Why James Blackmon’s Knee Surgery Isn’t the End of the World

According to my sources (twitter) James Blackmon, Jr. has undergone knee surgery today. It’s his second knee surgery in the last six months, having undergone surgery on his other knee in July. He’s likely to miss the rest of the season.

What follows may qualify as a hot take:

Ok.

That’s pretty much my entire reaction.

Ok.

Beyond feeling bad for the kid because he has to have surgery again and will miss the rest of his sophomore year, which I do, because I am a human being capable of empathy, my entire reaction, as it pertains to the this team and their prospects moving forward, is “Ok.”

It may sound strange not to be all Henny Penny when your 2nd leading scorer has surgery in January, sidelining him for the rest of the year, but I’m not sure his absence is going to matter all that much and here’s why.

A particular set of skills

James Blackmon does one thing very well.

He scores.

That’s it.

He’s not a good defender.

I’m not sure he’s a leader on this team. He may be, but I haven’t seen evidence of it on the court. The team certainly doesn’t take it’s cues from him emotionally.

So, we’re down a very good scorer on a team filled with outside shooters. Losing him doesn’t hurt our ability to stretch the floor. Nick, Colin, Rob, OG, Max, Yogi and Ryan are all capable to very capable outside shooters. Yogi, Troy, Rob, and OG seem quite capable of scoring off penetration. And we’ve got a guy inside who makes 80% of his shots.

Somehow losing one shooter doesn’t really worry me.

Our Schedule

Have you seen this thing?

I don’t know if we’re any good at all, and I’m not sure I’ll know before the end of this month. I’m not saying we’re going to start Big Ten play 7-0, but we could. And based on who we’re playing and where we’re playing them, I am saying that if we start 7-0 you could still convince me we aren’t any good.

You could say to me, “Sure, we haven’t lost since Duke, which is a 12-game winning streak, but none of those 12 teams was worth a damn, except Notre Dame and we looked awful in Maui,” and I’d have almost no argument. And I’m not sure that a 7-0 start in the Big Ten gets us back into the top 20 based on who those seven wins would be against.

And losing one shooter against that schedule doesn’t really change my opinion of what our record is likely to be when we go to Wisconsin on 1/26.

Team Needs

Having watched this entire season to date, I hang our prospects of truly competing for a Big Ten title and making an NCAA run almost entirely on defense.

If this team improves collectively on the defensive end, which it seems like maybe they’ve done, but hell, I don’t know because did I mention we haven’t played anyone who’s any good, then there’s a good chance for success this season.

If not, then not.

And I could come up with a lot of line ups that don’t involve James that are better than any line up that does.

Our success is not directly linked to whether we can score. It’s linked to whether we can stop the other team. We might actually have a better chance of doing that without James in the lineup.

Historical Importance

IU basketball has lost a lot of players to injury over the years, and possibly three championships, 1975 – Scott May, 1983 – Ted Kitchel, and 1993 – Alan Henderson.

This team isn’t a #1 team, and James isn’t any of those players to those teams (read: virtually irreplaceable).

His injury isn’t as serious to the prospects of this team as any of the following injuries were to the prospects of any of these teams.

Randy Wittman – 1980

Mike Woodson – 1980

Landon Turner – 1982

Pat Graham – 1993

Sherron Wilkerson – 1995

Jared Jeffries – 2002

DJ White – 2006

Eric Gordon – 2008

Mo Creek – 2010, 2011

Verdell Jones III – 2012

Jordan Hulls – 2013

Now, admittedly, I could be way off here. And to be honest, when I started writing this it wasn’t released that he’d be out for the rest of the season. But even knowing that, I’m still not overly concerned.

My two favorite players this year have been Rob Johnson and the Adonis of the Night, Colin Hartman. This opens up more time for them to be on the court, and that may turn out to be a net positive.

Injuries suck, and again, I’m sorry for James. But I maintain the same completely unsure of how good this team actually is or can be opinion as I did before I saw this news.

Here’s hoping I’m right, yeah?

Jeff Taylor