Jordan's injury no mere sprain just ask Havlicek

December 03, 1992|By Bob Ryan | Bob Ryan,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Michael Jordan did not accompany his teammates to Boston because he has sustained a torn plantar fascia in the arch of his left foot. Hoo, boy, do the Boston Celtics know about torn plantar fascias! They had the all-timer.

"Tell him that if he needs words of encouragement, or discouragement, to call me," says John Havlicek. "I know all about it."

The Chicago Bulls have publicly downplayed the severity of Jordan's injury. On the game notes, it was referred to as "a sprained foot." There is a vast difference between a sprained foot and torn plantar fascia.

"We're prepared," says coach Phil Jackson.

This is a major injury. Jordan and the Bulls had better take heed. "The problem is that Michael's been Superman," says Jackson. "He gets an injury and people want him to get up, take the next practice off and then keep coming back."

Jordan was somehow injured when he went up for a rebound early in the first quarter of a 112-75 loss in New York on Saturday. He returned early in the second quarter and went on to miss 15 of his last 18 shots.

"I sort of felt something pop," Jordan said later. "I didn't know exactly what it was, but it was freaky. I thought maybe it was my Achilles' or something like that. But it was more on the bottom of the foot."

If he comes back quickly from this, he really might be the greatest athlete of our time. This injury is nothing to fool around with. It hobbled Alonzo Mourning two years ago. It also KO'd the great runner Bill Rodgers once upon a time. But the most celebrated occurrence in these parts took place 16 years ago.

John Havlicek awoke on the morning of April 22, 1976, with a pain in his left foot. He had played a great game against the Buffalo Braves the night before, leading the Celtics to a 107-98 victory in Game 1 of a playoff series.

"I thought everything was fine," Havlicek recalls. "But when I woke up the next morning, my foot hurt. I threw back the covers, and when I tried to get out of bed, I fell right on the floor. I went down the staircase on my rump, bumpity-bump. I hopped on my right foot to the car. When I got to the Garden, they wheeled me in on one of those dollies. To this day, I have no idea how I did it."

Thus began a six-week ordeal. Havlicek learned that he had torn the plantar fascia, the connective tissue in the arch of his left foot.

The prescription was ice. "They told me to ice it three times a day, so I would do it nine times a day," Havlicek explains.

Havlicek missed one game, then continued playing. He performed in the remainder of the Buffalo series, and in every game of the Cleveland and Phoenix series. He even played 50-plus minutes in the famed Phoenix triple overtime. But he was never John Havlicek. He was an ordinary player.

Havlicek is not surprised to learn that a determined Jordan continually shot flat jumpers after injuring his foot.

"There is no way he could play his normal game," Havlicek contends. "You can't push off it, and when you're on defense, you find you've got to back up and give your man a lot of extra room.

"It was devastating," Havlicek concludes. "It affects you dramatically."

It will heal, of course, but Havlicek can't tell Michael when. "When the season was over, I didn't touch a ball or do anything athletic until the following September," Havlicek explains. "So I don't know if it healed in two weeks or two months."

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