January 8, 2021 

Paris Kea undergoes ACL surgery; Liberty will cheer for the Riveters

What does Kea's recovery look like?

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Paris Kea #22 of the New York Liberty drives to the basket against the Washington Mystics on September 12, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images.

The Liberty announced on Thursday afternoon that 2020 mid-season signing Paris Kea had ACL reconstruction surgery to repair her left knee on Wednesday.

Kea played in two games for Israeli club Maccabi Haifa before going down with the injury. In a win and a loss for the club, she scored 19 points in each contest, including a stat line where she contributed four assists, three rebounds, and two steals in an 85-70 win against Rishon Le-Zion.

In 11 games for the Liberty in Bradenton, Kea averaged 6.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. In four of her 11 appearances, she scored in double digits, including a 21-point performance where she shot 8-18 from the field. She started five of those contests while playing 15 minutes a game.

While the surgery was successful and there was no structural damage reported, the recovery time for Kea isn’t certain. According to Emory Healthcare, rehab for ACL construction is completed in five different phases. At best, it can take someone six months to reach stage five, and at worst, recovery could take a year. But the operation isn’t perfect. There are nuances to it that don’t fully restore an athlete’s original form.

Depending on where the tissue was obtained from, side effects such as pain when kneeling, numbness in the front of the knee, difficulty achieving full extension, and a limited ability to fully straighten the knee have been reported. According to Cary Orthopaedics, in the first year, some patients can lose as much as 20 percent of their knee’s original strength.

But the team’s press release indicated that Dr. Riley Williams III performed the procedure at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Why is this significant? Dr. Williams, who is the Medical Director and Head Orthopedic Surgeon for the Brooklyn Nets, specializes in knee, shoulder, and elbow surgery. His research is highly focused on how to get athletes to return to sport.

Sounds on target, right?

Dr. Williams has a more “permissive” approach with his patients. In his physician video above, he noted that he allows for patients to be active and go to the gym early. He’s interested in his patients maintaining their fitness levels which might mean waiting on crutches for two weeks rather than six.

“I’ve found that letting patients be a bit more aggressive than sort of has been traditionally thought of works out to their benefit,” he said.

Now, what does this mean for the Liberty? Could Kea be healthy sooner than between six months and a year? Who knows? She was someone who I believed didn’t shine enough to guarantee her place on the roster in 2021. While she was certainly a cultural fit, her on-court skills were limiting. She shot the ball well when asked, but struggled handling the ball and playing the lead guard.

So why does the news matter then?

While her contract expired after the Bradenton #wubble, New York maintains her rights. And as of now, the Liberty have a surplus of guards. But what if they try to trade some of their young talent as a result of GM Jonathan Kolb’s pursuit of the “Hybrid Rebuild”? Having Kea’s shooting while COVID-19 still haunts the world and the Liberty’s international players might have been useful. With her injury, however, now that option looks out of the question.

The Liberty are big fans of the NWHL’s Riveters

In the same afternoon, the Liberty announced their role in a WNBA and National Women’s Hockey League partnership that will take place during the NWHL’s season that begins on Jan. 23 in Lake Placid.

The Liberty and the Connecticut Sun will participate in the “Fan Faces” campaign where both New York and Connecticut will cheer on their respective NWHL teams, the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale. The cheering is symbolic, of course, with cutouts of the players’ faces representing at Herb Brooks Arena at the end of the month.

“The Liberty wholeheartedly believe in women supporting women,” New York CEO Keia Clarke said in a team press release. “As the NWHL begins its historic bubble season in New York, we will be proudly rooting for the league’s success, the Whale, Riveters and all of the teams.”

This isn’t the first time there’s been a partnership between the two leagues. The NWHLPA and the WNBPA collaborated during the 2020 NWHL draft. Indiana Fever forward and Olympian Natalie Achonwa announced the draft selection for the league’s expansion team, the Toronto Six.

Also, our own Erica L. Ayala interviewed Anya Packer (Director of the NWHLPA and The IX Advisory Board member) and her wife and current Riveters forward Madison Packer courtside during the 2019 WNBA Finals.

For the Liberty, cutouts include Sabrina Ionescu, Layshia Clarendon, Jazmine Jones, Jocelyn Willoughby and Amanda Zahui B.

As for who will be on the real, flesh-and-blood roster, Jonathan Kolb’s countdown clock to free agency is now down to around a week. Amid the news from Thursday, there’s still just as much uncertainty for New York as there was when the week began.

Written by Jackie Powell

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