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Seeming rash of injuries could shape NBA playoff picture

Mar 14, 2013, 11:41 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant AP

On a court in Denver, Knicks fans watched Carmelo Anthony leave early to get to the locker room as his knee was clearly bothering him into another bad shooting night. Later he was on a plane back to New York to get fluid drained from that knee and other procedures to get him back on the court.

On a court in Atlanta, Lakers fans watched Kobe Bryant go down and twist his ankle on a final shot. He limped off the court but afterwards said he was out indefinitely.

Injuries that shape the playoffs are nothing new — remember Derrick Rose last year? — and there are not really more this season than any other. It just feels like it (as it does every year).

But a series of injuries old and new are going to shape the race up to the playoffs and then the playoffs themselves.

• Kobe Bryant’s ankle. This one could potentially keep the Lakers out of the playoffs, although I wouldn’t bet on it. Mostly because the wheels are coming off the Jazz (half a game back of the Lakers on Thursday) and they are not running away with a playoff slot with Utah having a tough schedule ahead. The door opens for Dallas a little, but just a little. Also, this is Kobe, who deals with injuries about like the Black Knight of Monty Python fame (“’Tis a flesh wound”). He will be back on the court as fast as his body allows. That could be a week, it could be three, but bet on the lower end of that scale. Still, in recent weeks the Lakers have run a tight 8-man player rotation and even with that when Kobe sits the Lakers offense has been unimpressive. They need to find some points, fast.

However, the Lakers could be in trouble even when Kobe returns. Los Angeles has been winning lately but the margin for error with this team remains small — it had to come from 25 back on the Hornets and beat the Raptors in overtime. That margin is a whole lot smaller against the Thunder or Spurs. Kobe has taken over the role of playmaker on the Lakers (with Steve Nash playing off the ball) and if he is half a step slow in the playoffs because of his injuries the Lakers will go from “long shot” to “never got out of the starting gate.”

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• Carmelo Anthony’s knee. He walked off the court during another unimpressive outing — much to the delight of Nuggets fans — because as much as he has tried to play through it for weeks, Anthony realized it was time something had to be done about his continuing knee issue. In the short term, he is flying back to New York and will get his knee drained. He’ll miss a couple games. That doesn’t really help the Knicks in their quest to retake the No. 2 seed from Indiana (or even stave off the Nets, the four seed that is 1.5 games back of New York) but it has to be done.

Because come the playoffs, if the Knicks are going to be the team that breaks out of that clump fighting to be the second best team in the East and to challenge the Heat, they are going to need the best of ‘Melo. He has to be healthy, he has to be on fire. Fluid buildup in the knee is a symptom of some other irritation, so if the Knicks stick around in the playoffs Anthony might need to have it drained again. But certainly the status of Anthony’s knee impacts the Knicks.

Tyson Chandler’s knee. It looked scary when it happened and the tough-guy Chandler had to be helped to the locker room in Denver Wednesday night, but after the game he was walking without crutches and it didn’t seem to be serous. Which is great news for New York — besides Carmelo the other thing the Knicks must have in the playoffs is better defense than they have been playing of late. And that starts with the former Defensive Player of the Year. He has to be a defensive terror in the paint in the postseason for the Knicks to make a run.

Danny Granger’s knee. The Pacers have a championship caliber defense, but they have a terrible offense. Danny Granger was their leading scorer last year and it was assumed that when he returned to the lineup the Pacers offense would pick up. It didn’t. Then Granger barely played and had to sit out again. Unless Granger can get healthy and the Pacers offense can find steady points — and stop taking those 5 minute breaks mid-game — the Pacers are not breaking out of the pack in the East.

• Derrick Rose’s knee. The Bulls are another strong defensive team whose offense was fully based around the former league MVP. When he went down in the first round of the playoffs last year the No. 1 seed Bulls were pushed aside by the Sixers. Without him all season the Bulls offense has been bottom 10 in the league. The theory goes that with him — even 70 percent of him — and the Bulls offense returning to good, they could be the team that beaks out of the pack in the East and gets a run at Miami. But Rose isn’t coming back until he is over the mental hurdles of trusting his knee, and if that means he misses the season he’s good with that. If he returns, we’ll see where the Bulls stand, they have struggled of late and need to get Joakim Noah and Luol Deng a little rest, too.

Tony Parker’s ankle. The Spurs are the top seed in the West and Tony Parker was having the kind of season that could have him No. 3 on a lot of MVP ballots at the end of the season (if you put him in front of LeBron and Durant, you’re doing it wrong). As we have seen the last few years, the Spurs execution in the regular season can be countered some in the playoffs, but this year feels different — the Spurs are defending again and guys like Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard are not just system guys but quality players. The Spurs have a real shot to beat the Thunder is seven games and get back to the finals, but not without 100 percent of Tony Parker slashing up the OKC defense. He is the guy that makes it all go for them in crunch time and if he is not fully ready for the playoffs the Spurs could see another early exit.

  1. broncobeta - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    You forgot Dwight Howard’s snooch.

    • giselleisasucubus - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I legit LOL’ed on that one. Good work

      • Nostrils10 - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        lol leave our boy Dwight alone, that was good man

  2. buffalowned - Mar 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    blame it on the lockout….oh wait

  3. BigBeachBall - Mar 14, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    d rose has been ready to play for months… the bulls are retarded.

    • bougin89 - Mar 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM


      • BigBeachBall - Mar 14, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        16.4 million bucks to sit on a physical therapy bed. seriously, most players would be on the court with rose’s same injury. rose needs to put his big boy pants.

    • bougin89 - Mar 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      1) It’s been roughly 10 months since he tore his ACL…and injury that usually takes a year to heal and even longer(sometimes up to a year more) for a player to actually regain his “full explosiveness” if he/she ever gets it back.

      2) “16.4 million bucks to sit on a physical therapy bed”. He only started participating in full contact practice in mid February and has constantly stated his leg still doesn’t feel right. I’m paraphrasing you but to suggest he has been lazy in his therapy/recovery is asinine. Totally. Asinine.

      3)”d rose has been ready to play for months” How many months are you referring to and are you suggesting he SHOULD be ready/100% only 6-8 months after tearing his ACL? I’m no doctor but thats ridiculous. With a player that jumps like Rose this isn’t something they should take lightly by any means.

  4. mat9844 - Mar 14, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    Really hate to see these guys get hurt late in the season, no matter which team they’re on. Playoffs are so much more interesting when teams are healthy.

  5. loungefly74 - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    ” …the Black Knight of Monty Python fame (“’Tis a flesh wound”).” Haaahahaha. great reference.

    all joking aside, hope all these players are healthy. definitely takes a lot away when stars are missing the playoffs.

    • dr227 - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      agreed. I want Kobe to be healthy. I want to see the Lakers miss the playoffs fair and square.

      • loungefly74 - Mar 14, 2013 at 11:28 PM

        fair enough…

  6. klownboy - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Time for Dwight Howard to really step the BLEEP up. Kobe called him out earlier this season. Let’s see if Howard steps up to the challenge…

  7. klownboy - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Time for Dwight Howard to really step the BLEEP up. Kobe called him out earlier this season. Let’s see if Howard steps up to the challenge…

  8. doublezero74 - Mar 14, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Perhaps you forget Rondo’s knee?

  9. kavika6 - Mar 15, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    Darn. Now Kobe and Lakers fans will use this as an excuse when they don’t make the playoffs. But what’s their excuse for the first 31 losses?

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 15, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      Howard’s back surgery, Nash’s broken leg, Gasol’s plantar fasciitis. Oh, wait, you didn’t really care why, you’re just hoping they don’t make it in. Yet another troll rooting for someone to fail.

  10. BigBeachBall - Apr 20, 2013 at 11:20 AM
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