Crucial Injuries Swaying the 2013 NBA Playoff Race

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2013

Crucial Injuries Swaying the 2013 NBA Playoff Race

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    The NBA playoffs tip off this weekend, and with the playoff picture nearly set in stone, we're all starting to realize what a bummer injuries have made the end of the season.

    Obviously the biggest news of the past week has been that Kobe Bryant will miss the remainder of the season and a chunk of the next one with a torn Achilles tendon, giving the Los Angeles Lakers a bit of a disadvantage if they end up making the playoffs.

    That's been the story of the season, however, as nearly half of the presumed playoff field is going to be without a player for the duration of the playoffs, while at least half will be somewhat hobbled coming in.

    Chicago continues to wonder about Derrick Rose, Boston is missing a few players and the league as a whole has been defined this season by a wealth of injured knees, ankles, feet, shoulders, fingers and toes.

    Some teams have been affected more than others, but the biggest victims seem to be the fans, as some of our favorite players will be sitting on the bench for the playoffs.

8. Lou Williams' Knee

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    Lou Williams doesn't exactly scream "star," but when you look at what he was doing for the Atlanta Hawks, it seems obvious that they're a better team with him as an option.

    A solid 22-17 with Williams in the lineup, they're a bit of a step back at 22-19 ever since.

    Williams was the team's leading scorer off the bench, averaging 14 points per game and enjoying a season that would have at least put him in the conversation for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

    He ended up tearing his ACL in late January, and the Hawks are hoping that he's ready to return to the team at the start of next season.

7. Danny Granger's Short Stint

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    The Indiana Pacers have been without Danny Granger for most of the season, so seeing them play without him in the playoffs is going to be no different than it was for the rest of the year.

    But there's no doubt that they're missing something without Granger.

    His injury forced Paul George to step up and become the team's leader while David West helped pick up the slack and Lance Stephenson came into his own, but it's hard to say that they wouldn't be better without him on the floor.

    Granger played just five games midseason before re-aggravating a knee injury that ended up requiring surgery near the end of March.

    Even coming off the bench, Granger would give the Pacers another offensive weapon that they're currently lacking.

6. San Antonio's Limp Parade

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    The San Antonio Spurs have a few key injuries that will definitely have some sort of carryover effect into the playoffs, but they've also got a bench deep enough to make up for some of their various scrapes and sores.

    Manu Ginobili's hamstring has done its best to keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, but he could be ready to play a few games before season's end. Even still, it seems like he'll end up feeling some residual impact through the rest of the playoffs.

    More serious will be the injury to Boris Diaw, who underwent back surgery just a few days ago and should be out for close to a month.

    Most frustrating for San Antonio has to be the lasting effects of Tony Parker's ankle injury. Parker still seems to have a bit of trouble achieving a full range of motion.

5. Amar'e and the Knicks' Big Fellows

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    While the New York Knicks are finally starting to get healthy again, they've still got to deal with the fact that most of their bigger players have something ailing them.

    In fact, as far as big guys go, the only completely healthy member of the Knicks would be Chris Copeland, although I suppose Steve Novak is as well if you consider him a big guy.

    Amar'e Stoudemire played for just over a month before he ended up needing another knee surgery. Hopes are high in New York, however.

    Donnie Walsh said he believes Stoudemire can make it back for the playoffs "because I've never seen a guy day in & day out work on his body

    — Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 14, 2013

    Tyson Chandler will be back for the start of the playoffs after fighting a bulging disk in his back, Marcus Camby is finally getting near available to play and Rasheed Wallace played four minutes against the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night before sitting back down with a sore foot.

4. Danilo's ACL

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    While the Denver Nuggets were worried about when they would get Ty Lawson back from his torn plantar fascia, they never expected one of their most reliable shooters to go down with an injury that would keep him out well into next season.

    That's exactly what happened at the start of the month when Danilo Gallinari came into the lane against the Dallas Mavericks and inexplicably went down.

    He had torn his ACL.

    With everybody starting to get geeked about the Nuggets as possible dark-horse contenders out of the Western Conference, fate threw in a curveball.

    Not only that, but they're also dealing with an ankle injury to Kenneth Faried, who will now be out for the next two games.

3. Rajon Rondo and Boston's Aches

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    The Boston Celtics went on a big run after the fall of Rajon Rondo, but to say that they're a better team without him is incredibly short-sighted. They're a different team without him that's still capable of winning games, sure, but they're not better.

    Rondo tore his ACL in late January as the Celtics were struggling to hold onto a playoff spot, and it looked as if their season was more or less over.

    Move forward a few days, and news came down from the Celtics that Jared Sullinger, one of the bright spots of the season, would need back surgery.

    As the season comes to a close, they've been alternating games without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and even going without both for a handful of games as both players deal with ankle injuries.

2. Los Angeles' Achilles' Heel

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    The Los Angeles Lakers have dealt with injuries all season long, but there has been one constant, for the most part.

    Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace have all missed significant time, but nobody ever thought that Kobe Bryant would go down for an extended period of time.

    As we all know now, Kobe tore his Achilles, the Lakers lost him for the rest of the season at least and now it seems as if they've got absolutely no chance of making any noise in the playoffs, even though their chances were slim beforehand.

    If that's not enough, the Lakers will continue to make their way without Hill, who is out for the season, and might have to find a way to make due without Nash, depending on his prognosis.

1. Rose's Ongoing Uncertainty

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    One of the most well-documented injuries of the year is easily Derrick Rose's torn ACL.

    If you can think back all the way to a year ago, you'll remember that Rose tore his ACL on a simple, plain old jump step in the first game of the playoffs in the waning minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Rose has slowly worked his way back into playing shape, but he's still not up to returning to the court even after being cleared to play in early March.

    Of course, that's not the only injury troubles the Bulls have faced coming down the stretch.

    Joakim Noah has battled plantar fasciitis, Taj Gibson picked up a balky left knee in March that has come back to bother him and Rip Hamilton has missed huge time with a lower back injury.

    Still, the Bulls have survived, they've made due and they're limping their way into the playoffs with their heads held high.