With the NBA season about a week away from starting, injury lists are causing some bleak outlooks.
Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Andrew Bynum, Andrew Bogut, Amare Stoudemire and Steph Curry (gasp) are all on the shelf. Some of these injuries occurred recently, others have lingered, but no matter when they happened, these players hold playoff hopes in their hands.
Rose was not expected back anytime soon for the Chicago Bulls and he himself has questioned when, or even if, he will be back for this regular season. Rose means more to the Bulls than any other player on any team and a long absence may cost the Bulls, who was the top seed in the East the last two seasons, a playoff spot.
Bynum has had more shots in his leg than the entire Delta Pi fraternity has during spring break. Bynum went for the Germany procedure in his ailing knee and he hasn't seen the court yet for the Philadelphia 76ers. His offseason acquisition was supposed to elevate Philadelphia into the upper tier of East contenders, but instead, the only elevation taking place is on Bynum's iced leg.
Stoudemire has a cyst in his left knee, the same one that had microfracture surgery in the fall of 2005. He is expected to be out two to three weeks. The New York Knicks open with Brooklyn, Miami and two with Philly, so the margin of error isn't large.
Nowitzki finally had his troublesome right knee operated on and first reports said the Dallas Mavericks star would be out six weeks, although some reports indicate three now.
Love broke his right hand doing knuckle push-ups, so the morale of that story is to never do those. He won't need surgery, which is good, but he's gone until Christmas most likely.
That leaves the Golden State Warriors duo of Bogut and Curry. Bogut is on track to return after a surgically repaired fractured ankle, but no one is saying if he'll ready for the opener. And Curry sprained his right ankle, which apparently has the molecular strength of potato chips. It's the same ankle he had operated on last season.
Those are the big injuries, but each leaves its own set of problems.
The Bulls and Sixers can make the playoffs without Rose or Bynum.
Chicago has been planning their season without Rose and, with the addition of Kirk Hinrich, can stay afloat with Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. The Bulls will be a bottom seed in the playoffs without Rose. The East is strong, but getting to eight isn't easy and Chicago can sneak right on in to the postseason.
Same for Philadelphia, which is a deep team. Bynum may not miss any time, but he hasn't played with his new teammates and the longer he's away, the less beneficial it is for the Sixers. In the Atlantic Division, Philly can fall behind while working Bynum into the mix.
The Stoudemire injury is the least severe, most likely, and offers the least amount of recovery time. But, like the Sixers, the Knicks have enough to handle a period of time without Amare. Truth be told, with the potential personality clashes, New York might thrive with Stoudemire in a suit on the bench.
Out west, these injuries hurt much worse.
Dallas, Golden State and Minnesota would be in a fight for the final two spots, presumably alongside Utah.
If Nowitzki only misses three weeks, Dallas can survive. Like Rose, the German is in that rarified group of players that is the life blood of his team. A prolonged Nowitzki absence means the Mavericks miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Love's broken hand cripples Minnesota's chance, but so does Ricky Rubio's recovery from a knee ligament tear. Both could be back at the beginning of December, but can the Timberwolves survive without them? Minnesota has done well in recent seasons restructuring the roster, but they can't overcome these two out until Christmas. Luke Ridnour is a fine player, Andrei Kirilenko is a nice addition. Derrick Williams might develop, but the primary weapon becomes Brandon Roy. It's almost a league rule to include Roy in anything having to do with injuries.
Pop quiz - what has more cartilage in its knees, Brandon Roy, or the Lincoln Memorial? Trick question - neither has any.
And where do you start with the Warriors' duo? Curry and Bogut are two of the most injury-prone athletes in the world. Can you feel good if you are the Warriors with those two guys out for an extended period of time? Together and healthy, Golden State has a great roster. Without them, it's time to talk ping-pong balls. Most teams would be like that without its center and point guard, but Curry and Bogut are the Warriors' best players.
With six teams (Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies) virtual locks for the playoffs, that leaves two teams. Golden State, Minnesota and Dallas would be battling if healthy, so these injuries are potentially devastating.
Playoff spots are determined by a paper-thin margin. All of these teams have time. Rose's comeback should be the longest, so every other squad can make up for lost ground.
But, if these absences are too long, it's lottery time.
- Dwight Howard returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup Sunday night and they lost, dropping their preseason record to 0-6. But who cares? Howard had 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Los Angeles will be just fine this season, no worries.
- Anyone else tired of hearing Ray Allen bicker about the Boston Celtics? He left, it's over, everyone move on. Allen told Miami's WMEN, in part, "We had to go. Miami was a better choice for us based on what the team was doing, so it wasn't, don't boo me, boo the team in a sense. Now it's out of my control." Stop. You left the team, for your own reasons. Celtics' fans may boo you, but they aren't going to take into account your treatment. Don't be naive, Ray.
- The Times-Picayune is reporting that No. 1 pick Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Hornets is already having plays designed for him and his jump-shooting is improved. A well-rounded offensive game could make Davis even more dominant than originally anticipated.
- Movie moment - Worst movie accents: Nicolas Cage in "Con Air," Kevin Costner whose accent goes in and out in "Robin Hood," and Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for "Michael Clayton" and her British accent reappears in a scene where she's jogging.
- TV moment - Worst TV accents: Anyone on "True Blood."