Injuries happen in sports. There's no way around them. This NBA season, key injuries have been the story of the year.
Lots of teams are dealing with injured players, but the crazy part is that some date all the way back to last season. Sure enough, certain squads' performances are suffering due to key players being out, and the value of these men is really stepping into the spotlight.
For example, the Chicago Bulls have played some fine basketball without Derrick Rose, but are still not the same team. Their offense is one of the worst in the league, and will not rise from the ashes until the important leader and floor general is back.
And the Minnesota Timberwolves? Well, they might as well be a walking infirmary. Their injuries have their season on the verge of being lost, and those of certain stars of the team rank among the most damaging bumps and bruises in the NBA now.
Ginobili is an excellent shooter and even better defender, but injuries have dogged him throughout his career. Thanks to a strained hamstring suffered in the Spurs' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 13, the three-time champion is on the shelf once again.
Ginobili tweeted his diagnosis following an MRI, and his being back sometime in the next week or so bodes well for the Spurs. However, hamstrings are tricky. For all we know, Ginobili may need another week of rest following the 10-14 days he was expected to miss.
The injury is not necessarily devastating for San Antonio. The Spurs are one of the NBA's deepest teams, and have won the two games that Ginobili has missed. Still, the man's work on both sides of the floor is greatly missed, and head coach Gregg Popovich will be happy to have it back in the lineup soon.
Felton is recovering from a broken right pinkie and according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday, he will have an X-ray once the Knicks return from London. Barring a setback, Felton hopes to play next weekend.
The former Tar Heel initially fractured his finger going after a loose ball in the Knicks' Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, and was playing with bruised hands to begin with. He was told that he would not need surgery and would only miss four to six weeks. In his absence, the Knicks have gone 5-5.
Granted, New York is a deep team and the presence of both Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni helped alleviate the loss of Felton, but the team's performance was still not the same. Instead of having a balanced isolation game, the team instead looked like the Knicks of the Mike D'Antoni era, just throwing up shot after shot and hoping for the best. With Felton's return imminent, the team can hopefully find its way back to the hot start that has them sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference today.
Bogut was recovering from a fractured ankle when the Warriors acquired him from the Milwaukee Bucks at last season's trade deadline, and he did not appear in a game for the team until this season. He has only appeared in four games for Golden State and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, does not want to get back into a game until he has at least one to two weeks of practice under his belt.
The reason Bogut's ankle has taken so long to heal is because he ended up having microfracture surgery on it, the same procedure that turned Greg Oden into an infamous draft bust. Thus, it is understandable why Bogut would want to take his time in coming back.
The Warriors have continued to play well without Bogut, and they currently rank ninth in points scored and third in rebounding. However, rookie Festus Ezeli does not have the same dominant nature that Bogut does when fully healthy, and Golden State ranks 21st in points allowed due to the lack of a reliable and experienced body at the 5. The team has talent, but it's hard to see them really making a lot of noise in the Western Conference without a top-notch center.
The Timberwolves are decimated by injuries, and were just dealt another blow today. As reported by Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, center Nikola Pekovic will be out for a week to ten days after bruising his quad against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17.
Pekovic is only going to miss four or five games, but that is too many with all of the injuries that Minnesota is dealing with. Greg Stiemsma provides solid size at center, but does not have the same low post presence as Pekovic.
He could be back sooner rather than later, but Pekovic's missing time only pushes Minnesota's season potentially closer and closer to becoming lost.
Rose is getting closer and closer to returning from ACL surgery and, as reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls' start point guard is participating in "predictable contact" drills and traveling with the team. Even in his absence, Chicago has played some great basketball and ranks third in points allowed.
This is particularly surprising because after rose initially suffered the injury in the Bulls' first playoff game last season, his team was quickly eliminated by the No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers. Without their team leader getting them the ball, they collapsed in what otherwise could have been a championship season. Thus, their high level of play this season was a pleasant surprise.
Despite their fine defense, however, the Bulls leave something to be desired in the scoring department. Without Rose getting his teammates the ball, the team ranks only 25th in points scored. Granted, the Bulls are not a high-scoring team to begin with, but there is still room for improvement that cannot be accomplished without Rose.
He should be back in the next couple of months, so hopefully he can lead them on a late-season charge.
When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum via the Dwight Howard trade over the summer, they thought they were getting the star the team needed to take the next step forward. Instead, he has yet to play in a game this season due to bone bruises in both knees. According to Dei Lynam of CSN Philly, Bynum has started stepping into his jumpers in practice and could be back by mid-February.
Just how Bynum got hurt initially is a mystery, as he suffers from arthritis and his knees have always been a problem throughout his career.
Regardless of how he injured them this time, the Sixers need Bynum to get well. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have done a good job of keeping Philadelphia afloat despite a recent slump, but the team cannot start reaching its full potential until Bynum steps in and replaces the combination of Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown at center. If he can perform on the same level as he did last year, then the Sixers can finally start to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Williams was doing a great job as a spark scorer for the Hawks this season, but the rest of his season remains up in the air. After spraining his knee against the Brooklyn Nets and being wheeled off the court on January 18, Williams is now awaiting the results of an MRI, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is only listed as day-to-day, but MRIs tend to yield scary results.
The fact that Williams had to be wheeled off the court is scary enough. He isn't as strong an athlete as Paul Pierce, so the odds of him almost instantly getting back on the court are slim.
Moreover, the absence of Williams takes away the Hawks' best scoring option outside of Josh Smith. Devin Harris can help pick up the slack, but is not as consistent as his teammate. Should Williams be out for an extended period of time, the Hawks' slump will likely continue and the team will struggle just to keep pace in the conference race unless another scorer steps up.
Due to a bruised right knee, Varejao has not played since mid-December. He recently had surgery to correct a split in his right quad muscle, and as a result of the bruise, is expected to miss another 6-8 weeks.
The sad part is that injuries are nothing new for Varejao. Ever since joining the league in 2004, he has only reached the 70-game mark three times.
His being out now leaves the Cavaliers without a solid defensive presence in the middle, as Varejao was averaging a league-best 14.4 boards per game at the time of his injury. Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson are all well and good, but lack the tenacity that this man brings to the table. Cleveland needs him healthy in order to start moving forward, but his constantly being hurt has them stuck in neutral.
The time bomb that is Stephen Curry's ankle has finally gone off, as the leader of the Warriors' offense is a combination of day-to-day and out indefinitely. Pretty much, he isn't going to play until his ankle feels better, whether it be tomorrow or two weeks from now. According to Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, Curry is receiving treatments and will see how he feels prior to tonight's game against the New Orleans Hornets.
The sprain was initially suffered in practice, and the fact that Curry has already had two surgeries on it raised some red flags. Long story short, the best way for the Warriors to handle it will be to play it conservative and hope that Curry is just out for a couple of games.
However, the team has suffered without his three-point shooting, defense and leadership at the point. Golden State has gone 0-2 in the games Curry has missed since spraining his ankle again and while Jarrett Jack is not a bad backup by any means, he does not have the same fire or spark that his teammate provides. Throw in that Golden State's offense relies so heavily on its talented point guard, and Curry's absence becomes all the more devastating.
After rushing back from a broken hand earlier in the season, Kevin Love is back on the shelf after suffering the same injury in a game against the Denver Nuggets on January 3. As reported by Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Love had surgery in New York and will spend the next 10 days rehabbing his hand there and miss a total of eight to 10 weeks.
Just when the Minnesota Timberwolves weren't already decimated by injuries, this just served as another twisting of the dagger. Granted, though Love was averaging 18.3 points and 14 rebounds, his percentages were way off. He was shooting 35 percent from the field, 22 percent from long range and just 70 percent from the free-throw line, well below his career marks of 45, 35 and 81.
All bad numbers aside, this injury is absolutely devastating to the Timberwolves. Love is their star player, and him being out leaves them without a vital offensive and defensive spark. Hopefully, the team can maintain pace in the Western Conference and still have a shot at the playoffs upon his return, otherwise 2012-13 will be written off as a lost season.