Disaster Plan for Each NBA Playoff Team Surviving Their Injury Woes
Generally, NBA teams that have emerged from a full regular season in playoff position have done so—in part—because they've had good luck on the injury front.
The 2012-13 season, though, has been a little bit unusual.
Of the 16 clubs currently slated to make the postseason, half of them are dealing with legitimate injuries to significant rotation players. And in some cases, those teams have made it all the way to the cusp of the playoffs, despite the absences of some of their very best personnel.
With April around the corner, now's not the time for a "woe is me" attitude. Instead, these teams need to form their own disaster plans in the event that injuries persist and help isn't on the way.
Here's what every playoff team has to do in order to survive its injury troubles—now and in the postseason.
San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili's right hamstring
The San Antonio Spurs function very much like a machine as it is, so it shouldn't be too difficult to swap in a couple of new components for the one that's presently malfunctioning.
Ginobili may be sidelined for a while, as he left the Spurs' March 29 contest against the L.A. Clippers and didn't return, despite the fact that his club was locked in a tight game that went down to the wire. At least for the time being, we know he's not suiting up in the immediate future.
Injury report: Manu Ginobili (strained right hamstring) will not play tomorrow vs. Miami. A timeline for his return has not been set.— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 30, 2013
It's a good thing the Spurs have Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green ready to take up Ginobili's minutes. With the younger, more athletic duo more than capable of exceeding the veteran guard's production—which has been the worst since his rookie year more than a decade ago—the Spurs are in fine shape.
In fact, the increased usage of Leonard and Green is more of a natural step into the future than it is a disaster plan.
New York Knicks
—Tyson Chandler's bulging disk
—Amar'e Stoudemire's right knee surgery
Stoudemire is sure to be shelved until at least the first round of the playoffs, and even when he returns, it's unlikely he'll be capable of playing at even the slowed-down pace he showed in his cameo this year. After so many knee surgeries, there comes a point at when it's unrealistic to expect a full recovery.
We're at that point now.
More significantly, Chandler is still out with a bulging disk in his neck. There were rumblings that he might be ready for the Knicks' game against the Charlotte Bobcats on March 29, but he wasn't quite able to give it a go.
The plan for the Knicks to survive without two of the front-court players they thought would be instrumental parts of their roster is really a pretty simple, two-step deal. They'll have to play small and hope that Kenyon Martin continues to provide adequate performance as an undersized center.
New York has won seven straight, albeit against a marshmallow-soft schedule, so it's in pretty good shape as it heads toward the postseason.
Small ball is a gimmicky way to go, and it tends to be even less effective in the playoffs, but the Knicks may have no choice but to keep running and gunning if their bigs don't get healthy.
Danny Green's knee surgery
Paul George already had the keys to the Indiana Pacers' car, now he's going to get the deed and title, too.
Danny Granger played in just four games this year as tendonosis kept him in a perpetual state of rehab all season. Now, with surgery ending his season, Granger isn't going to ride in and give the Pacers the big scoring boost on the wing they hoped he'd provide.
Realistically, Indiana had been doing just fine without its former All-Star, so little is going for it down the stretch.
George was already "the man" on an interim basis. Now, the title's permanent.
—Derrick Rose's knee
—Joakim Noah's foot
Without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls really have no plan. The loss of an MVP changes things, and for the Bulls, Rose's absence essentially puts a glass ceiling over the team's potential this season. If he rejoins the lineup at some point over the season's final 11 games, Chicago becomes a championship contender.
If he doesn't, they remain a feisty matchup with little chance of threatening the conference finals.
Noah's plantar fasciitis is a more manageable issue, though.
Nazr Mohammed will have to continue providing decent minutes as long as Noah's out, and he's done a decent job in the four games Noah has missed over the past two few days. But the real solution is going to be a heavy dose of Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer in the lineup together.
The Bulls like to play with conventional lineups, but they may be forced to feature a couple of power forwards instead of a traditional 4-5 combo up front.
If Jimmy Butler can stabilize his up-and-down play at the shooting guard position, he'll be a big help, too.
Kevin Garnett's left ankle
We already know the Boston Celtics' plan for Garnett: They're going to rest him for a couple of weeks in hopes that he'll have the use of both of his legs in the postseason.
That's a solid strategy, particularly because the Celtics absolutely can't compete against the East's top teams without their fiery leader.
For now, though, Boston will trot out a frontcourt rotation that will feature a heavy dose of Jeff Green alongside Brandon Bass. The Celtics have won two straight, despite the rebounding and defensive shortcomings of that duo.
Paul Pierce will have to continue to step up, and his triple-double in the Celtics' last game was a good start. Boston has dealt with plenty of adversity in recent seasons, and with the loss of Rajon Rondo earlier this year, it has proven that it knows how to handle tough injury situations.
That'll be a valuable skill for as long as KG is out.
James Harden's ankle/foot
Harden missed the Houston Rockets' game against the L.A. Clippers on March 30, but his absence clearly didn't alter Kevin McHale's offensive strategy.
Houston stayed as committed to its run-and-gun style as ever, fast-breaking its way to yet another solid offensive performance.
It doesn't appear that Harden's ailment is a major one. Instead, the Rockets are probably adopting the course that the Celtics (and others) seem to be favoring when it comes to their stars: taking a cautious approach in advance of the playoffs.
If Harden does have to miss significant time, Houston will continue to try to outscore its opponents, likely with Carlos Delfino and Patrick Beverley picking up a few extra minutes along the way. That could be an effective strategy, as Omer Asik will still be in the middle and Jeremy Lin will still be pushing the tempo and getting into the paint.
No amount of tweaking will offset Harden's absence, though.
The Rockets' system makes them dangerous, but their All-Star shooting guard makes them deadly.
Los Angeles Lakers
—Kobe Bryant's ankle/foot
—Steve Nash's hip
—Dwight Howard's back/shoulder
—Pau Gasol's feet/knees
—Metta World Peace's knee
—Antawn Jamison's wrist
—You get the idea...
Any real plan to fix the L.A. Lakers' injury woes would probably require a few prayers and a whole lot of duct tape.
But even divine intervention and some handyman ingenuity might not be enough to sort out the laundry list of maladies afflicting the Lakers. Virtually every rotation player is either in the midst of or recovering from a fairly serious boo-boo.
And there's no sense in looking toward the bench for help. Based on Mike D'Antoni's ultra-short rotation, he knows that the cupboard is basically bare.
So, L.A. is simply going to have to suck it up and hope that the minor injuries both Bryant and Nash are dealing with don't turn into anything more significant.
If there's any silver lining to the Lakers' comically long injury list, it's that they won't need to devise any new plans to compensate for their physical limitations. They've been patching themselves up all season long.