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The Thunder’s Skinny Love Will Need to Wait a Year

A foot injury will cost Chet Holmgren his entire rookie season—and only heighten concerns about his rail-thin physique

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The Lisfranc joint, one of the lamest joints in the land, was named after Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin. Big Cousteau was a gynecologist of considerable achievement who found himself bandaging up Lil’ Napoleon’s army. A field surgeon in the Napoleonic Wars. A lifeguard in a hurricane. One who grinds. One day, a French soldier got thrown from his horse with a foot still in the stirrup. Depending on which website you read, he either got thrown and dragged or it just got stuck while he was getting off. One is rough. The other is funny. In any event, gangrene reared its head, and Lisfranc had to amputate. In Lisfranc’s words: “amputation of the foot through the tarsometatarsal articulation.”

It was announced Thursday that Chet Holmgren, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s much-hyped no. 2 draft pick, will miss his entire rookie season with “a Lisfranc injury to his right foot.” The ding took place during one of Jamal Crawford’s CrawsOver Pro-Am games in Seattle. Basically, LeBron was there, so everyone was there. Filled to the gills, this gym. Bronny’s father drove in transition. Chet contested, came up limping. Surgery is imminent.

The way I found out was a Twitter notification at 7 a.m. Pacific. I was walking our dog. His poop has been a little too green lately. Color-wise, it’s not what you want. Ideally, you’re looking for a chocolate brown. At least that’s what the fine folks at PetMD say. I felt the notification’s buzz, Woj bomb aftershocks, while picking up the dog’s stool sample. He’d made his toilet on our neighbor’s mulch. I put the stink in a Ziploc with his name on it. In purple Sharpie: Gill Boomerang. First name was our 5-year-old’s choice. She decided to name him after the Willem DaFoe–voiced Moorish idol in Finding Nemo. The one in the Australian dentist’s aquarium. Savvy veteran, leader of the tank.

I wrote this sentence at the vet. In between picking up the dook and arriving here, I hugged our other daughter before she left for her first day of preschool. She’s the one who came up with Boomerang for Gill’s middle name, “because boomerangs are fun.” She was champing at the bit to get to school—got to wear her new dress. There are flowers on it. Mom agreed to three braids. She had a great day. “No tears!” she shouted over the speaker phone. The vet’s guess is Gill will be fine. He probably just ate a flower he shouldn’t have. They’ll test the sample today, make sure there’s no parasite messing with him, and let us know. I guess what I’m saying is I’d rather talk about my dog’s excretions than the Chet injury.

Instead of stumbling around like a Philistine I will just let this sports medicine doctor, a medical professional, explain what happened. I can’t remember for sure if it’s here, but Brian Sutterer might talk about how the injury is way more common in football players than in basketball players. You might hear Maurice Jones-Drew’s name. I only mention this because over the course of his career he ruined many fantasy football seasons for many owners and I care about the device on which you read. If Sutterer doesn’t reference MJD, then I’m very sorry and the last four sentences never happened.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti addressed the media Thursday morning and said the injury was “a rupture of the tendon and not a fracture.” Called it a “contact injury.” Sutterer found that odd. I don’t want to try to explain the goings-on of the human body. These shells confuse me. I am displeased with the container I’ve been supplied with. Would love to talk to the manager but had a back and forth with him the other day and he does not like me very much right now. I kept attacking his appearance. Anyway, what’s clear is this—Chet’s done for the year.

The main thing is, this sucks. It sucks hard. It sucks hard for Holmgren. It sucks hard for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. It sucks for the NBA. One of the most exciting young cores in the league and a team that was bound to be a good time will have to wait another year to see said core in action, another year to see what kind of new fun his skills might unlock in SGA. Both he and Giddey stood to find previously untapped facets of their games with a lob threat in the lineup, especially one that can also pop to the 3-point line like he can. Holmgren’s injury sucks for fans. And as a Thunder fanboy, let me just say, aim for my neck. Even mistakes are successes there.

I typically prefer to encrust my thoughts in sugar so that it’s easier to sleep at night, but this is nothing but a big-time bummer. Seven-footers with foot injuries is something you cannot help but pause at, no matter how freaky the way the injury was sustained may have seemed. There are too many spooky stories. And for it to happen now, after all his fireworks the past couple of months, well, again, what a bummer. “He was having a monster summer,” Presti said. This is true. In Utah and Vegas summer league and the CrawsOver game he played in late July, Chet was proving to be worthy of the hype. And then a ligament has to go and take a big dump on everything. Could’ve been a rager. Will still be a fun season at times for the Thunder—SGA, and Giddey both have too much juice—but will things be as fun? Not at all. What a stupid question, Tyler.

Takes are few and vary in value. There are basically three. Maybe more. I don’t know. I found a reminder in my phone I don’t remember making. For 7:35 a.m. Friday morning it said: Yes I am crazy. Things are going haywire. Wires crossed and fading. We’ll see where we’re at when the fingers stop.

Take no. 1: This injury is a direct result of his frame. Skinny things snap. We told you so, you buncha betas. The guy at the dealership said it was the biggest he sold this week. I paid extra for the running board lights. Lol Chet guarded LeBron once and wound up in the hospital. There is a weird and telling glee to some that peddle this take—it’s pretty gross—but obviously this did nothing to dissuade Chet detractors of their durability concerns. They will now shout their fears with greater chest.

More on that later. At least I think so. Who knows these days. I could forget to address it entirely. My brain is running up that hill and running out of gas. Is that the right way to use that? I haven’t been paying close attention and haven’t listened to the song in years but I’d like to catch whatever residual fumes of Kate Bush clout I can.

Take no. 2 (In response to Take no. 1): Uhhhhh watch the play much? Pay attention to the entire situation much? Are you ruffians allergic to nuance? Game got called in the second quarter because the floor was so messed up. They had people lining up as soon as it was announced, kids playing two-on-two on portable hoops deep into the Seattle night, men in LeBron jerseys getting workmanlike buckets as the lead ball handler in the pick-and-roll. The place was loaded for bear. And the day was humid and the bodies and the heat and the sweat all combined to create a court with more than your average condensation on the wood. Slip-and-slide convention. Guys were falling, losing their footing. People were jumping and jiving all over the place. I have strayed from the attempted point, which is you have LeBron in the building. He is playing in front of a Seattle crowd for the first time since God knows when. That court had to have been slick slick to get them to pull the plug with the Man in CrawsOver regalia. It’s no wonder Holmgren’s foot failed to get traction. Presti has said he doesn’t buy this one. “I don’t believe the condensation on the floor was a factor,” he said. That sound you heard is Jamal Crawford unclenching his butt cheeks for the first time in days. Presti continued: “Obviously this happened pretty early, and I don’t believe that issue came up until later.” Other things he disagrees with: Any insinuation this had something to do with Holmgren’s frame.

Take no. 3: Freak things happen when freaks play freaks. It doesn’t look like James overpowers Chet. It looks like Holmgren lands awkwardly after trying to elevate out of a backpedal and things go awry. But acting like Holmgren got folded up here is odd. The analysis is disconcerting. It’s tomfoolery and I’ll promise you this—I won’t stand for it. Tomfoolery, doohickey, grabtail, I’m not about it. Things are how they are. They happened how they happened. Look at the play. Looks far more like a freak thing than it does anything else. Don’t get mad at me for having eyes and not overreacting to the moment. My bad for being properly thoughtful about this. Again, deal with the reality of what happened. Sometimes things happen. Chet’s long-term prognosis is positive and a full recovery is expected. Let the freaky be freaky. I mainly agree. More than anything else, the play just looked weird.

Take no. You Shut Your Mouth: This game took place in Seattle at Seattle Something Something and [hands cover ears] la la la la la hey baby I hear the blues a-callin’ tossed salad and scrambled eggs. I have a red Niles Crane shirt that’s high in my tee rotation. I’ve tried to block the name of the location out, but the angle’s something like Holmgren going down there is some cosmic poetic comeuppance for moving the team to [hands return to ears] la la la la la. Let me be clear: I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t know, y’all. Things are breaking down. What was Walter Sobchak’s question? Has the whole world gone crazy? Whatever the case, it is most certainly one of pain. The Great Salt Lake might go dry. Might take with it Diet Coke. Apparently DC needs the Great Salt Lake to survive? Something about magnesium? It’s the big daddy of all landlocked bodies of water between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean. Rest in power to the prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Antelope Island sounds delightful. Its namesake roams the shores, marshes. RJ Barrett will join them soon enough. Either him or Quentin Grimes or Tyler Herro. And there are bison and bobcat, elk and deer and coyote. That’s like four of the fun ones. But yeah, go sailing, kayaking, duck hunting. I don’t want to, but you can. I’ll sleep on the boat. Ride me around. I need sun. I don’t care about Diet Coke. Silver cans of tasteless death. Drink sucks almost as much as the Chet injury.

Chet needs good doctors. He needs good doctors—and time and patience and, Lord willing, calves—because let’s face it, sometimes ligaments want to be too cool for school and not show up when they’re supposed to. Fair or not, the injury-prone stigma will be one that follows Holmgren for a while. I imagine he’s pretty used to it by now. “I understand there’s a lot of first-level thinking going on out there,” Presti said. “We can’t really control that. It’s a figment of the alternate reality that is the internet. But that’s not where reality resides. There are opinions and there are facts, and we are dealing with the facts.” My wish for all y’all is that each and every one of you finds someone who loves you half as much as coaches and front office execs hate the internet. That’s a passion that burns deep. [Matt Damon in True Grit voice] Ever stalwart. There’s plenty of time to talk big-picture stuff, what this means for this year’s Thunder as a whole, whether or not pros should play in pro-ams, so on, but I keep coming back to just feeling bad for Holmgren. His unique blend of skill and measurements makes him such a strange, enjoyable watch. He’s like a good half-hour drama. You say, Oh, that’s possible? With Chet’s play these past few months he’d churned up even more buzz for a rookie campaign that would’ve been highly anticipated whether he played a minute of publicly-facing ball this summer. He was master of ceremonies for various block brouhahas across America. I’d link to one here, but I’m tired. Didn’t I link to one earlier when I mentioned the cities he played in? Search page for “Vegas.” You can also type “Chet summer league blocks” into YouTube, which is a thing I do to feel alive.

Just awful luck for the kid. Hate it for him. He’s obviously a worker. Gym Giraffe. Clearly loves the game. Is one who grinds. The injury is such a fun-suck. Guys with games this new make the league more interesting. History and logic say it will probably be a bit longer before he looks really right, but initial reports suggest barring setbacks, Holmgren’s supposed to be available for the start of the 2023-24 season. I’m supposed to be drinking later. May both happen. I hope the former is not rushed. Would be surprising if it were. I hope Gill’s OK. Chet, too. The road. We’re running.