It seems that every NBA season as of late, a new crop of NBA stars are plagued by the injury bug and this year is no different. Although each injury carries different weight in terms of star level and impact on the team, the injuries individually bring down the appeal of watching national TV broadcasts while fans must root for role players trying to compete without their star(s).
Delay of Game Sports brings to you a snapshot of some of the more pressing injuries of this season, some that were season-ending, and some that were a couple of weeks but affect future playoff seeding.
1.) Paul George
The past summer Paul George, the Indiana Pacers, and the NBA family were dealt a tough blow with one of the more gruesome injuries in recent history.
George was coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Not only did he lead the Pacers to a 56-26 record and Eastern Conference Finals last season, but he was also named to the All-NBA third team and All-Defensive first team.
Coming off such a spectacular year, the Pacers were positioned as a formidable opponent in the ensuing season until he broke his leg during the USA basketball exhibition game which crushed the spirit of the Pacers and left little hope for any contention this year.
It’s been tough having such a dynamic and up-and-coming franchise player sit out for this length of time. The Indiana Pacers have become an afterthought in the NBA and likely won’t reinsert themselves in the conversation until Paul George puts back on a jersey.
2.) Anderson Varejao
In his rookie season, Anderson Varejao missed 17 games due to injury. The season after he missed the first 32. Later down the line in the 2010-2011 season he played 31 games in the entire season. The following season, he played 25 games. The season after that? He’d miss another 40 games. Although he powered through some back issues that required him to miss a month last year, here we are in February of the 2014-2015 season talking about another season ending injury for Varejao.
Varejao tore his achillies on Dec 23rd against the Timberwolves, which promptly ended his season.
The question in all of this is Varejao’s durability. He seemingly gets hurt just about every year for a lengthy amount of time. The Cavaliers had to have known this before they offered him a multi-year contract extension this past October.
The real reason he’s wanted in the organization and why the Cavaliers missing his presence on the floor is not only his solid production but his good nature. Varejao is pretty much the ambassador for Brazil basketball and is adored in his home country. In the Cavs’ circle, he’s one of the best friends of LeBron and a good piece to have in a locker room.
Although his (yet again) season-ending injury doesn’t carry the same weight as a featured star, his presence and infectious nature on that team is surely missed.
3.) Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings has endured a lot of doubt in recent NBA seasons for his ability to be an effective point guard and player for the Pistons going forward. This season it seemed like he was on a mission to prove those doubters wrong.
His play especially skyrocketed after Josh Smith was waived and more opportunities were available for the Pistons’ starting core.
On Jan 16th, Jennings recorded his season-high 37 points in a thrilling victory over the Indiana Pacers. A couple days later, he scored 24 points with a career-high 21 assists in a 128-118 win over Orlando. There was a myriad of other very promising games sprinkled between there as the Pistons were now surging and his astounding numbers were carrying the team.
And then January 25th happened. Jennings was ruled out for the season after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon that required surgery. His expected return? September 2015.
Before his season ending injury, Jennings was averaging 15.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 1 steal.
4.) Jabari Parker
Heading into the 2014 NBA Draft there were only two prospects that were going #1. Either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. (Joel Embiid killed his stock with his foot surgery).
The Cavs who had the first picked opted for Wiggins, who they traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love and now Wiggins is having a rookie season comparable to Tracy McGrady or Kobe Bryant. But that’s a topic for another discussion.
Milwaukee snatched up Jabari Parker with the number 2 pick, hardly a “consolation selection” for them as Parker was the most NBA-ready player to come out of the draft.
Parker didn’t have the immediate impact that many scouts and fans thought he would, but that didn’t necessary matter in the grand scheme of things. Parker is the future face of the Milwaukee Bucks (pending he stays long-term) and his success isn’t going to measured in his rookie year.
However those hopes and dreams were derailed as Parker suffered a season-ending injury of his own. On December 15th, he tore his ACL against the Suns. This is after winning two straight Rookie of the Month awards in October and November, and being primed to win a 3rd in December.
When he went down, he was averaging 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists.
5.) Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard has been hobbled by a strained right knee all season, although James Harden has kept the Rockets’ ship afloat with his MVP-caliber season. It’s definitely a direct correlation to why James Harden is having the phenomenal season that he’s having, averaging 27.3 points, 6.8 assists, and 5.8 rebounds.
On the other hand, Howard is a still a guy from a numbers standpoint that you absolutely want on your team. Howard is a 20 and 20 threat every time he walks on to the floor so it’s safe to say the Rockets staff don’t want him rotting on the injured reserve list but that’s exactly what has happened this season.
Howard played the first 10 out of 11 games this season but then proceeded to miss 11 straight after that with a strained right knee. He then played all the way up to January 23rd and was ruled out for more time due to the same troublesome knee. As of today, Howard is still out and the current situation is that he could be out through March.
Like him or not, Howard is one of the premier centers in the league and the low-post matchup is a lot more competitive and entertaining when he’s in the lineup.
James Harden doesn’t seem to worried about it though:
“Obviously Dwight brings so much to this team and you can’t just replace him, but we are going to play the same way we always do. We play the same way with Dwight, without Dwight. With me, without me. We have a system and whoever is in that lineup, they know their role and have to play to the best of their abilities.”
Time will tell how Dwight is implemented back into the Rockets’ flow upon his return. Often times than not, there’s an adjustment period but it’s good news that the captain of the ship is cool, calm, and collected.
6.) Kemba Walker
The Bobcats’ transition to the Hornets this season proved to be a successful one for Kemba Walker’s career.
The Hornets came out hot to start this season and a lot of that has to do with his elevated game on the court as a scorer and distributor.
Before his injury, Walker was leading his team in points (18.8), assists (5.2), and steals, (1.4). From Jan 3-14, he notched at least 28 points in six straight games.
Walker tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee, which required surgery and will cause him to miss at least six more weeks. This will put him back into the fold about a month before the playoffs start but at that point the Hornets’ playoff hopes may already be squandered.
7.) Kobe Bryant
There’s no one in the NBA that shares the same basketball DNA as Kobe. The closest basketball genes to his are none other than His Airness himself, Michael Jordan.
However, all great basketball players come to grips with their physical mortality, as we are knee-deep in the Black Mamba’s.
On January 21st, Kobe suffered another season-halting injury, (his third in the past three seasons. The first came in the playoff of 2013, when he tore his achillies against the Golden State Warriors. The second came in December of the following season (2013), when he fractured the lateral tibial plateau of his left knee. Originally he was given a timetable to return but ultimately the Lakers shut him down, giving him the time to heal.
His latest injury is a rotator cuff tear on his right shoulder that he suffered while driving baseline against the Pelicans. In true Mamba-fashion, Kobe went on to play after the injury doing everything exclusively with his left hand and still being effective.
After undergoing successful surgery on the shoulder, the Lakers officially ruled him out for the season, yet again. Kobe says this isn’t the end for him; he’s hoping for a rebirth at the start of the 2015-2016 season.
The NBA isn’t the same when Kobe isn’t playing, and we all hope we can witness a full year of his heroics one more time.
8.) Steve Nash
A bit of an auxiliary to the Kobe Bryant injury, Steve Nash is another tried and true Hall-of-Famer the Lakers were expecting to have back at full strength this year. Nash had already announced before the season that this would be his last.
He ended up only playing three preseason games before he was shut down for the rest of the year due to chronic back issues.
Quite a sad ending for Nash as he is one of the most professional and effective point guards the game has ever seen. Father Time dealt two major blows to the Lakers franchise this year, but this particular one will not be seeking a return.
Although the impact Nash was expected to have this year wasn’t of the greatest expectations, he was supposed to provide a constant presence and leadership to the squad along with Bryant. Father Time had other plans.
9.) Blake Griffin
Last week it was reported that Griffin would miss significant time due to a staph infection in his right elbow. Griffin has dealt with elbow issues his entire career thus far, and generally gets it drained but this time it required a bit more attention.
This is coming at a time when the Clippers are looking to make a playoff run as well and their high-octane offense will surely miss their star down low. The Clippers are currently 6th in the western conference but considering how close the teams are in standings, they could lose some valuable footing.
The good news is that doctors say his elbow looks better than they expected but there is still no timetable on his return. Consensus is that Griffin still misses about three more weeks before he can look at a return.
The Clippers are 2-1 since Griffin’s absence, largely due to the monster double-double’s DeAndre Jordan has put up. However, I’m sure the team and the fans miss his presence and are eagerly awaiting his return.
10.) Carmelo Anthony
Not that his availability to the team’s roster would make much of a difference, you still want your best player on the floor every night. Fans want to see their favorite player battle against the other league’s top talent no matter the team’s current record. Unfortunately for both parties, Carmelo Anthony has been shut down for the rest of the season, adding his name to the list of another star that will miss significant time this season.
Anthony opted to get surgery on his left knee, which will involve a knee debridement that should rid him of the chronic pain he has been experiencing all season. Anthony’s decision is a wise one; the Knicks are sitting at 10-43 for the season, and stand no chance of making the playoffs. What better time than now to correct his injury, get his body right, and prepare for the following season after Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher get a full season under their belt.
11.) Kevin Durant
As Bill Simmons described on Grantland the other day, the OKC Thunder have been playing this season in a fish bowl; everyone has them under a microscope scrutinizing their ability to be an elite team. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (especially) have taken exception to that and have seemingly played this entire season with a mean streak, trying to prove doubters wrong.
The only issue is Durant’s ability to stay on the floor in the first place.
Durant has already missed the whole first month of the season and Westbrook was tasked with holding the team afloat until Durant returned. Westbrook did just that, Durant returned and played pretty well until January when he began to miss more time due to a sprained big toe.
After fighting his way back to health, the Thunder were able to rattle off a pretty impressive winning streak until it was announced last week that Durant will miss even more time due to a minor surgery to repair a screw in his foot.
For the short term it appears like this won’t affect the Thunder too much as they just added new editions Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, and D.J. Augustin, but in the long-term the Thunder front office is surely concerned about Durant’s overall health.
Not having the reigning MVP able to compete night in and night out is frustrating for not only the Thunder fan base but the league in general. OKC is one of the most exciting teams in the league when fully healthy and it’s a treat to see the tandem of Westbrook and Durant.
The current prognosis is that he’ll be able to return before the playoffs start, but he will be reevaluated next week.