The Celtics have had their fair share of injuries so far this season with not one player playing in every single game.
Earlier in the season, it was the guards who were dropping like flies. However, now it is the frontcourt of the Celtics that has been decimated by injuries. Currently, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett are out with injuries and Jermaine O'Neal has just recently returned from an injury of his own.
Generally, we have been taught a basic formula: injuries=bad. But sometimes, you need to look beyond the surface and how the injuries will affect the team in the long run and what the short-term implications are.
For the Celtics, these injuries will hurt them in the short term, or at least however long it takes before they are at full health. Not only will they lose more games, but they will also lose some continuity that it took them a while to earn this season.
Unfortunately, in this shortened season, the few extra games lost because of the injuries could hurt the Celtics' chances at landing a desirable seed for the playoffs.
However, if you look beyond these negative effects of the injuries, there is a silver lining. With every injury comes opportunity. And veteran Chris Wilcox and rookie JaJuan Johnson have seized the opportunity for more minutes and thrived in their increased roles.
Wilcox was one of the big free-agent signings by the Celtics in the short offseason, and up until Garnett and Bass went down, it seemed like a bad move. Since being entered into the starting lineup, though, Wilcox has elevated his play and has really shown what he can do for this team.
In the past two games, he has scored 11 and 17 points respectively while also coming one rebound short of a double-double in both games. More importantly, though, he finally looks comfortable out there.
He is running the floor like a gazelle and, as a result, has developed a nice connection with Rondo in the transition game. On more than one occasion, he has sprinted past nearly every defender on the court and, with his soft hands, caught and finished an alley-oop from Rondo.
Wilcox could be a big part of a playoff run and will be counted on for frontcourt depth and scoring off the bench. And up until the injuries to Garnett and Bass and a spot in the starting lineup, it seemed he would never reach that potential. Now it seems quite likely.
JaJuan Johnson is another player who has benefited from the injuries ahead of him, regardless of the fact that he, unlike Wilcox, will unlikely be a factor in a playoff run. Still, though, his progress is a welcome sign to all Celtics fans that are concerned about the impending rebuilding process that the Celtics will soon undergo.
Of all the rookies drafted in the Big Three era, Johnson seems to be the most promising in his rookie season. He has a jump shot that mirrors Kevin Garnett's and great athleticism. The one obvious knock on JaJuan is his rail-thin build, but with the work he has done and will continue to do with legendary trainer Tim Grover (the guy who trained Michael Jordan) that will no doubt be fixed.
More than any other player, Johnson has made use of his minutes. In every game that he has played more than ten minutes, he has scored in double digits; that is pretty incredible. And while this success and playing time will not likely translate to the playoffs, this is still great for the young man's confidence and a good sign for us fans, as Johnson could be a mainstay on this Celtics team.
With all things considered, I honestly think that these injuries will, in the long run at least, help this Celtics team. Sure, they will lose a few games, but there is no way to be sure that they wouldn't lose the games anyways. And besides, these injuries are only temporary.
What's most important now is developing depth and continuity among the bench players. You usually know what you are going to get from the starters, but the bench, particularly the big men on the bench, has been a wild card.
For Wilcox and Johnson, this opportunity has hopefully helped them develop the consistency and continuity to help the Celtics on a nightly basis. And if that is the case, then I will take the couple losses now in return for more wins later in the season behind the bench play of Wilcox and potentially Johnson.
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