Andrew Bynum, Mike Miller and the 12 Most Important Injuries in the NBA
With an 82-game schedule compressed into a six-month period, injuries are inevitable in the NBA.
Players today are bigger and faster than ever, which puts more stress on their joints and ligaments, leading to various injuries.
Even worse, with the soft salary cap at least somewhat restraining roster construction, modern teams are less equipped than ever to replace games lost from injury. Almost every team contending for the playoffs is over the salary cap, meaning the only replacements they can sign are minimum-salary cast-offs.
Already, most of the major championship contenders are dealing with at least one significant injury. And as history tells us, a tweaked hamstring or a pulled groin at the wrong time can derail a title team.
Here are the 12 injury situations most likely to impact the NBA season going forward.
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12. Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards
The injury: Sprained tendon in his right ankle.
Expected return date: At least a week, possibly longer.
Team impact: Gilbert's absence should speed the development of prized rookie John Wall. Without Arenas, Wall is the default No. 1-option on offense. However, Wall is still an unreliable shooter, leaving unlikely hero Cartier Martin to hit the three that sent Wizards' home opener into overtime.
League impact: Any chance of Washington making a backdoor run at a playoff spot depends on a healthy-and-motivated Agent Zero.
More realistically, if Gilbert could regain his form from a few years ago, the Wizards could try to move him (and his contract) to a contending team. But with yet another injury hampering him, it seems he will be an enormous drain on Washington's cap the next few seasons.
11. Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder
The injury: Lower leg stress reaction.
Expected return: Middle to the end of November.
Team impact: Collison's absence weakens an already thin Oklahoma City frontcourt. He has been a valuable big man in the rotation during his time for the Thunder, and his injury pushes fellow Kansas-product Cole Aldrich into the lineup, perhaps earlier than the Thunder had envisioned.
League impact: If the Thunder are going to make the jump to title contention that many have forecasted, they will need to address their frontcourt, which was exposed in last year's first-round loss to the Lakers.
Collison is a valuable cog and Oklahoma's defense has not played up to expectations so far this season.
10. Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks
The injury: Torn ACL in his knee.
Expected return: Mid-February.
Team impact: A lot has changed in Milwaukee since Redd first tore ligaments in his knee in January of 2009. With the emergence of Brandon Jennings, the continued improvement of Andrew Bogut and the additions of John Salmons and Corey Maggete, Redd would no longer be the main offensive option.
League impact: Redd's ability to space the floor would improve the Bucks' offense, while his lack of lateral mobility could be hidden in Scott Skiles' defense. A healthy Redd could be the biggest midseason pick-up in the league, especially on an underrated Milwaukee team looking to make a splash in the playoffs.
9. Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets
The injury: Recovering from knee surgery.
Expected return: Mid-to-late January.
Team impact: With both Martin and Chris Andersen injured, Denver has been forced to start Shelden Williams at the power forward spot.
K-Mart played a vital role in defending opposing power forwards in the Nuggets run to the 2009 Western Conference championship. His ability to hit mid-range jumpers made him a valuable two-way player.
League impact: Perhaps the only chance Denver had to keep Carmelo in town was to burst out of the gate and present him with a chance at winning a title this year. Martin's injury weakens the team's defense and makes Carmelo's departure even more inevitable.
8. Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz
The injury: Strained Achilles.
Expected return: December, at the earliest.
Team impact: Okur's absence dramatically affects the composition of the Jazz. He was the team's best post-defender and best three-point shooter. Now Utah plays two undersized bigs (Jefferson and Millsap), neither of whom can spread the floor like Okur.
League impact: Utah is one of many teams in the West competing to be the Lakers primary threat come playoff time.
Without Okur, Utah just does not have the size to match up with L.A.'s big men—as we saw in last year's second-round sweep.
7. Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas Mavericks
The injury: Fractured left foot.
Expected return: Late November, early December.
Team impact: As he showed in a scintillating performance in Game 6 of their first-round defeat to the Spurs, Beaubois provides an element of explosiveness that an aging Mavericks squad desperately needs. No one else in Dallas can guard fast point guards or drive the ball to the paint.
League impact: If Dallas is going to break out of the pack of teams aiming to challenge L.A. in the West, they will need a healthy Roddy B. Without him, they are an non-athletic collection of jump shooters looking at yet another disappointing first-round exit.
6. Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
The injury: Knee tendinitis.
Expected return: No timetable right now, sometime by mid-season.
Team impact: In the rare moments he has been healthy since coming into the league, Oden has been an impressive rebounder and a defensive presence simply through his overwhelming size.
With last season's trade for Marcus Camby and his subsequent extension, Portland is clearly prepared for life without its former No. 1-overall pick.
League impact: A healthy Oden would team with Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge to form one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league. No team in the West is better positioned to take out the Lakers than a healthy Portland squad.
5. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
The injury: Broken foot.
Expected return: He is playing, but his minutes are currently capped at 24 a game.
Team impact: The Rockets are in the midst of an identity crisis as they try to re-establish Yao in their lineup. They have a lot of players who need the ball in their hands, many of whom grew used to much more offensive freedom during Yao's year-long absence.
League impact: Houston looked poised to beat L.A. in the 2009 playoffs before Yao went down with what could have been a career-ending injury.
A healthy Yao is one of the top two centers in the NBA and he makes the Rockets a legit title contender instead of a fringe playoff team.
4. Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
The injury: Broken hand.
Expected return: Early-to-mid December.
Team impact: Without Boozer, Derrick Rose has been forced to carry the entirety of the scoring load in Chicago. No one else on the Bulls can score from the post, something Boozer was paid a princely sum in the offseason to add to this team.
League impact: With a great, young point guard to feed him the ball and a shot-blocking center (Noah) on hand to help him on defense, Boozer is a perfect fit for the Bulls roster. A healthy Chicago team could conceivably sneak into the mix in the East.
3. Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics
The injury: Recovering from knee surgery.
Expected return: Midseason.
Team impact: Boston added two aging centers named O'Neal to help plug the gap until Perkins' return. But neither is the defensive anchor Perkins is.
League impact: No team in the league is monitoring Perkins' return more closely than Orlando, as his stout, individual defense has proven to be Dwight Howard's kryptonite in the playoffs.
In the event of a rematch with L.A. in the finals, Perkins' brand of physical post defense will be crucial for Boston.
2. Mike Miller, Miami Heat
The injury: Fractured thumb.
Expected return: January.
Team impact: Miller is the best of a group of perimeter shooters who will receive plenty of open looks playing alongside Miami's Big Three. James Jones, who isn't nearly the all-around player Miller is, has taken his spot in the rotation for the time being.
League impact: With all eyes on Miami this season, the Heat have little time to gel and grow together before they are crucified on the burden of high expectations. Miller will play an integral role on the team, and the quicker he gets back, the quicker the Heat can set the rotation and get comfortable playing together.
1. Andrew Bynum, L.A. Lakers
The injury: Recovering from knee surgery.
Expected return: Thanksgiving.
Team impact: L.A. has been able to survive Bynum's frequent bouts with injury by sliding super-sub Lamar Odom into the starting lineup. But losing Odom dramatically weakens the Lakers bench and forces them either to go small or play marginal big men like Theo Ratliff.
League impact: The super team being assembled in Miami has only one weakness: defending seven-footers who can score in the low post. With a healthy Bynum, L.A. has two of these players and should still be seen as the favorite to win an NBA championship.
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