When Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes crumbled to the ground against the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this month, you probably assumed the worst. It’s human nature. A player suffering a non-contact injury is never good.
A hip labral tear involves the ring of cartilage (labrum) that follows the outside rim of your hip joint socket. Besides cushioning the hip joint, the labrum acts like a rubber seal or gasket to help hold the ball at the top of your thighbone securely within your hip socket.
O U C H.
If Hayes opts to rehab it, he could miss as little as 4-6 weeks. If he goes the surgical route, his season will be over and he’ll likely miss 4-6 months. If you want to read more about this brutal injury, basketblogger Jared Dubin wrote about his personal experience with it (IN BOTH HIPS!) as it relates to Killian.
Anyway, I’m not a medical expert, let’s just start with that. I’m not going to try to sell you on one route being better than the other. I want to see Hayes play — we all do — so inherently I’m biased. I also just want to see Hayes uninhabited by this injury going forward.
It got me thinking about how other players who’ve sustained similar hip injuries have fared:
Note that this list is a little old, dating only to 2015, but it shows that these types of injuries aren’t totally infrequent. The most recent example is Isaiah Thomas, who sustained a similar injury in the 2017 playoffs.
Thomas, coming off a magical run that inspired memories of Allen Iverson’s peak with the Philadelphia 76ers, has never been the same player. Prior to the injury, he was on a four-year run with averages of 22 points and six assists per game. He peaked in that 2016-17 season, morphing into The Micro Answer and dropping 29 points and six assists per game for the overachieving Boston Celtics.
Since then, it’s been a rough go of it. Thomas has played just 84 games over the past three seasons, averaging 13 points and four assists with 39/35/89 shooting splits. Now, you could argue that a 5-foot-9 guard was going to see his game fall off quickly once his athleticism diminished and body began to break down. That’s probably part of it — the line of Thomas being a dynamo was very thin as he approached 30 years old — but this is still probably the worst-case scenario.
LaMarcus Aldridge, the best player on this list, suffered a similar injury back in 2012 with the Portland Trailblazers. He played through it, like Thomas, but had a previous hip injury during his college days at Texas. The injury hasn’t derailed Aldridge, though.
In fact, the big man came back in 2013-14 with a career-best season, averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists per game. His 2014-15 season was just as good. He’s since left for the San Antonio Spurs, and in the six years following his surgery has played between 69 and 81 games every season.
Wilson Chandler is another good example. Never a star, Chandler has been around the league forever as the kind of wing-you-want-on-your-team type. He injured his hip in 2014-15, but returned the following year to average a career-best 15.7 points per game for the Denver Nuggets.
Gerald Henderson, however, is another scary case. The wing from Duke blossomed into a nice role player for the Bobcats/Hornets, but suffered a handful of hip injuries along the way. That resulted in an eventual debridement, which involves removal of the torn or weakened portions of the labrum.
Last summer, coming back from my third hip surgery, I had a resurfacing procedure done where they actually put some metal in my hip. It’s a new procedure. It’s not a hip replacement, but they put a little cap and ball in there for you. Tennis player Andy Murray just got it done. Hockey players actually have played with them. It’s a procedure that they felt like I could go back and play.
This isn’t perfectly analogous, but Kevon Looney may be the best age comparison for Hayes. Once viewed as a young building block for the Golden State Warriors during their championship prime, Looney suffered a torn labrum in his right hip as a 19-year-old rookie in 2015. It limited him to just 5 games as he opted for surgery.
This is where you hope the comparison ends.
He injured his other hip in the same fashion the following year, undergoing another surgery. This is the only instance I can find of a guy tearing both labrums, which sounds horrific and should gives you a new respect for Looney to still be playing.
He’s a nice role player these days, but not a game-breaker, averaging of 4 points and 5 rebounds since those surgeries.
The moral of the story here is that... we don’t know what is going to happen with Hayes.
We’ve seen medicine advance by leaps and bounds in recent years — a torn Achilles, once a death sentence, is now just an aberration for some players — and maybe that same level of medical magic applies to an injury like this.
Hopefully, with the organization in the doldrums, the Pistons grasp how important getting Hayes right will be. Treating this with kid gloves, doing whatever it takes for him to be healthy going into next season, is the move. Experience is important, certainly, and we all want to see more of him in this race for the No. 1 pick, but Hayes’ health should be the top priority.