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The following includes some recent, new-school examples of guys whose injuries changed the short-term landscape of the NBA playoffs, as well as an NBA legend who suffered an injury of his own. Although the new schoolers injuries aren’t on the scale of those who actually make the following 12-man roster, there’s a chance we could view them in the same light a few years down the road.
The last time Derrick Rose played an NBA game was April 28, 2012.
With 1:20 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of its opening-round matchup against Philadelphia, the Chicago Bulls were leading the 76ers by 12, when Rose drove to the basket and crumpled to the floor, having suffered a torn ACL. The Roseless Bulls eventually lost to the eighth-seeded Sixers, and the former MVP hasn’t played a minute since.
Not only did his injury affect the outcome of the 2012 NBA playoffs, but it also changed the outlook in 2013. Chicago fans were hopeful that Rose would be healthy enough to join a Bulls playoff run a year after his injury, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Chicago fought valiantly under head coach Tom Thibodeau, but the Miami Heat ousted the injury-riddled Bulls roster in the conference semifinals on their way to successfully defending their NBA title.
D-Rose may come back and play 10-plus healthy seasons, but his torn ACL has already altered back-to-back playoff proceedings (whether the ultimate outcome would have been different or not).
In terms of impact, Russell Westbrook’s knee trouble doesn’t even compare to Derrick Rose’s torn ACL, but his injury was still significant.
After suffering a torn meniscus in a collision with Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, Westbrook underwent surgery and missed the remainder of the 2013 playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder eventually lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Nobody can say for certain that Westbrook’s presence would have led OKC back to the NBA finals. Regardless, it creates some interesting “what if?” conversations.
In his first season following back surgery, Dwight Howard did not look like himself. That’s putting it lightly.
The Los Angeles Lakers as a team were a complete disappointment, and D12 never seemed to regain his usual explosiveness or his status as a bona fide defensive anchor. Not being 100 percent from a physical standpoint and playing with an injury-riddled supporting cast didn’t help.
Howard may return to form in Houston, but there’s a chance he could fizzle out as he gets older—like many other NBA big men in the past.
“The Human Highlight Film” is remembered as one of the best NBA players ever, and certainly among the league’s best high fliers. His athletic, above-the-rim style of play endeared him to fans and allowed him to put up points in bunches.
Throughout an illustrious 15-year career, Dominique Wilkins averaged 24.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He was never a great outside shooter (31.9 percent for his career), but his sheer athletic talent more than made up for that.
In 1992, however, Wilkins ruptured his Achilles tendon in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers. The injury required surgery and ensured that ‘Nique would only play 42 games that season.
It’s true that Wilkins continued to put up great stats after the setback. He averaged 29.9 points the following season in 71 games, then averaged 26 points per game in 74 games between the Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Clippers.
Age and the grind of a lengthy NBA career caught up to Wilkins in his final three seasons. He notched 17.8, 18.2 and five points per game, respectively, while with the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic.
Wilkins doesn't make the 12-man roster because his injury didn't have nearly the same impact as the following guys.