NBA Injury Report: Playoff Pain for Kevin Garnett, Jeremy Lin, Joakim Noah, More
The playoffs don't stop the injuries, as players like Kevin Garnett and Jeremy Lin are learning. It's common sense—more games mean more chances to get injured and more time to be worn down. Then again, it is more time and that means a player like Amare Stoudamire gets a few more days to heal up and maybe get back for the next round.
That means the medical staffs are working hard, perhaps even harder since a playoff share is a much bigger deal to them than the multi-million dollar guys. Yes, playoff bonuses are one of the things that everyone looks forward to and while they'll never admit it, it's a motivator.
Work gets tougher inside the playoffs due to the uncertain schedule. Days off are mixed, the schedule can get compressed but with a quick series or even a sweep, teams worry about keeping themselves sharp, which can lead to injuries from change in usage or even practice injuries if they get a bit spirited. Yes, the playoffs add to the uncertainties a medical staff deals with the rest of the season.
As the NBA continues to look for some competitive series and the teams push towards the next round, let's take a look around the Association at the injuries affecting the results:
Kevin Garnett (HIP)
A bruised iliac crest sounds a little manlier than "hip pointer" I've always thought, but for anyone that's had one, they know that silly name or not, it's painful. Kevin Garnett suffered the injury in a tough Game 2, but it doesn't look like it will hold him out long or cost him quickness.
Doc Rivers told the media (via CSN New England) that not only would Garnett be back for Game 3 on Friday, he's expected to practice in full on Thursday. Injuries like this can often tighten up a bit overnight, but we can assume that the Celtics have a good handle on this one if Rivers is being that confident.
A hip pointer often costs a player a bit of quickness. When they step or jump, the feel of the bruise is just enough to keep the autonomous nerves from firing without that brief thought of "ow, that hurts. Should we be doing this?" Look for Garnett to be just a beat slow, which could cost him some rebounds and some defensive prowess in the paint. The Celtics' odds of a comeback just got a bit longer with this injury.
Amare Stoudemire (KNEE)
Willis Reed is not walking through that door, but Amare Stoudemire might be. And let's face it, Willis Reed hasn't played in a while and doesn't have the mobility he once did.
Stoudemire is getting closer to a comeback after knee surgery to clean up his chronic knee issues. The rehab was expected to take four to six weeks, though when Stoudemire had a similar procedure on the other knee, it took him right at two months. He's in the middle of that window now and things look promising.
Stoudemire won't be back for this round, but up 2-0, there doesn't seem to be a need for him. Mike Woodson does think Stoudemire would play at the start of the second round, if ready, though it will be interesting to see how Stoudemire integrates into an effective Knicks rotation. Stoudemire will also be facing some solid big men if the Pacers and Knicks keep rolling, which could limit Stoudemire's minutes.
Jeremy Lin (CHEST)
The Rockets are down 2-0 in what looks like an impossible 1/8 series with the Thunder and now they might be without Jeremy Lin. Lin suffered a chest contusion in the physical Game 2, one that is being variously reported as a muscle contusion and as a simple contusion. It is impossible to say which from where I sit, but neither is good.
The schedule does give Lin and the medical staff a chance to clear this up, but absent ice and rest, there's not much that can be done for any sort of contusion. While the location doesn't seem limiting, the pain could cost Lin some use of his arms and will definitely force him to avoid body contact.
The Rockets medical staff will likely need to find some way to protect the area. Padding can be effective, though there are more modern devices that could help as well. The question there is whether Lin can get comfortable with it in a short period of time.
The Rockets will need to shift some minutes around depending on how functional Lin is, though with Patrick Beverly already getting heavy minutes, it's unclear just how they'd reconfigure.
Joakim Noah (FOOT)
While Derrick Rose watches and Bulls fans fume about his knee and his mental toughness, Joakim Noah is putting on a clinic about how to play through pain. Noah is fighting through a painful and chronic foot injury called plantar fasciitis. The painful condition has plagued Noah for a couple years, but has flared up significantly in the second half.
The Bulls are pretty much out of options for treatment and surgery has been discussed, though Noah has avoided it as much as he could. He had some injections to try and get him through the playoffs, but the question is whether he could have more if the team goes deeper.
Noah's minutes are going to be very limited, perhaps as few as 20, though it will be tough to keep a player like Noah on the bench in a tight game. The problems is that the Bulls and Nets look very evenly matched and could be headed to a long and physical series here in the opening round.
Joe Johnson (FOOT)
Joakim Noah isn't the only one who is having problems with his feet in this series. Joe Johnson has been dealing with a bruised heel through much of the last half of the season, but the Nets are now calling it plantar fasciitis. It's not clear that there was a change in anything but the honesty of what they called it, but it's bad timing.
The painful foot inflammation wasn't helped by playing 40 minutes in Game 2, but without Johnson, the Nets are going to have a much tougher path on the road. Johnson didn't show significant deficits in the last game, which does point to wear down as the real culprit here. It could be that Johnson also had injections in the foot, even painkillers that masked the issue.
If Johnson can't go, the Nets will be pushed to Keith Bogans in the starting lineup. Look for the Nets to do everything they can to get Johnson out there, but their schedule is going to make it tougher to have him ready at full-go for the entire series and beyond, if they win.
Steve Nash (HAMSTRING)
Anytime a player pre-apologizes for his performance, things are going bad. That's what Steve Nash did, reminding everyone that he's playing through pain in this Kobe-less playoff matchup. Nash has not only the lingering hamstring injury that has cost him significant mobility, but it was leaked that Nash is also fighting a hip issue.
Nash had to have an epidural injection to help get him through both games. This injury apparently entrapped or bruised a nerve, leading to this series of injections. Nash has had at least three, but it is not uncommon for these to come in a series. Doctors will often schedule three and then stop if the first two haven't relieved the issue, so the fact that they did a third is some indication that this treatment is working.
Nash is being pushed to play by Mike D'Antoni, but if they fall in Game 3, the entire team might fold up the tent and with it, Nash's career might come to a close. These injections show there's real pain leading to real limitations, but some of this is cover for Nash's ego as well.
Steve Blake (HAMSTRING)
Blake has been playing heavy minutes—36 in Game 2 leading up to his injury—while Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are sidelined. He was very effective in both games, keeping the Lakers close to the Spurs at some level. If he's not able to go, it's really unclear what the Lakers will do.
This kind of hamstring injury is straightforward, but there's going to be no real clarity until shootaround before Game 3. The medical staff, already taxed by the maintenance work on the rest of the roster, is going to have to find a miracle in the bottom of their bag. Look for Blake to be very limited and to have to adjust his game, especially defensively. That's going to take Gregg Popovich about a millisecond to notice and exploit.
David Lee (HIP)
One of the toughest parts of my job is not getting too frustrated when people say dumb things. Medical issues are complex and nuanced, things that not even the biggest fans or even the coaches really understand. One of those issues that really sets me off is when someone uses the colloquial term "torn" and causes an assumption that something is completely torn. The proper term for a complete tear is "rupture", while even the mildest sprain or strain involves some level of fiber tearing.
That off my chest, we can talk about why David Lee is out. Lee strained his hip flexor, a significant strain for a muscle that is deeply involved in both running and jumping, things any NBA player needs to be able to do without deficit and pain. The strain is a very significant Grade III strain that will cost Lee much of the off-season to rehab. However, the hip flexor as we refer to it is more a complex of muscles than one single muscle, one of which may have ruptured, likely the psoas major.
Lee is out for the duration of the playoffs and will face some question when camps open about his mobility and jumping. This could be a very significant injury for a breakout player and a team that is finally moving in the right direction. They'll fill in with Carl Landry and Harrison Barnes, a mix which has been working pretty well for them.
I do have to admit, I'm a bit disturbed by the knowledge that the hip flexor is the equivalent of what becomes a filet mignon.