The question on everybody's mind before Brandon Rush tore his anterior cruciate ligament playing in a pickup basketball game isn't any different than the one now being asked: Will he play next season for Kansas University?
The answer then was maybe.
The answer now is maybe.
To write down in ink that Rush will return six months from the surgery date of late this week or early next week is to invite disappointment. It's an iffy proposition. A three-guard lineup of Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, and Russell Robinson remains a possibility.
Vero Beach, Fla.-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Johnny Benjamin, through a public-relations agency, offered his availability for interview on the topic of recovery from ACL surgery as it relates to Rush.
Will he be surprised if Rush does not play for the Jayhawks next season?
"No," Benjamin said.
Will he be surprised if Rush plays next season?
"No," he said.
Can you say maybe?
Benjamin said he has worked with or been in groups that have worked with athletes from professional football, basketball, baseball and boxing during ACL rehabilitations.
"The level he's going to be required to perform at, that's a very high level," Benjamin said. "Will he return and be effective? Certainly. When? I've read he'll be back the first of December, so on and so forth. I think that's optimistic for several reasons. Some are medical. Some have to do with, after dealing with professional athletes, having a much clearer vision of what's really at stake."
What's at stake is a career. Look at it this way: If a student on the debate team who has realistic aspirations to become a famous attorney knew he could win a debate for his school but in doing so could damage his chances of ever practicing law, would we blame him for passing on the debate? Of course we wouldn't.
If Rush could come back at well below 100 percent and still play a role for Kansas, but in the process would hurt his chances at a pro career, would we blame him for continuing to rehab his knee and waiting until he's 100 percent recovered to let the world see him? We might, but that's on us.
The recovery time for an ACL used to be considered a year, at minimum. Now six months is the fashionable estimate. But is it accurate?
"If you're a surgeon and you say the recovery time will be a year to 18 months, how many athletes will want to come see you if another surgeon is saying six months?" Benjamin asked. "Six months is very aggressive."
"If Brandon Rush comes back a month or two early and looks terrible, how many millions does he cost his family?" he added.
If six months is too aggressive, what would Benjamin consider to be the recovery time now?
"Less than a year," he said.
Kansas State's Bill Walker, who suffered the same injury, has a four-month head start on Rush.
Rush, Benjamin pointed out, will have an exceptional surgeon, great rehab facilities, is in great shape, and has the great motivator that is a potential NBA career.
"The question is will it be within the time frame of the basketball season?" Benjamin said.
The only honest answer is maybe.