By now most of the NBA world knows that Lakers center Andrew Bynum fouled Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace hard on a play close to the basket in the recent game between the 'Cats and Lakers in Los Angeles.
Bynum's elbow broke one of Wallace's ribs and collapsed part of his lung.
Wallace was just released from the Los Angeles hospital where his injury was treated.
His lung is now recovered, but his broken rib will take a while to heal. Even for a tough player like Wallace, a broken rib will keep him from playing for a long time.
The timing for an injury like this to Wallace could not have been worse.
With the recent acquisitions of guard Raja Bell and Boris Diaw from the Phoenix Suns and DeSagana Diop from the Dallas Mavericks, the Bobcats were starting to consistently compete with and beat some of the NBA's elite teams.
They notched wins over the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Portland Trailblazers, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers in mid-January. They also came within a three-pointer that fell about six inches short of beating the Spurs on Martin Luther King Day.
All of a sudden, they looked like a sure contender for the eighth—or maybe even seventh—seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Then Wallace got knocked into next week and then some, by Bynum, on an unsportmanlike cheap shot.
Now the Bobcats aren't playoff contenders.
Wallace plays about 37 minutes per game. That's a ton of minutes, minutes which will be hard to fill. Those 37 extra minutes per game must now be dumped on other players.
This will test the Bobcats' depth at the wing forward position and the stamina of whoever plays some of those minutes, particularly late in the season.
Even for a Larry Brown team, Charlotte could be low on bodies down the stretch.
Wallace is the Bobcats' leading scorer. He averages 16.4 points per game. He knows how to get to the basket, and he can score in all kinds of situations. He was even starting to improve as a free throw shooter when he got hurt.
How do you replace someone as offensively versatile as Wallace? You just don't.
Wallace is the the Bobcats' second-leading rebounder. He grabs about seven boards per contest. The only 'Cat who rebounds better is center Emeka Okafor, who pulls down about 11 rebounds per game.
Wallace's fearlessness allows him to go to the glass hard. His defensive rebounding ability in particular helps minimize how many offensive boards, and therefore easy second-chance points, the opponent gets.
Wallace is Charlotte's best defender when it comes to forcing turnovers. He knows when to go for the steal, and he uses his athleticism to take the ball away from opponents.
When he gets a chance for an easy bucket on the fast break from getting a steal, he always either scores or gets fouled and earns two free throws.
He also uses his incredible jumping ability to block shots more than you'd expect from someone who isn't particularly big.
Gerald Wallace is the complete package. He scores, rebounds, defends, an is an iron man on the court.
The Bobcats have lost their best player in Wallace, and it will be some time before they get him back.
The Bobcats losing Wallace is like the Pacers losing Danny Granger—they have much less of a chance to win without him.
With only 35 games left and currently (as of Jan. 31) five games out of the final playoff spot, in addition to the absence of their best player in the starting lineup, the Charlotte Bobcats will not make the playoffs.
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