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In a rush to conclusions, a case of malpractice by Dr. Stern

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

David Stern insists that the condensed NBA season had nothing to do with Rose's ACL tear. (Getty Images)  
David Stern insists that the condensed NBA season had nothing to do with Rose's ACL tear. (Getty Images)  

David Stern has seen his power to cloud men's minds diminish relative to that of Roger Goodell lately, so you have to admire his new self-granted medical degree.

Or maybe you didn't see his dismissal of the compressed schedule as a potential cause for the number of injuries in the NBA this season, and citing as his source a doctor the NBA pays as a consultant.

I mean, the New England Journal of Medicine has never used the, "We say so because a guy we're paying to say so says so" dodge.

Now maybe the injuries that dropped Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert, both ACL tears, were not caused by fatigue from fewer days off in this truncated season. We don't know that. Nobody knows that.

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But when Stern dismissed the schedule as a potential cause out of hand, and then used league consultant and surgeon Dr. David Altchek as his source ... well, that can mean only one of two things.

1. This was another case of a consultant saying what the paycheck says he has to say, or:

2. Stern is a physician now.

We don't want to cast aspersions on Dr. Altchek, because this may be his honest opinion based on the information he has. He's the doctor, after all.

But if he is being paid by the league, he is not by definition objective on the subject, and probably not the best choice as Stern's primary source. The history of consultants in American business history rather suggests a relationship between quid and quo that is decidedly pro.

Stern said the condensed schedule (he even called it "quote-condensed," as though it wasn't actually condensed) had no effect at all, which is an extraordinary stretch even for someone whose medical degree is as shiny and new as Stern's.

Now he could have said, "We haven't seen a connection, but we don't have a lot to compare this season to." He could have said, "Maybe it did. We're trying to study all the ramifications of the lockout." He could have consulted physicians who aren't league consultants, or would consult for free (and good luck with that).

He could have even said, "Well, if they'd taken the first offer we tried to force on them, they'd be healthy today, so I blame Billy Hunter." He then could have had a great and uproarious laugh over the union's degradation over the last week or so, and been more sincere.

At least more convincing, anyway.

But that isn't the Stern way. He has come to enjoy the prerogatives of the autocrat (except when he's taking orders from his owners, as he largely did during the lockout), so when he said the schedule that wasn't condensed had no effect on any of the league's serious injuries this year, he chose the autocrat's preferred method of debate -- generalizing when specification would have been the safer, smarter and more intellectually defensible tack.

We now await Dr. Goodell's latest treatise on how football doesn't cause head trauma, and even if it did, it was the players' fault, and you could take that to a court of law.

And then Bud Selig can declare himself a theoretical physicist and colonize Jupiter for Major League Baseball. After all, once you've removed the ceiling, the sky is no limit at all.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.


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