Injuries with Devastating Impacts on NBA Teams

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2012

Injuries with Devastating Impacts on NBA Teams

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    Injuries in the NBA are like scales played on a piano. Some are minor and some are major.

    Certain injuries are run-of-the-mill nicks and bruises that leave a player "day-to-day," but others are nagging ailments that hamper performance all season long. Still others yield the dreaded phrase, "no timetable for his return."

    While losing some players can be like addition by subtraction—serving to modify a team's rotation and elevate the play of the remaining roster—other injuries can absolutely devastate a franchise.

    The injuries listed here vary between minor and major, new and old, but each is devastating to the team in question. Here are seven ruinous injuries to players not named Derrick Rose (which has already been covered in an unwise and possibly jinxing Adidas commercial).

Danny Granger

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    The Indiana Pacers are a team on the rise. They're talented enough to take on anyone in the Eastern Conference, including the Miami Heat.

    But you need to score to win games.

    Danny Granger has been Indy's leading scorer for the past five seasons, but now he's on the shelf for three months due to patellar tendinosis, which sounds a lot worse than "jumper's knee."

    Without Granger, midnight has struck and the Pacers have turned into pumpkins. They have one of the worst scoring averages in the league (through 13 games, they are averaging the fifth fewest points) and are struggling to even reach .500.

    David West and George Hill are not talented enough to lead this team every night, and head coach Frank Vogel needs to figure something out quickly. The Pacers will likely still make the playoffs, but if they limp in, their low seed could doom them to an early exit.

Kyrie Irving

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    After I attended the Cleveland Cavaliers game against the Brooklyn Nets, I wrote that the Cavs have precisely two players: Anderson Varejao (who had a career-best performance) and Kyrie Irving.

    Well, now they're down to one player.

    According to the Associated Press, Irving has a broken left index finger and will miss at least a month (via the Lancaster Eagle Gazette). He broke it on Nov. 17 against Dallas and finished the game after X-rays did not reveal an injury. He struggled with his ball-handling and a subsequent MRI showed the fracture.

    Irving is absolutely electric. Last year's Rookie of the Year draws gasps of excitement and coos of pleasure even from the opposition's fans. He is irreplaceable.

    His absence leaves Cleveland severely short-handed and places a ton of pressure on one of the NBA's most inexperienced rosters.

    Irving's injury transforms the Cavs from a mediocre team to a terrible team, and they can only pray for Kyrie's speedy recovery. 

Steve Nash

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    When Steve Nash teamed up with Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant this offseason, many oddsmakers used permanent ink to write down the Los Angeles Lakers as Western Conference champions. 

    Well, Nash played just two games before getting injured and the Lakers stumbled out of the blocks. Then the coach was fired. 

    And now, the "small" fracture in Nash's left fibula sounds as bad as the phrase "broken leg" does. 

    Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles reported on Wednesday that there is now no timetable for Nash's return. New coach Mike D'Antoni sounds unperturbed, but Lakers fans likely don't feel as nonchalant. D'Antoni stated:

    He feels some nerve endings that are tingling and when they go away, we'll start ramping it up and he'll be fine. Whether it's tomorrow or next week or next month, we'll just take our time and he'll eventually be there. As soon as he gets there, I know, give him an hour and a half and he'll have the offense down and running it like a clock. So we can wait on that.

    You would think D'Antoni would know the value of team chemistry (especially after resigning from the New York Knicks in the middle of last season), but evidently that can wait until next week. Or next month. Or next year. 

    The Lakers are still brimming with talent even without Nash, but their goal is not to be quite good. It's to win a championship. D'Antoni will need the two-time MVP point guard to do so.

    Meanwhile, the Lakers' crosstown rivals are looking really, really good. GM Mitch Kupchak might want to call the Clippers about Eric Bledsoe.

Andrew Bynum

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    Andrew Bynum took his talents to Philadelphia this offseason as part of the Dwight Howard megatrade, and the 76ers shipped off their best player in Andre Iguodala to acquire the temperamental center.

    Bynum has yet to appear in a game and so far has contributed only with his follicles on the sideline. 

    There has been a lot of wisecracking about Bynum's knees, especially after it was reported by ESPN that he had injured his healthier knee while bowling, a sport that many less-than-athletic people excel at. 

    Now, the media has picked up a story in which a doctor who has no specific knowledge of Bynum's medical file speculated that he could need season-ending surgery.

    Jason Wolf of The Delaware News Journal reported that an "internationally respected" orthopedic surgeon believes—solely on the basis of publicly released information—that Bynum’s knee problem could be stemming from “osteochondritis dessicans lesions” and may need surgery that would require the center to rehabilitate for up to a year.

    Well, I'm no doctor, but that would be awful for Philly. They are currently averaging the fewest points per game in the entire NBA through their first 12 contests. 

    Despite a 7-5 record so far, their playoff hopes in an improved Eastern Conference would be slim without Bynum. 

John Wall

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    Everyone knows that the Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in the league last year. In fact, they were the worst NBA team ever, ending 7-59. 

    But this year, the Bobcats have already stacked up six wins, which leaves the crown of the absolute worst firmly on the heads of the Washington Wizards. 

    And that is not set to change anytime soon with John Wall sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. The talented point guard is the only thing standing between the team merely being bad and them being historically awful.

    The Wizards are 0-10. And counting.

Dirk Nowitzki

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    The Dallas Mavericks did not have a very good offseason. They failed in their pursuit of Deron Williams, and both Jason Terry and Jason Kidd departed for the Eastern Conference. But the Mavs also made some shrewd moves and looked promising heading into the season. 

    Then Dirk Nowitzki had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in late October.

    The procedure will keep him out until mid-December at least, and his rehab has been slow thus far (per AP, via USA Today).

    Dallas isn't completely lost, as they brought in O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman to offer some offense. But Elton Brand is no Dirk. Vince Carter torpedoed the New York Knicks on Nov. 21, but he can't be counted on regularly.

    Barring any setback, Nowitzki will return to his old form. He's a lock to drop 20-plus points a night and shoulder heavy minutes, but the Mavs need him to come back ASAP. So far, they've posted the fourth-worst scoring defense in the league.  

    With James Harden in Houston, a proficient defense in Minnesota and a lengthy lineup in Utah, Dallas' playoff hopes hang in the balance without Dirk.  

Andrew Bogut

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    It's still early in the season, but somehow, through 12 games the Golden State Warriors have a better record than the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Essentially, it's inexplicable. So far, Stephen Curry has been an offensive beast and David Lee is averaging a double-double. Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry have also been strong contributors.

    But Andrew Bogut has only appeared in four games thus far, and he hasn't played since Nov. 7 as he continues to rehab his surgically repaired left ankle.

    According to Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times, Bogut has been shut down, and Thompson speculated that Bogut could be out until January. He will likely return sooner than that, but the team has already brought him back too soon once this year before shutting him down earlier this month, so they should exercise caution.

    Coach Mark Jackson stated that the team is "going to stay true to the rehab and try to get him as strong as possible." Based on Jackson's comment, it seems possible that Bogut could never be 100 percent this season even once he returns, and that would doom the Warriors' playoff chances.

    Despite the hot start, Golden State desperately needs Bogut to return to the double-double form he averaged in Milwaukee if they are to sustain their early success. Otherwise, their future rests solely on Curry's surgically repaired ankle and a shaky defense.

    Note: all statistics accurate as of Nov. 22.

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