NBA Lockout: 10 Players You May Never See Play in the NBA Again

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2011

NBA Lockout: 10 Players You May Never See Play in the NBA Again

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    Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have already hung up their kicks for good, and there may be many more who follow suit thanks to the increased seriousness of the NBA lockout.

    While O'Neal and Ilgauskas may have planned on retiring from the beginning, there are an array of players who were definitely hoping to continue their careers, whether it be for just another year, or even more.

    However, being already so far removed from competitive play and still facing the prospect of missing an entire season, there are some athletes who may be apt to call it quits.

    Like it or not, there are a number of players who may never step foot on the hardwood again.

Derek Fisher

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    Derek Fisher has a $3.4 million player option he can exercise next summer, but after this one, the then-38-year-old may be inclined to call it quits.

    As union president, no one has been more involved in lockout negotiations than Fisher. He has spent countless hours at the bargaining table and was forced to put in even more time to make it clear that he wasn't serving his own interests.

    Combine the stress of this summer with the fact the point guard has not aged nearly as well as Steve Nash, and you have an athlete who may be ready to retire if the season is cancelled.

    There are those that believe the Lakers cannot contend for a title with Fisher as their starting point guard, and finding his replacement may be a task they are faced with sooner rather than later.

Eddy Curry

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    Given that Eddy Curry has only appeared in 10 games over the last three seasons, he will be one of the easier absences to accept.

    We arguably haven't seen the actual Curry on the hardwood in two years, but now that the lockout is in full swing, his injury-plagued impostor may be forced to call it quits, too. 

    The 28-year-old Curry, a free agent, is bound to draw interest from at least one team because of his size, but if the season is cancelled and he becomes another year removed from competitive play, such an opportunity could prove non-existent.

    Curry is not known for his conditioning or work ethic, so who knows what he will look like when the lockout finally concludes—he could look twice as bad as Shawn Kemp. The overweight center is a risk to begin with, but fast-forward one more year and his NBA career could be officially over.

Kurt Thomas

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    When Shaq retired, the 39-year-old Kurt Thomas became the oldest active player, but who knows if that will last much longer.

    While Thomas has drawn interest from the Knicks and would be welcome back in Chicago, it may prove too difficult for him to make a comeback after such a long break. At Thomas' age, it is hard to prepare for a season to begin with, and messing with the schedule only makes it more difficult.

    If the season is cancelled, Thomas is a serious candidate to walk away from the game. Even if we are fortunate enough to have an eventual season this year, he is far from a lock to return.

    Time is not on Thomas' side, and this lockout isn't doing him any favors.

Juwan Howard

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    Juwan Howard came within games of an NBA title with the Heat, which perhaps was the motivation behind his proclamation that he was not considering retirement.

    Months later, the lockout has taken a turn for the worst, and the 38-year-old may never step foot on the court again as a result. 

    Last season, Howard was less than effective at best, appearing in 57 games and barely averaging 10 minutes per contest. Things are only going to get worse from here on out, especially considering he will be 39 when play is ready to resume.

    It will prove difficult for Howard to stay game ready should the season ever begin this year, let alone having to wait until next fall.

    The former $105 million man was going to have to walk away one day soon, and it just so happens that said day may have already come and gone.

Ben Wallace

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    The 37-year-old Ben Wallace is entering the final year of his contract,and what is to believed to be the final season of his career.

    While Wallace seemed likely to return for a 16th season, this lockout isn't helping his case. He visibly struggled to get up and down the floor last season, and a full year off only increases the likelihood he may have played his last game.

    The rebounding guru may have wanted one last season to say goodbye, but it is not likely he is going to put his body through the torment of preparing for another season after sitting an entire one out.

    Should the lockout ever cease and we see a partial season, don't expect him to be a certainty to return. This time off may be just what he needs to gain a little perspective.

Tracy McGrady

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    Tracy McGrady contemplated retirement back in 2010, and now that competitive basketball seems light-years away, he has to be considering it again.

    While McGrady is only 32, his knees have endured 80 years' worth of damage. He is nowhere near the athlete he used to be, and now that it has become increasingly evident the season may not be saved, his days in the NBA may be over.

    Injuries ruined an otherwise promising career, and while we have to admire his decision to attempt a comeback, this extra time off isn't making him younger. If anything, the extended time off hurts his ability to stay in peak game condition.

    We have already seen the last of McGrady in his prime, and don't be surprised if we have now seen the last of shooting guard, period.

Jermaine O'Neal

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    Jermaine O'Neal has stated that he will likely retire after next season, but next season may never come, and thus, his career may already be over.

    O'Neal has a lot of miles on his 33-year-old body, and is probably no longer up to the abuse that comes with being a center. He had obviously planned to return to the court for one last season, but if that season is lost—a notion that is becoming increasingly likely—is he going to be up to withstanding the rigors of the low post after a year removed from meaningful play?

    Doubtful. 

    The upcoming season was supposed to be O'Neal's swan song, but it may, in fact, have already been played.

Peja Stojakovic

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    Peja Stojakovic has already stated he doesn't want to retire, but that was prior to him winning a championship and facing the prospect of a lost season.

    Stojakovic will be 35 next June, and given that his legs are no longer what they used to be, a year off could siphon any gas he may have left in the tank. We cannot underestimate the difficulty of returning to the floor after an entire year off, especially at his age.

    While the small forward is more than capable of knocking down the open shot, he may have dealt his last long-range blow months ago, as his career seems poised to become another lockout casualty. 

Marcus Camby

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    When Marcus Camby's name was linked to trade rumors last winter, he admitted he would contemplate retirement if moved, a statement that alluded to his career entering its home stretch.

    At 37 and with 15 years of action under his belt, Camby remains a rebounding and shot-blocking machine. That being said, if he was open to the possibility of retirement last season, he is certainly open to it now.

    Last season, Camby had more than 9.2 million reasons to return this year, but as we face the prospect of a cancelled season, he has no such motivation moving forward. Preparing for another season after a full year off is going to be a lot of work and certainly take a toll on his aging body.

    Camby has remained one of the hardest-working players in the league for over a decade, and once he and those battered legs of his get a taste of life without basketball, it may prove impossible for him to go back. 

Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan is the hardest name to include on this list, but we cannot ignore the fact the 34-year-old was approaching the end of his career even prior to the lockout.

    Duncan is set to earn a cool $21.3 million next season, if we are lucky enough to have one. However, should the season be lost, the 14-year veteran may opt to forego the hindrance of essentially coming out of a year-long retirement.

    While Duncan would love to play this season and collect his green, in addition to helping the Spurs redeem themselves after a poor postseason, he is one of the smarter players in the game. He is aware of the upward battle he will face coming off a year-long hiatus, and it may be a battle he no longer needs to fight.

    As one of the most effective and refined big men to ever play the game, we would certainly welcome a resolution to this lockout so that we may watch Duncan return to the hardwood.

    That doesn't seem too promising from where we are currently standing, though.

    Duncan has won championships along with the hearts of millions, and at this stage of the game, that may be enough for him to walk away without any regrets or sense of unfulfilled purpose.

     

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