Photo by Austin Krell/The Painted Lines

An MRI showed that Sixers wing and 3-time champion Danny Green suffered tears of the ACL and LCL in his left knee in Philadelphia’s Game-6 loss to the Miami Heat, a team source confirmed on Friday. The injury occurred when Sixers center Joel Embiid fell into Green’s leg as he attacked the basket early in the first quarter of the team’s Game-6 defeat on Thursday. The pressure of the fall caused Green’s leg to bend awkwardly, sending him to the floor in visible pain. Green needed to be carried to the locker room by teammates and Sixers staffers.

As the clock ran out on Philadelphia’s season, Green came out to the court supporting himself with crutches and sporting a brace on his left leg. Less than 24 hours after the team’s listless performance in defeat, Green expressed optimism about the seriousness of the injury. “Trying to keep the vibes positive. […] I’m very hopeful. It doesn’t feel as bad as it looked, I guess. They think it’s gonna be some ligament damage. Hopefully, it’s not major ligaments,” Green said.

“I think the major ones feel intact, look pretty good. I don’t know, I’m talking as if I’m a doctor here, but I’m not.”

Green also expressed belief that the damage was more to the outside of the knee. He revealed that much of the pain was in his LCL. Just an hour or so before the news broke, Green mentioned that everything else felt fine and that the pain wasn’t all that bad.

Obviously, surgery and an extensive rehabilitation process come with the territory of a torn ACL. All of that would seem worth it for someone who loves playing basketball. But, Green will likely be 36 the next time he feasibly steps on the court for an NBA game. He has tons of regular-season and playoff mileage on his body. So, it’s fair to question how long his future as a player will realistically stretch as a result of this injury. Despite his offense presenting significant value to the Sixers, Green’s defensive prowess took a significant step backwards from his first season in Philadelphia. The jumper could very well stay beyond the injury. But, only the basketball gods know how his viability as a defender will recover from a leg trauma.

The injury also comes at a time when Green’s next paycheck is in question. Philadelphia has to decide whether it wants to guarantee Green’s $10 million salary for next season by July 1. Had the catastrophe not occurred, exercising that guarantee would’ve been a logical likelihood. Beyond Green’s on-court value, $10 million represents a sizable chip that the Sixers could use in a bigger trade to improve the roster.

Now, Philadelphia’s management has a decision to make. The Sixers could guarantee the money and keep him on the roster as he rehabs the knee. Perhaps a deal presents itself and that money can be used to get it done. There is a counter-argument to that idea, though. No team is going to give up a valuable piece for a return featuring someone who cannot play. Philadelphia probably recognizes that and could still keep him on board. But, that would basically burn a spot on a roster that is already desperate for depth.

There is incentive in keeping Green around. He could work with the young players and then continue his tenure on a cost-effective deal once he recovers from the injury. If neither of those options make Philadelphia’s ears perk up, there is a third choice. The Sixers could just not guarantee the deal and waive Green, ending his current tenure as a player for the team.

Simply put, this situation sucks for Green. He has to go through an onerous healing process in the tail end of his career. He then has to deal with the long-term effects on his playing career. Mixed in there is the possibility of losing out on significant money. It’s also quite unfortunate for Philadelphia. The franchise loses its best shooter and only stable role player making sizable-enough money to be considered a valuable trade chip. 

“Our focus more, right now, is on his health and getting him right,” head coach Doc Rivers said of Green’s outlook with the team on Friday.

“He’s someone who’s going to be around basketball for a long time. He loves it, very intelligent. That was a tough one for everybody,” President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey added.

Green, as a contributing player, is somewhat limited in his role. But, his bank account benefits from the premium the NBA places on guys who can both shoot and defend at a reliable level. That $10 million premium, in this case, adds to the list of complicated decisions the Sixers have to make this summer.