Kyrie Irving and the Most Important Injuries to Watch This Offseason

Joye Pruitt@joyethewarSenior Analyst IJuly 16, 2012

Kyrie Irving and the Most Important Injuries to Watch This Offseason

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    Anthony Davis was named to the 2012 Team USA roster by way of Blake Griffin’s necessary surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee (LA Times) Congratulations to Davis and luck sucks for Griffin even though he will be ready for training camp—a revelation the Los Angeles Clippers have rejoiced about.

    Kyrie Irving broke his right hand during the Cavaliers’ practice in Vegas after slapping the padding on a wall (USA Today). Irving will likely have surgery, but there is not assured timetable on his return until he is examined in Cleveland.

    Griffin and Irving aren’t the only NBA players sidelined by injury after the 2011-12 NBA season. There are eight other men just as influential who have been benched due to surgery or recovery.

    Here are the 10 most important injuries going into the 2012-13 NBA season.

10. Perry Jones III, Sprained Ankle

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    After dropping out of the lottery due to history of injury and questions of his temperament and engine throughout a game, Jones raised eyebrows again this summer when he went to the ground after sustaining a sprained ankle.

    There is zero question that the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted a gem, but his high risk-high reward value worries a lot of fans and executives. The injury put him on the shelf for the rest of the week of Oklahoma City’s game schedule and left the audience wanting so much more.

    If injuries are going to continue to derail Jones, he will never reach the promising level professionally that the Thunder may have hoped he would.

    It is not the most solid start to the summer for the rookie, but he will definitely be prepared to showcase his worth during training camp, barring some other unforeseen circumstances.

9. Daniel Gibson, Torn Tendon in Left Ankle

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers do have more players like Kyrie Irving. It may be hard to recognize this because of how prevalent Kyrie Irving has become due to his talent and celebrity-like presence since his days with Duke.

    But, veteran Daniel Gibson suffered a torn tendon in his left ankle in late March, had surgery and was absent for the rest of the 2011-12 NBA season. It was speculated that the Cavaliers may not even pick up the team option on the last year of his deal, worth roughly $4.8 million, and they have yet to.

    Reports have rarely been released about the timetable surrounding Gibson’s return to the court for the beginning of this offseason’s training camp for Cleveland, but it was expected directly after a successful surgery.

    Gibson’s role in keeping the Cavaliers relevant may not be what it was during LeBron James’ tenure, but with the Cavaliers seemingly working from the Thunder model—building a dynasty through the draft—his experience will play a role.

    That is, if the Cavaliers plan to keep him around long enough. 

8. Eric Maynor, Torn ACL

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    You might remember Eric Maynor.

    Last season, there was a whirlwind response to coach Scott Brooks’ willingness to bench Russell Westbrook in Game 2 of the Dallas-Thunder series that Oklahoma City subsequently lost, in favor of Maynor in the fourth quarter.

    Articles began to circulate around the story as if Maynor would ever grace the starting lineup in place of Westbrook permanently—something Coach Brooks would have never cosigned. Maynor was one of the best backup point guards in the league until earlier this year, after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.

    The difference between Maynor and Westbrook is obvious.

    Westbrook plays the role of the shooting guard with point guard responsibilities while Maynor’s sole role on the floor with Oklahoma City is to be the traditional guard—something the backup does incredibly well. It was a disruption to the Thunder’s lineup that went primarily unnoticed.

    But, imagine the strides that could have been made with the use of Maynor on the floor. His return is going to be important to furthering the development of the young roster. The out in the 2012 NBA Finals was a sting that will be felt until the franchise returns.

    Maynor’s role with the Thunder may not be the most boisterous, but he is a glue guy that only gives Oklahoma City a dynamic edge at the point guard position.

7. Ricky Rubio, Torn ACL

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    We all stand corrected.

    When it was announced the Ricky Rubio would be coming into the league for his first season as an NBA player, noses were turned and the thought of his future was just short of putrid.

    Not many fans expected Rubio to be much of an influence, and if any, he would only be an average passer and semi-athletic body—a boy among men. The Minnesota Timberwolves thank the Basketball Gods that a majority of the world was wrong and bringing Rubio into the franchise was one of the best moves the Timberwolves’ front office had made in a while.

    Then the dream had been cut short. While defending Kobe Bryant during a game with the Los Angeles Lakers, Rubio tore his ACL. It was almost nauseating to watch such an incredible talent come to such a painful and completely unavoidable end to the season.

    Rubio’s performance on the court had turned the Timberwolves into one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the league, although their record echoes nothing of the nature.

    They were primarily competitive in most of their losses, and that had a lot to do with how much Rubio echoed the point values of a Steve Nash or Jason Kidd-caliber guard. Thankfully for fans and Minnesota executives, Rubio’s age, court vision and athleticism affords him a relatively viable recovery time and an upside unscathed by this bump in the road.

    When he returns, Rubio will still be the athletic, traditional point that made the Timberwolves relevant to the public again. His influence over the franchise is untouched, and his return is imminent to Minnesota’s postseason hopes. 

6. Avery Bradley, Right and Left Shoulder Injuries

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    Dwyane Wade is probably one of the best blocking shooting guards in the league, so when he was hammered by Avery Bradley during an April 1 Boston beating the Celtics laid on the Heat, fans noticed.

    The defensive-minded shooting guard was one of the Celtics’ brightest shining stars, next to Rajon Rondo and occasionally Brandon Bass. Like all journeys, there has to be a trial to shake up progress. Bradley’s trial came when he was fouled by Jrue Holiday and his shoulder popped out for the third time this past postseason.

    He was a fighter as he attempted to push through the pain, but surgery became unavoidable to right the wrongs in his shoulders for the betterment of his career in the league.

    Bradley’s season was ended as the Celtics fought through a competitive three games against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, a series in which they could have used Bradley’s agility and athleticism on the wing.

    With his two shoulder surgeries in the past, the timetable on his return is still quite vague, according to CBS Sports.

    Asked when Bradley would again be able to play, coach Doc Rivers said, "It could be early in the season, it could be mid-December. We're just not sure."

    Bradley’s recovery time is a likely candidate in the reason as to why the Celtics are so fervently pursuing Courtney Lee in free agency. His addition would be an upgrade in light of Bradley’s absence, but it may also put an asterisk on Bradley’s playing time when he returns.

    After winning the starting role from Ray Allen, after the veteran sustained an ankle injury, Bradley graced Boston’s starting lineup with a competitive edge and explosiveness Allen was not able to display anymore.

    Lee may push Bradley to the back burner regardless of how soon he returns to basketball activities, so it will be important to watch Bradley’s road to recovery this summer. 

5. Iman Shumpert, Torn ACL

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    The New York Knicks were mediocre before they made a crucial decision in their future in the Eastern Conference. Mike D’Antoni’s direction in the organization was eliminated and former interim head coach Mike Woodson injected a new winning formula into the Knicks’ identity.

    It was a formula that came just in time for a Jeremy Lin injury and an Iman Shumpert coronation as one of the players who will be effective for more than a slew of seven games in New York’s future.

    A shot at Lin?

    It may have seemed that way, but it was more of a boost for the defensive fundamentals and ability to adequately use his athleticism for the greater good of the franchise.

    Shumpert is such a great rookie talent because he rarely tries to outrank the limitations of his skill. The postseason struck him with a blow to the tune of a torn ACL in his left knee and his lateral meniscus in Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Miami Heat.

    Shumpert had a troubling start to his career with an MCL Sprain that knocked him out of the Dec. 25 Christmas opener against the Boston Celtics. Shumpert was undoubtedly tossed into the league’s infernal matchups as a rookie. He was essentially the Knicks’ best option at his position.

    Shumpert has declared that he will not return to basketball play until he was 100 percent, shooting for a January return, while Coach Woodson is a bit more optimistic about Shumpert’s timetable, according to Al Iannazzone.

    He’s still in his brace, Woodson said. He’s moving around awfully well. I’d like to say he’s ahead of schedule. Maybe I’m jumping the gun a little bit too. He’s doing everything that’s asked of him in terms of his rehab. Hopefully he’ll be back on the floor soon.

4. Dwyane Wade, Knee Injury

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    Are fans and analysts finally in agreement that Dwyane Wade is playing second-fiddle to LeBron James? It should be one of the most well-known facts in the league’s database.

    That still doesn’t curve the integrity Wade gives the Miami Heat and the passion and talent he brings them intangibly and via box score.

    His injury that forced him to get his knee drained post-Game 3 of the Indiana Pacers series in the Eastern Conference Playoffs kept him off of Team USA’s roster and under the knife of surgery. It sounds brutal when put in those terms, but Wade will return to the court at the start of the 2012-13 NBA season like a new man.

    According to ESPN, the recovery time is six to eight weeks for the operation that took approximately 20 minutes. Picture a Miami Heat Wade with zero court troubles pertaining to the mother of his children and zero knee complications.

    Wade's mental maturity allowed him to put on his game face throughout the playoffs, but just envision Wade without the trying nature of those issues swirling around him.

    How much more effective could Wade be?

    Watching the Heat on their way to the 2012 NBA Finals and an eventual NBA championship, Wade was never true to his paramount form. If he returns to that dynamic, or at least a lion’s share of it, there is no ceiling to the dynasty that he and LeBron could master in South Beach.

    Regardless of the trade desires that some columnists have been so brash to exhibit for the superstar, Wade is still worth every penny of his contract and is a cornerstone in the Heat franchise that will make further empowering strides towards a repeat next season. Without him, where would Miami be?

3. Kyrie Irving, Broken Hand

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    Kyrie Irving is growing into a protean athlete in the league, and his challenge of Kobe Bryant only echoes how aware he is of his own advancement among the NBA’s elite.

    Is he in a class with Kobe?

    If you think so, then the absolute nature of the game eludes you in a magnitude of ways. Irving has handles and he has the potential to be the leader of a playoff contending franchise, but he’s about five championships, two-time NBA Finals MVPs, an MVP award and 14 All-Star appearances away from Kobe’s class.

    Still, the freak accident that led to a broken hand during a Cavaliers’ practice in Las Vegas is a blemish on his record that probably won’t affect his involvement in training camp in September. Irving means a lot to the Cleveland Cavaliers and their re-emergence to significance in the league after the disheartening exit of a “hometown hero”.

    Irving is not praised as James was when he was selected by an Ohio basketball franchise not too distant from where he was raised. As a star player consistently growing in notoriety, Irving is doing everything in his power to represent the organization in the best way possible—by an example of advancing greatness.

    The fact that a challenge placed on the table by a rookie was even given a second thought by one of the most notable players to ever play the game of basketball says something about the respect Irving’s game has garnered after such a short time in the league.

    Veterans can recognize the real thing, and they can also spot a diminishing headline.

    If Bryant can make himself familiar with Irving’s playmaking abilities, it’s safe to say the rest of the world can follow. 

2. Blake Griffin, Torn Cartilage in Knee

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    Congratulations are in order for Anthony Davis and a shrug of relief for Blake Griffin as the surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee has switched him out for the younger big man.

    Griffin may not be the Clippers’ front man anymore with Chris Paul on the roster, but he is an essential fraction to Vinny Del Negro’s future in Los Angeles and the Clippers’ chances in the playoffs next season.

    After being so criticized for being a one-trick pony, Griffin displayed a few refined post moves and the replica of a mid-range jumper that made him more of an offensive threat than he had been previously.

    Griffin still has a lot to learn before he maxes out his potential as an NBA power forward, and it would be critically damaging to his perception around the league if he did not continue to develop every offseason possible to become the best player his franchise requires.

     Paul is the leader of the team—this is obvious. Still, Griffin is a true big man and in a league where those are few and far between, his strides are momentous. 

1. Derrick Rose, Torn ACL

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    The Chicago Bulls were the best shot the Eastern Conference had at dethroning the Miami Heat until the end of Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Derrick Rose, Chicago’s workhorse, went down in so much pain went zero contact.

    The scariest injuries in the league are those that are accumulated without the physicality of another player. Everyone knew how serious the injury was before reports came out that confirmed what Chicago fans were ultimately afraid of.

    Rose suffered a torn ACL and with his style of play, it was one of the most devastating things NBA fans could have been exposed to at such an imperative point in the postseason.

    Could the Bulls have actually trumped the Miami Heat in a possible Eastern Conference Finals matchup? Maybe not. Heck, probably not.

    Yet, we should have all been treated to the attempt. Rose’s recovery time was set at eight months, but with his brother speaking out about his rehabilitation being ahead of schedule, there is no telling when the NBA will experience another epic Rose acrobatic score (ESPN).

    According to ESPN, famed surgeon Dr. Andrews puts Rose ahead of schedule as well. If Rose could possibly return to the court for the 2012-13 season, it may be of no assistance anyway.

    The Chicago Bulls are in a really dull position without his heroics, and the franchise will be exposed for how much they rely on his efforts. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I wonder how much the Bulls will adore their franchise face in 2013.