Injuries and Fatigue Will Determine Who Wins the NBA Championship This Season

Carlos IglesiaContributor IIIJanuary 1, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 13:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts after an injury in the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on April 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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We all know who are the usual suspects to win it all this season. The Miami Heat, Oklahoma Thunder, Chicago Bulls or LA Lakers—and then some. 

There are also surprising young teams such as Charlotte or Minnesota, as the Miami Heat just found out, barely escaping with one and two point victories. 

But this season is not your regular "regular season." There are 66 compressed games in a grueling schedule after the infamous NBA lockout. 

Experienced teams with experienced coaches are gearing up for that the best they can. Coach Rick Carlisle and veteran Dirk Nowitzki know what's ahead, and they are taking it easy. They have already declared as much publicly. Plus the incumbent Champs are clearly in rebuilding mode this truncated season, after dispatching Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler, no less.

So teams like the Miami Heat should not be too excited about a few extremely close wins thus far.

Take the Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce is already down with injuries, which helped the Miami Heat barely beat the Celtics recently. 

Take the Miami Heat: Super Star D. Wade is already suffering from nagging foot ailments and has already been sidelined. His level of play during an entire game is clearly affected this early on. 

I personally doubt D. Wade will make it in one piece this entire condensed and insane NBA season. Players like him, approaching 30 dog years of age in the NBA, will be fatigued and bumped-up, if not completely injured and on the bench come the month of June. 

We are talking multiple back-to-back games, entire weeks packed with eight games in 12 nights. Exhausting on the road scheduled trips. 

Remember what happened in the 1998, 50 game season? Sloppy play and players extremely tired or injured, left and right. Ugly season.

This is what you can expect now. Tight games, many upsets on the road and sloppy and ugly basketball during this insane regular season. 

And numerous injuries to key players on most teams. You can take that to the bank right now.

Much more so than during a regular 82 game season, with plenty of time to recover between games. And much less of a sense of urgency to build up a top record for the post-season seeding, hoping for home-court advantages.

If you've ever played a full-court game of basketball for 15 minutes (let alone 48 NBA minutes), you begin to have an idea of what it takes—physically and mentally. It's almost as devastating as several rounds of boxing. The painful toll on the legs, arms and feet is immediate. Try it yourselves in real life, not just TV games. 

It's not like swimming or tennis. Basketball is more like running long distance, except with even more pounding to the extremities, the back and the hands. It's more like football, I suppose, but I never played that. Lots of pounding and tough hits, every game. 

If you're a smart head coach, you should be extra careful and prudent this special NBA season. Save your best players and limit their minutes, even if it costs a few game losses here or there. Think with perspective for the long haul and the playoffs.

That's what veteran teams like the Dallas Mavericks or even the Chicago Bulls seem to be doing. 

Teams that have a deep bench will also be favored and in a better position to win it all this season. Teams which rely too heavily on just two or three players, such as the Miami Heat, will have a tough run at it.

Especially if an indispensable player like D. Wade or Chris Bosh goes down. They would be toast.

So anything can happen this season, such as a New York Knicks-Los Angeles Clippers finals. Or what have you.

Whomever is fresh and healthy for the playoffs can win. And not many teams will be.