Warriors power forward David Lee had his second surgical procedure to flush out an infection in his left elbow Monday, setting off a whirlwind of speculation as to how the injury was initially treated.
In a unique move by the Warriors, who are usually guarded when it comes to injuries, they made the doctor available to the media Tuesday. Dr. Bill Maloney said that the infection probably could not have been avoided, then explained the treatment process and offered a glowing outlook for Lee's recovery.
Lee, Golden State's $80 million man, was still hospitalized at Stanford Hospital on Tuesday for further treatment and monitoring.
The 6-foot-9 forward got a puncture wound from Wilson Chandler's tooth in the third quarter of the Warriors' win over the Knicks last Wednesday. Lee's elbow was wrapped, he returned to the game, and he made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to put the Warriors up by five points. After the game, the Knicks' doctors cleaned the wound and sent Lee on his way.
"I know there is a lot of speculation out there, but it almost doesn't matter how it was treated," Maloney said. "I don't think they could have avoided this. The die was cast when he got the tooth through the skin with a deep enough puncture wound to allow the bacteria to get in there."
The Warriors flew to Chicago for the tail end of a back-to-back, and Lee awoke Thursday in "the worst pain" of his life and went to the emergency room. His elbow looked like a grapefruit that had been kicked around a dirt lot as he explained why he was missing the Bulls' game with an "elbow scratch."
After the 30-point loss to Chicago, Lee was evaluated by the Bulls' doctors and went back to the emergency room. That's when new owner Joe Lacob, who had corresponding business in New York and Chicago, stepped in. He had his plane wait at Midway Airport for Lee and general manager Larry Riley, and they flew back to the Bay Area.
"It's a very dangerous situation," said Lacob, who reached out to his connections at Stanford and brought in some of the 49ers' physicians. "It didn't feel to me like it was going well. I made the executive decision to bring him back to California. They're all over it."
Lee had his first surgery performed Friday in Fremont by Dr. Frank Chen and was released the next day. By Sunday, he was back at the hospital - this time heading to Stanford.
Maloney said the infection might need to be washed out four or five times, and he hopes that Lee will be released from the hospital by the end of the week.
"Everybody wants him to get better and go back and play quickly, but the mistake we're trying to avoid is letting him get back too soon and letting it get stirred up again," Maloney said.
Maloney wouldn't hazard to guess, but it sounds as if Lee will miss another two or three weeks. The swelling and redness around the elbow have shown progress and it's draining, according to Maloney.
"Every time we look at it, it looks better, but these things are notoriously bad actors," he said. "David is not going to have any long-term (effects). Delayed diagnosis could lead to very serious problems, but he's not going to have any of those."
The Warriors are 1-2 without Lee and have been outrebounded by 21 in those three games. Some of the locker-room jollity has disappeared and much of the defensive communication has been muted.
"I didn't even notice he was missing," center Andris Biedrins tried to joke. "No, we really miss that guy. It's really, really bad.
"Hopefully, he'll get better soon and be able to come back and help us."