, can we really predict it when we get to know the kids, so those are always wild-cards."

However, Boston has a recent track record of success when it comes to drafting players with a less-than-ideal health status.

In 2010, Avery Bradley's pre-draft workout tour was cut short because of a left ankle sprain. Because of his athleticism, Bradley was expected to significantly improve his draft stock in workouts and emerge as a lottery (top-14) pick. Instead, he fell to Boston at No. 19.

And in 2012, Jared Sullinger was considered a top-five prospect before being red-flagged for a back injury that saw him plummet to the Celtics at No. 21.

Bradley had come in for a workout for the Celtics, so the Celtics medical staff was able to get a much more accurate reading on where he was and where he projected, health-wise.

But Sullinger was different.

"With Jared, we were just emailed and sent things," Ainge said. "So, it's different. You just do the best you can."

It's unclear what information Embiid's camp will allow the Celtics to have access to, making it all that much tougher for them to get a feel for whether he's worth the risk at No. 6.

And while much has been said about Bradley and Sullinger, there have been other players in the past leading up to the draft that the Celtics' medical staff told the basketball ops folks to pass on.

"Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden," Ainge said. "Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy."

Oden has been plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, showing no signs of ever living up to the lofty expectations that come with a player selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Boston had the worst record in the league that season and were expected to choose between Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant.

The Celtics have maintained for years that they would have taken Durant over Oden if they had the No. 1 pick that year, primarily because the team's medical staff made them aware of the risks involved in taking Oden which they deemed as being too great.

Boston wound up with the No. 5 pick which the Celtics used to select Jeff Green. That pick was soon traded to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) as part of the deal which brought former UConn star Ray Allen back to New England as a member of the Celtics.

Roy had some solid years in the NBA, earning all-star honors three times after being selected by Minnesota (and immediately traded to Portland) with the sixth overall pick in 2006.

However, his career ended after just six NBA seasons due to a degenerative knee condition.

"It ended up costing them [Portland] a lot of money in the end, but he did give them a great few years," Ainge said. "So, there's two [Bradley and Sullinger] that we've taken chances on. There's been many, many others we've decided not to take a chance on."

In addition to the medical records and feedback from their own doctors, the Celtics also factor in recovery time.

"We try to focus on the long-term health, more than the short term when you're dealing with draft picks," Ainge said. "Free agents might be a little different. But when you're drafting kids that are 19, 20, 21, it's usually best to think two years, five years down the road, will it be a concern. And those are the ones we usually try to avoid."

With Embiid's right foot injury, the risk is a major concern when you consider others who have had similar injuries in the past - Cleveland's Zydrunas Illgauskas, Houston's Yao Ming and former Celtic Bill Walton - were hampered for significant stretches of their career because of the injury.

And when you consider Embiid's freshman season at Kansas was cut short because of a back injury, the Celtics drafting Embiid would indeed be the biggest gamble taken by this franchise under Danny Ainge's watch.

"Foot and back. Those are not good body parts to injure [for a big man]," Ainge said.

As much as Austin's father, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, has been fearless when it comes to drafting players with injuries, the call on Embiid may ultimately be determined by the team's medical staff.

"Yeah, [Celtics team doctor] Brian McKeon, step up to the plate," quipped Austin Ainge.