The NBA playoffs are all that little boys ever dream of—the little boys who want to grow up to be professional basketball players, that is.
The talented few who actually make it have the opportunity to change or at least contribute to the brand of the league.
Then injury creeps into their lives and screws everything up.
Whether from contact or from an awkward landing, injuries seem to latch onto players at season's end and extend into the postseason—a time when they need to be 100 percent for their franchise.
These are the injuries that could change everything in the blink of an eye.
Al Horford used to be the most stable component of Atlanta’s roster.
With Joe Johnson’s place in the franchise being steadily questioned, and Josh Smith’s trade rumors being under a microscope by the media and Atlanta’s own fans, Horford was always the youth and heart of the Hawks that kept the engine fueled and running.
Atlanta has lost its way through this shortened season, and without Horford’s presence around the rim in the playoffs, the Hawks may experience a series that they did not expect coming into the season.
Not to mention, that even if Horford returns in time for the first round, he will barely be in postseason shape.
The Chicago Bulls are handling Derrick Rose’s injury perfectly.
Sitting him instead of allowing him to play through the injury, as Miami is allowing LeBron James to do, is smart, as the primary goal is a championship and not the league’s best record—that is just a casualty of consistency.
Hopefully, for Chicago’s postseason sake, Rose returns at 100 percent.
Putting him back into a rotation that has worked so well without his efforts could be detrimental, or it could run smoothly. It depends on how he is worked back in and how he influences the pace of the game.
One thing is for sure: Rose does not need to hop back into the lineup, jacking up all those jumpers.
As those around him have proven their worth, he should play more unselfishly. That is the only way Chicago has a chance at coming out of the East.
Jermaine O’Neal had a choice to make. Either he would have surgery on his wrist in the middle of the season or at the end.
O’Neal opted to have the surgery midseason and is out indefinitely.
The loss to the Boston Celtics is huge. Boston has been plagued with injuries, and with the most current loss of Mickael Pietrus to concussion, the Celtics will feel the heat of O’Neal’s absence in the postseason.
Chicago brought Richard Hamilton on to take the scoring load off of Derrick Rose, plain and simple.
This fatal flaw was exposed during last year’s playoffs against the Miami Heat, when Rose was stopped in his tracks offensively, and there was barely any other avenue of scoring.
Of course, the Bulls have Luol Deng, who has become this season’s unsung hero for Chicago. Still, the Bulls need Hamilton healthy in the postseason to change the makeup of the squad.
Their exit cannot reflect last year’s.
Chauncey Billups did not get the nickname “Mr. Big Shot” from being a sap when it came to the game's big moments.
The Clippers also did not bring him in to be benched when the franchise needed him most.
The playoffs will be changed drastically for the Clippers, because they are lacking the veteran leadership of Billups, which was vastly underrated.
Ever since his absence, the Clippers have fallen apart at the seams, and there seems to be no end to their collapse.
The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) is reporting that Amar'e Stoudemire has a bulging disk in his back and is out indefinitely.
The New York Knicks can say goodbye to their chances of going deep in the playoffs, because without Amar'e, they do not have nearly enough persistence and polish to push past either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat.
Even with the recruitment of Tyson Chandler from last year’s free agency and the emergence of Jeremy Lin, who is also feeling the weight of injury, the Knicks can’t reach their peak without Stoudemire.
Did you see last year’s playoffs?
While James did not exit the Pacers game, it is speculated that the Miami Heat may want to rest him until crunch time, meaning later in the season for a pre-playoffs push and during the playoffs.
It does not matter that he could miss a few games of the regular season. The ultimate goal has zilch to do with achieving the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Miami is too far ahead to slip out of contention.
The Heat still have Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to account for any gaps James may leave in a short recess. It would give him time to rest his elbow and his finger for when Miami actually needs him.
According to ESPNNewYork.com, Carmelo Anthony said that his groin injury is not as serious as the one he suffered Feb. 6, which kept him out of play for seven games while Linsanity grew to epic proportions.
But any more injuries to New York’s core worries the fans at Madison Square Garden.
Tweaking his groin is not the worst thing that could happen to this franchise, but it sure as hell is not happening at a good time in the season.
With the season coming to a close, and the Knicks attempting to clutch the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, New York is only 2.5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks.
They need Carmelo in tip-top shape with both Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire out of play.
Andre Iguodala is the key to Philadelphia’s perimeter defense, and anything it may be able to accomplish in the postseason.
According to CBS Sports, Iggy’s knee has been bothering him on and off for a month, and now, Philly’s coach Doug Collins has to rest him up for the rest of the season.
The primary question is whether or not Iguodala’s nagging tendinitis will affect him during the playoffs, and if he can play through the pain and be just as productive as he normally would be.
Bynum eventually returned to the game, but it always strikes fear in the hearts of fans when he comes down awkwardly or limps off to the locker room.
Hopefully for the Lakers, he does not experience any knee trauma toward the end of the season or in the playoffs, as he is their most solid offensive option.
Bynum staying healthy is the Lakers’ key to making a deeper and more successful run than last season. The series sweep is an embarrassment that cannot be rewound.