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.