Will Injuries to Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Change Postseason?
Injuries happen to every team in every sport at any time.
With the NBA regular season winding down and the playoffs rapidly approaching, the league is staring down the possibility that three of its most recognizable and irreplaceable stars could be on the sidelines.
It's a worst-case scenario for the players, their teams and the league as a whole.
No professional team sport in America relies more heavily on "star power" to generate interest and revenue than the NBA. With only five starters per team and rotations that usually run under 10 players, every individual player has a fair amount of impact.
That impact is magnified by stars and superstars.
So when three of the NBA's superstars are felled by injuries, which may keep those players off the court into the postseason, the impact is dramatic and quite possibly NBA Title altering.
How will the injuries to Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose impact the final weeks of the regular season? Will those injuries continue to have impacts in the postseason?
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
As of now, things are looking up in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant has missed four straight games while dealing with an inflamed shin. But he's been cleared to resume running, and it's hoped that he will return before the end of the regular season.
It's still a major concern for the Lakers.
Not only are they battling for playoff position with just six games remaining in the regular season, but if Kobe is much less than 100 percent for the postseason, it would have a major impact on the prospects for a title in the City of Angels.
The Lakers and head coach Mike Brown are now faced with a bit of a dilemma.
Los Angeles is four-and-a-half games back of San Antonio for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They also have only a one-and-a-half game lead over the crosstown rival Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 3 seed.
Under most circumstances, San Antonio's lead with only six games left would be considered nearly insurmountable, but two of those final six games are head-to-head match-ups with the Spurs.
A hot streak by L.A. to finish up the season could make catching San Antonio a real possibility. But even if Los Angeles doesn't catch San Antonio, they still can't afford to allow the Clippers to catch them.
With all the regular season implications, it's easy to forget the playoffs will start as soon as the regular season concludes, and a healthy Kobe for those games is more important than any seeding.
Would any Laker fan feel more comfortable playing with home court advantage without Kobe? Probably not and that sentiment is likely echoed by the other members of the Lakers.
Kobe's injury will keep the Lakers walking a bit of a tightrope for the remainder of the season in hopes they can walk a parade route in late June.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have been dealing with injuries to Derrick Rose all season long. He's already missed 23 games, and it's not a given he won't miss a few more with just seven games remaining in the season.
The Bulls are 16-7 in games Rose has missed, but once the playoffs start, the Bulls won't be able to rely on wins without the reigning NBA MVP.
As of now Rose is healthy and active. He hopes to put the nagging groin and ankle injuries, which have plagued him this season, behind come playoff time.
The Bulls meanwhile have a three-and-a-half game lead over the Miami Heat for best record in the East, and a two game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for best overall record in the NBA.
As long as Rose stays healthy, he will play, but this is a Bulls team that entered the postseason with the best record in the East last year and failed to make it to the Finals.
Tom Thibodeau won't fall prey to chasing regular season wins, if it in any way shape or form jeopardizes the Bulls' prospects for postseason success.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
A few days ago it seemed like almost everything that could happen to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic had happened.
Except an injury.
Well, you can cross that one off your list now.
Howard will miss at least two weeks trying to recover from a herniated disk in his back. Following the two weeks of rest, he'll be re-evaluated, so two weeks may very well end up being longer.
This would in all likelihood cripple the Orlando Magic as they prepare for what was already expected to be a difficult postseason.
The Magic are currently a sixth seed, and the loss of Howard would seem to make the potential for moving up from that spot remote.
What's not remote now is the potential to fall lower in the playoff seedings. The Magic have only played five games without Howard this season and their record is 1-4.
Orlando holds a three-game lead over New York.
But there's seven games left to be played, and five are road games, including match-ups against the Celtics and the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Magic would really like to hold that sixth seed which, would allow them to avoid a first-round match up with the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls.
The current time frame for recovery will also cause Howard to miss the start of the first round of the playoffs.
That's not encouraging for a team that's been engulfed in drama over Howard's contract and their coach's relationship with management and their star player.
What was already shaping up to be a tough postseason, just got a whole lot tougher.