Ambulance Chasin’: Raptors’ Rivals

Hoops Addict’s Kinnon Yee and Jeff Wong are back to look at the impact of the injury bug. This time, they examine the Division Formerly Known As Titanic, as well as an Eastern Conference team similar to the Titanic.

Kinnon: Looking at the Atlantic Conference, I think that the main concerns are New Jersey and Boston. However, part of the reason why I’m fairly optimistic about the Raptors maintaining their Division Champion status is that both teams will likely struggle due to injuries. Let’s start with Boston first, as the triple threat of KG, Pierce and Allen all seem great on paper, but all three have had fairly substantial injuries in the past year.

Jeff: Yeah, the Celtics can be either “triple threat” or “triple death.”

Of the three, I think Ray-Ray is most likely to go on the injured reserve list. Bone spurs in his ankle kept him to 55 games last season, and his games-played record has been hit-and-miss in the past four years (56, 78, 78, 55). I was surprised to see that he’s only a year younger than me (he was born in ’75); it seems like he’s been around forever.

The Big Ticket has actually been quite durable (82, 82, 76, 76), and some say that he “rested” a few games the past couple of years because the T-Wolves have been out of playoff contention. But there are worries that his working out extra-early is overdoing it.

Pierce, I think, will be fine physically. He was “the paradigm of durability” until this past year, having elbow surgery in the summer and the foot injury that took away 35 games.

Am I being too optimistic for Boston fans?

Kinnon: The most concerning player for me, if I was a Celtics fan, would be Ray Allen and his ankles. Even if he will be a poor defender at times, the ankle is just the weakest part for most basketball players. It’s why a basketball shoe is designed to protect the ankle, especially with a high ankle guard. Arguably, Allen is one of the most important players on the team. Without a legitimate and consistent three-point threat, most teams can clog up the Celtics’ paint and keep Garnett and Pierce on the outside.

Now, while both Pierce’s and Garnett’s injuries were on the minor side of things, there are concerns especially at their age, as to what body parts will breakdown in the future. Some people have talked about the amount of hours that Garnett has logged in his career (especially Doug Smith when he was hosting Prime Time Sports). While Garnett might only be 31, it’s important to remember that he started his NBA career in high school, and has averaged about 38 minutes per game over his career.

Pierce, on the other hand, has been stabbed, taken a pounding in the paint every year of his career, and now has had this difficulty with his feet. I know that he’s supposedly reducing his weight, but I wonder how much his foot problem will affect him. It sounds a little more serious than Bosh’s plantar fasciitis. It’s also important to note that while you might get injured a lot more frequently at an older age, you’ll also have a harder time recovering from injuries. I think Boston fans should be more concerned than they let on, especially with a lack of depth on their team.

Jeff: Good points about their general wear and tear.

Okay, shall we move on to our arch-rivals, the New Jersey Nets? Again focussing on a Big Three of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson (and I guess you can throw in Nenad Krstic, too), the Nets seem perennially on the injury watch list. What do you expect from their season, Kinnon?

Kinnon: Oh the Nets. When your healthiest player is VC, I think you have some serious issues to consider. It’s just so hard to predict what this team will do, because they also have depth problems, and frequent, recurring injuries. One of these years, Jason Kidd is going to blow out a knee, Jefferson is going to get seriously injured, and Carter’s going to have to take over on his own. I know they supposedly upgraded that front court of theirs, but with your top three guys all having serious injuries within their careers… It just doesn’t inspire confidence, does it Jeff?

Jeff: Perhaps not. But I think the Nets are so lucky to have J-Kidd. It’s amazing that he’s played so often (67, 66, 80, 80) and so well on his microfracture-repaired knees. But like you said, as each year passes, you’re expecting something to give.

Now VC – he’s earned his new contract, so you wonder if he’ll be as willing to play through the boo-boos he regularly gets. Surprisingly, he’s passed the 70-game mark over the last five seasons, so he might be keeping up that trend. As for the quality of those games, that may be another story.

RJ, our new public enemy (“Thanks for wearing red, Toronto!”), is another hit-and-miss guy (82, 33, 78, 55), so you can bet he’ll be wearing a suit to some games this season.

What do you expect out of Nenad Krstic? The Consonant Man played a grand total of 26 games last year. What can he contribute this year?

Kinnon: Does it really matter though? I think Boone and Magloire should be able to weather any difficulties Krstic may have in the future. That’s the good thing about what New Jersey managed to do in the offseason. They got a little more depth at some questionable areas of their team.

The final team I want to take a look at is the Miami Heat. After nabbing Jason Kapono off their squad, I have to wonder just how many games both Shaq and Wade will play this year? How many do they have to play? Their team has a lot of questions to answer, especially with so much money tied into two players that have had serious injuries for the past few seasons.

Jeff: Yeah, Shaq and Wade are huge question marks. Shaq Daddy missed 65 regular-season games over the past two years and is going through a divorce, while D-Wade is really starting to regret his kamikaze style of play (51). And as we mumble, the Heat are scouring the NBA landscape for some affordable backups (hello, Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston!) while hoping guys like Wayne Simien and Dorell Wright step up their contributions. We’ll have to see what HOF-worthy magic Riley will work to keep this ship afloat.

Kinnon: At this rate, they’ll need a witch doctor and a faith healer to keep it together. Honestly, Shaq’s a great player, and I’ll always remember him for his role in Blue Chips. Nevertheless, all that muscle we used to love on him and were in awe of, have put so much strain on his legs that he just can’t perform for a full season anymore, much less without pain. I think Wade is young enough to make a healthy recovery, but he has to be aware that only Allen Iverson can take that type of beating and still get up the next day. If the Heat manage to stay in relative contention without Shaq for half a year, I think they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. If either Wade or Shaq go down, I’m pretty sure they’re either lottery bound, or in store for another early exit.

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12 thoughts on “Ambulance Chasin’: Raptors’ Rivals

  1. nice breakdown of the atlantic. let me chip in with my $ .02 on my beloved celtics: if doc has anything remotely ressembling a brain, he’ll let the big three develop some chemistry early on & then will use them far more sparingly as the season progresses, even sacrificing some wins to let them rest properly. that’d also give him a chance to play the subs more often and see for himself to what extent he can trust the likes of eddie house, scott pollard and so on.

    however, given his lack of pulse and the pressure that’s on him, i highly doubt that’ll happen. we’ll see. i remain moderately optimistic, though: KG is a stud, Pierce had just one rough season and ray-ray won’t have to carry the load by himself, so I suppose that under normal circumstances they can get through the season without missing far too many games. my main concern right now is regarding the future – they should be given fewer minutes precisely to guarantee their effectiveness for a few more years.

    as for now, the celtics’ main injury concerns should be directed towards the role players. the spurs have shown the impact these guys can have on a team…and boston’s roster is already pretty shallow so it’s especially worrisome that all we have is guys like kendrick perkins and tony allen, whose injury record is pretty grim so far.

    who’ll win the atlantic? either the celtics or the raptors, i think. the nets will probably do their usual routine: clinch a middling playoff berth, possibly get through the first round and then get knocked out by a less dysfunctional team. VC will underperform, RJ will struggle with injuries and Kidd will prove once again how fabulous he is. The Heat are as good as done. The Raptors…well, that’ll depend a lot on how their players develop, eh, especially andrea bargnani. Chris Bosh’s plantar fascitiis might also play a role there. I still have faith in the Celtics, though.

  2. Well… Here’s the thing. The Raptors can absorb some injuries, and the Celtics really can’t afford any. I think, though, that out of all their big 3 players, the one I can afford to lose the most is actually Paul Pierce. I know a lot of Celtics fans would probably have my head for saying that, but the fact remains that on a team like that, you’ve gotta have a sharp shooter (Allen) and a low post threat (Garnett) to insure you’re in most games. Rajon Rondo definitely has to develop his handling skills more, and there’s just going to be a ton of pressure on him to make the correct decisions as far as getting the right plays out there. The good thing is, Doc used to be a pretty good guard, so he can help him out a little. But I can say that the Celtics will probably need to fight it out to get a lot of their wins, and without a bench to back up your three, they’re going to have to log in heavy minutes consistently.

    Just as a warning, but as a Raptors fan, we went through one season where we kept losing players like crazy, and had to rely on 15-day contract players in order to just fill out our roster and get through the season. I really hope it doesn’t come to that, but I worry a lot about that on this Celtics team. If I’m a Celtics fan, I’d count my lucky stars if all three guys made it through the season with hardly a scratch, and then, maybe, Danny Ainge can flip one of the big three around for a lesser player and some draft picks or prospects. But who knows.

    As far as the Raptors are concerned, I’m not hinging a lot on Bargnani’s development, as I am on Carlos Delfino’s emergence. I think he’ll be the greatest unknown, but that should be saved for another day.

  3. I hate to bash the Celtics…. but… remember last season when the team only had a handful of vets and they all went down? At least they had some depth to be competitive. If one or two of the big three miss time the Celtics could easily resemble a D League team this season. Some people have claimed the the Raptors lack any stars outside of Bosh but I prefer the Raps roster over the CEltics because it has depth, playoff experience and it’s an actual team. Not a fantasy league GM’s wet dream.

  4. Plus, look at the Nets last season! They had Carter/Kidd/Jefferson and they failed to even win the Atlantic. They had some solid role players (Nenad before he went down, a couple young big men, some vet shooters like Eddie House/Bostjan Nachbar and a legit big man in Jason Collins). If the Nets can’t make noise with a roster built around three stars and some decent role players what are the Celtics going to do with three stars and a bunch of scrubs? Basketball is a team game and I’m not convinced that Danny Ainge has assembled a team.

  5. im very convinced of the celtics. their starting 5 is great. with posey comming off the bench with eddie house just adds more fire power. you dont need a deep team to win in this league anymore. the suns had an 8 man rotation last year and they won 61 games last year. But what makes this tandum better then the nets or the wiz is that you cant double team any of them. with the nets , you shut down vince , the nets are done. you shut down Jamison or butler, wiz are done. so who do you double team on the celtics ? leave allen open he will shoot 75% from the field all year. double him you got pierce who is a great shooter. double team pierce you got garnett in the middle. double them all and rondo will put up some numbers.

    ok ok they can be stopped when their bench comes in. lol what would you do if the celts field this team against you

    pg – rondo
    sg – allen
    sf – posey
    pf – pierce
    c- garnett

    even switch allen to pg and move house into sg.

    people think that the celts dont have depth. first off leon powe now has a vet to look up to. he will be a good big man in the league. tony allen is a good role player and healthy this year and put up some decent numbers. the celts biggest flaw is the C position in the backup of scott pollard. Other then that theres the 8 or 9 man rotation and the celts will be on top of their division looking down at everyone else.

  6. oh and ryan please take out your statement of jason collins being a legit big man. as bill walton would say “thats terrrrrrrrrrible”

  7. Brendan – The key is if they stay healthy. It’s easy to look at that team and say “Hey, they’re way better than the Nets”. But here’s another thing to consider… Your Vince statement only works if Jefferson is out, as that’s what just about every team did during the course of last year. Once Jefferson was removed from the equation, the Nets were folded up by a lack of scoring power, and even less defensive power. Now, I look at this Celtics team, and while it’s a nice looking team on paper, the same thing applies. If one of their three goes down, this team will be very exposed for the entire season. Add to the fact that this is quite likely especially with players in their age category, and their injury history, along with expected minutes to be played due to a lack of depth, and we have a huge problem IMHO. Leon Powe, a marginal talent, is not going to move or shake up this team.

  8. Kinnon – I wont comment on vince since i cant stand him and hes not worth mentioning. You could be right though about the jefferson statement. I will give you that.

    Celtics

    none of those 3 are injury prone players like a marcus camby or baron davis. if 1 drops , they have a problem but thats with any team. what happened when nash went down for a couple games for phoenix ?

    and injury problems ……

    gernett on avg plays 77.5 games a season
    ray allen 65.8 games per season
    paul pierce 72.4 games a year.

    other then ray allen (which i still wouldnt consider an injury prone player) they all have played 82 games in more then 3 seasons.

    everyone talks about lack of depth but have you looked at the celtics roster ? posey is no bum , either is eddie house , Tony Allen is not either. Brian Scalabrine … sure you can call him that but when needed he showed up for the nets.

    Leon powe will not move or shake up the team but he now has a player that can teach him how to play the game and that helps out any young player.

    ryan ball is back up see you there tonight

  9. Brendan – I didn’t say Collins was a stud, just that he’s a legit big man. He was the starting centre when the Nets went to the NBA Finals and he’s a valuable part of their rotation this season.

    I was going to head out to ball tonight but I went out with some buddies to watch the MNF game and enjoy $10 all you can eat wings. I’ll be out next week to school ya!

  10. Bitmore’s in Courtice, corner of Nash and Trulls.

    It’s only on Monday’s though which kinda’s sucks because that’s when ball is… but great because it’s MNF 🙂

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