Chicago Bulls

NBA midseason predictions

The NBA season has lived up to all the preseason hype that surrounded it.

Midway through the season, we have seen a triple overtime game, Klay Thompson break the NBA record for points in a quarter with 37, and so far the top three teams in each conference have never won a title, which could be a compelling story come playoff time. But with the season halfway done, lets look at some predictations: 

Eastern Conference

Before the season started, the biggest prediction fans had was that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls would clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fans and even analysts knew better than to say the Wizards or the Hawks (yes the Atlanta Hawks) would be the top two seeds in the conference come All Star break. So what is happening in the East?

Well, Cleveland struggled out of the gate. But to be fair, it isn’t easy starting the season with a rookie head coach, a reloaded roster, and the abundance of expectations the team faced. However, now that Lebron is healthy and J.R. Smith and Mozgov seem to have found their place on the team, the Cavs have won seven straight. Still in my opinion, they can’t win with this current roster. A big part of their problem is that Kevin Love doesn't fit in their roster. He seems misused and even lost at certain times.

On the other side, Chicago can’t seem to avoid the injury bug, but thankfully Derrick Rose is slowly looking to be back to normal. This season Noah, McDermott, and Dunleavy have continuously missed games due to injury.

However, if the Bulls can get healthy, they are still my favorite to win the East. They have a point guard in Rose that has veteran experience and they have the biggest frontline in the NBA in Noah along with a rejuvenated Gasol and a high energy Taj Gibson. With rookie Nikola Mirotic finding his groove in the rotation and Jimmy Butler a clear cut favorite for most improved player, this team can be dangerous come playoff time.

But wait, I almost forgot the top three teams in the conference. Atlanta has been a great storyline thus far. No superstar on the roster, and yet they are currently on top of the East riding a 17 game win streak. Sorry to break your hearts Hawks fans, but I don’t see this team representing the East in the Finals. Simply put, they don’t have a go to player. We haven’t seen a team without a superstar win since the Pistons did it in 2004. Next the Wizards. Again, this team has the pieces to be a contender in the next few years. They’re just too young right now. But the backcourt of Wall and Beal will continue to be one of the dominant duos in the NBA. As for the Raptors, there is just no big men on that team that can bang with the Hawks or Bulls come playoff time. So have fun during the regular season, because come playoff time your team will come just a bit short.

Western Conference

Lets just start off by saying the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 10th in the Western and two games out of the 8th and final spot. That right there should tell you how crazy the West has been this year. Quite frankly, a three-game losing streak can drop you from third place to 7th place very easily. So how can I possibly distinguish who are actually contenders and who are just not there yet.

Well I’m going to start off by saying, the defending champ Spurs will be just fine. Kawhi Leonard is back and slowly they are finding their groove. And nobody is better than resting their players during the regular season to keep fresh during the playoffs than Gregg Popovich.

Next, the Golden State Warriors have been arguably the most impressive team this year. Stephen Curry is the leading candidate for MVP and Klay Thompson is cementing himself as a true star in this league. Not to mention, Steve Kerr has these guys playing stifling defense. Draymond Green has played himself into consideration for a max contract this offseason. Plus, having home court advantage throughout the playoffs can be huge for a Warriors team that is 21-2 at home.

Sitting at second is my pick to win it all. And here’s why. The Memphis Grizzlies might be the most balanced team in the NBA. They have the strongest frontcourt duo in the NBA with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley is having a career year. With the addition of Jeff Green, they got a versatile player who can defend multiple positions and knows how to put the ball in the basket.  They have the league’s third best defense in points allowed. If they can acquire one more solid bench player near the deadline, they will be the team to beat come playoff time. Moving along, Portland unfortunately had its chances cut short when Lamarcus Aldridge injured his thumb which requires surgery. Even with him delaying surgery, there’s no telling how much his game will be altered while playing through pain.

Now the next few teams in the West, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, all have one flaw that scares me. They rely on the jump shot, way too much. Yes, Harden is playing at an MVP caliber but where has his “Robin” Dwight Howard been? Harden can’t and won’t do it alone. For the Clippers its simple, there’s no depth. The addition of Austin Rivers seems a bit bizarre with a team that needs much more help. And for the Mavericks, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been the missing piece. Actually he’s been the opposite. They are now 11-9 since acquiring him. Yeah that sure was a “blockbuster” trade, Cuban.

So in my prediction, we will be seeing the Memphis Grizzlies versus the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals this season. And the ultimate winner? The Grizzlies. Even after saying all that, what do I know? Except that there is plenty more basketball to be played, and so many more factors that can alter the playoff picture. But for now, this Memphis team looks poised to make a deep run.
 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill | Daily Texan Staff

After LeBron James’ and Carmelo Anthony’s decisions dominated the first part of the offseason, superstar forward Kevin Love is now the biggest player on the market.

With a year remaining on his current contract, Love has been the subject trade talks between the Minnesota Timberwolves and multiple teams this summer. In the past week, a Kevin Love for No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins with Cleveland has looked very likely. However, Wiggins signing his contract with the Cavaliers on Thursday stalls that possibility. The contract prevents any trading of Wiggins for thirty days, or until August 23.

While Cleveland is still a major player for Love, Wiggins’ new contract affords other teams an opportunity to trade for Love. The two biggest contenders outside of Cleveland are the Golden State Warriors and the Chicago Bulls.

THE FAVORITE: Cleveland Cavaliers

Though a trade cannot happen for a month, an agreement between the Cavs and Timberwolves could still occur. While an extremely talented Wiggins has future star potential, LeBron James is in the prime of his career and obviously wants to continue his streak of making the NBA Finals. James and the Cavs management are well aware of the huge impact Love could have on the team’s ability to win now. James has personally reached out to Love in an attempt to recruit him. The political capital that James has over the front office, combined with the desire to play for a title-contender in Love allows Cleveland to remain the favorite.

THE THREAT: Chicago Bulls

After missing out on Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls are still looking to solidify their chances at winning an Eastern Conference Championship. Chicago has now set its sights on acquiring Love, engaging in trade talks with the Timberwolves. In order to entice Minnesota into making a trade, Chicago’s front office will have to make an offer big enough to pull the Timberwolves away from their apparent favorite, Wiggins. Surely, Minnesota will examine every available option before dealing away Love to Cleveland, giving the Bulls an opportunity to snatch Love away.

THE DARKHORSE: The Golden State Warriors

Reports earlier in the summer indicated that Minnesota and Golden State came very close to a deal; however, the Warriors and Timberwolves never came to an agreement. If the Warriors have any regrets, they have the next thirty days to try to put together a deal that Minnesota will agree to. However, it still seems unlikely that the Warriors will trade away guard Klay Thompson, who the Timberwolves seem to be mandating before they consider a trade.  

Of course, Love could end up staying in Minnesota, but it seems unlikely at this point that the Timberwolves would keep him. Considering the Timberwolves appear to understand that they will not be able to resign Kevin Love, a trade would allow them to turn the remaining year on his contract into a future for the franchise. 

In the past 40 years, no team has won the NBA Finals for four consecutive seasons. That is the challenge the Miami Heat are currently facing. But after LeBron James mentioned in the Heat’s preseason press conference that he “got better once again,” I have very little doubt the Heat will once again represent the East. James playfully added in the press conference that he “won’t reveal what he has improved, but it’s special.” But, if the Heat doesn’t make it back to the Finals, here’s a quick look at who might topple their empire. 

1. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat are chasing history. Only three teams in the history of the NBA — the Lakers of the ’50s, the Bulls of the ’90s and the Lakers of the 2000s — have managed to pull off the “three-peat,” and the Celtics even managed to win eight times between 1958 and 1966. But, if any team can do it again, it might as well be this Miami Heat team led by James. 

2. Indiana Pacers: The gap between the Heat and the rest of the conference is getting smaller and smaller. As forward/guard Paul George and center Roy Hibbert mature, it seems as if the Heat may actually be vulnerable this season. With George’s elite defense on the wing and Hibbert’s extraordinary length in the paint, the Pacers might have the perfect antidote to James. 

3. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are one of the few teams capable of toppling the Heat. With a superstar in guard Derrick Rose and a top-three defensive anchor in center Joakim Noah, the Bulls are built to contend for years to come in the East. Whether Rose returns in full form or not is still a lingering question. 

4. Brooklyn Nets: Guard Deron Williams, guard Joe Johnson, forward/guard Paul Pierce, forward/center Kevin Garnett and center Brook Lopez sound like a tremendous starting five on paper. But that doesn’t mean anything. The Lakers’ debacle last year shows that throwing a pile of talent together is not enough to get the job done. It’s all up to rookie coach Jason Kidd to find the perfect recipe for this team. 

5. New York Knicks: It is glaringly obvious by now that forwards Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony cannot coexist. The explanation is twofold. First off, Stoudemire and Anthony both need the ball to operate effectively. Second, Stoudemire’s health prevents any real continuity or chemistry from being established in the frontcourt. Expect Anthony to flee once his contract is up at the end of the season. 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers: This is the year that point guard Kyrie Irving, the league’s most talented young guard, will take the Cavaliers back to the playoffs. Boasting a supporting cast of forward Anthony Bennett, guard Dion Waiters, forward/center Tristan Thompson, center Andrew Bynum and forward/center Anderson Varejao, the Cavaliers have a quality roster that can compete for one of the last few playoff spots. 

7. Detroit Pistons: Any frontcourt with center Greg Monroe, forward Josh Smith and center Andre Drummond will most likely make it to the playoffs. At first glance, the acquisition of Smith seems like a great acquisition by the Pistons. It gives them an immediate chance to make the playoffs. It comes, however, at the price of poisoning the development of All-Star caliber frontcourt players Drummond and Monroe. 

8. Washington Wizards: The Wizards have a Big Three that could define their future: guard John Wall, guard Bradley Beal and forward Otto Porter. That core should be competitive for years to come. 

NBA playoff dark horses

As the NBA season approaches the All-Star break, the undefined half-way marker, we take a look at two teams in each conference that have been playing extremely well since the beginning of the season and could make some noise in the play-offs if all of the correct piece fall into place.

With Derrick Rose sidelined late last year with an ACL injury, the Chicago Bulls were all but counted out of the elite teams in the Eastern conference. Analysts buzzed about the defending champions Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets, their cross-city counter-parts New York Knicks, the aged Boston Celtics, and, to a lesser degree, the Indiana Pacers. No Rose, no hope. But boy were they wrong. The Bulls are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, beating out three teams projected to do better than them this season. They have won seven of their last ten games, have the best road record in the NBA at 12-6, and have rallied behind the principle of team unity the entire season. Joakim Noah, who is averaging 12.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists to go along with 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest, has been the heart and soul that anchors a team of gritty, tireless players that hustle every minute of the game and never give up. Luol Deng has stepped up offensively to provide the primary scoring threat for the team. Carlos Boozer has played resurgently as of late, showing shades of his old self with a string of monster games earlier this month. Coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled a terrific mentality in this group of players who have really rallied together to play hard night-in and night-out. If the Bulls continue to play with the tenacity they’ve shown thus far when Derrick Rose returns to the line-up after the All-Star break they would look similar to the scary #1 seeded Bulls team of two years ago and could spell trouble for first and possibly second-round opponents.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut. That’s the line-up that Golden State Warriors’ fans envisioned would carry them to the play-offs this year, and it is a scary one to imagine for opposing teams. But after playing just four games in the season, Bogut went down with an ankle injury, causing him to miss the next 38 games. The Warriors did not let Bogut’s injury hamper their whole season, though. Currently sitting at the No. 5 seed in the West, they are young, athletic, and fun-to-watch. Not only that – they get the job done. They boast an impressive 14-6 home record, and despite going 5-5 in their past ten games played, they have played well throughout the season. Curry is having an all-star caliber year (21 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game) and proves to be the glue that holds the team together. Last year fans got a glimpse of what Klay Thompson could be after the shooting guard spot opened up in the post-Monta Ellis era. He averaged over 20 points a game on 45% shooting last year after Ellis was dealt to the Bucks. Thompson started the year slowly shooting below 40% and not performing, but has since come into form and is shooting the ball well. Harrison Barnes also started the season rocky, and although his numbers aren’t spectacular, the Warriors are better as a unit when he is on the court. He is a terrific defender and does a lot of the dirty work and intangibles that do not go on the stat sheet. Supplement these young shooters with big men like David Lee and Andrew Bogut who are not afraid to get physical and bruise their way to rebounds and inside paint points and there is a legitimate inside-outside threat that teams will have to deal with. Head coach Mark Jackson has given these young players immense confidence to play the game their style and it has been working thus far (27-17). It may take a while for the chemistry to settle in with Bogut back in the line-up, but if they continue to play well the Warriors can hover around the 4th-6th seed in the West – and don’t be surprised if they pull off an upset or two in the playoffs.
 

NBA Eastern Conference Preview

There is a remarkable disparity in the quality of teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. That disparity though is quite simple to understand-the Miami Heat and the rest of the field. The Miami Heat have separated themselves from any other playoff contender in the East, ever more strikingly with the absence of Derrick Rose. However, nothing is a guarantee in the NBA. So, let’s get down to business.

The Miami Heat are the unquestioned number one in the Eastern Conference power rankings. Lebron James was a near perfect player last few years. He could guard all five positions at an elite level, had the versatility to play 1-4 on offense, and the physical athleticism to annihilate any opposing athlete. The only tool missing was his mental toughness. Now that Lebron James has proved to the world that he can perform in the most critical moments of a basketball game, he does not really have too much internal pressure constantly weighing down on him. Expect a surreal Lebron James, a revived Dwayne Wade, and a scrappy Chris Bosh to fit well with their new shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and ultimately challenge the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls 72-win record.

The Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics remain the two biggest threats to the reigning NBA Champions. Both teams boast a largely intact starting lineup that can match the chemistry of any other team. Talent is no shortage with these two teams. Rajan Rondo is arguably the best pass-first point guard in the league and will maximize the remaining productivity of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and new addition Jason Terry along with young guns Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. For the Celtics to have any chance of beating the Heat in the playoffs though, they will need Rajan Rondo to perform at his maximum, delivering triple doubles on a nightly basis. The Indiana Pacers on the other hand are largely dependent on the performance of their front court. With Roy Hibbert, David West, and Danny Granger starting at the front court positions, the Pacers have the talent to match up against the Heat. However, they really have not added much over the offseason and are relying on Paul George, second year shooting guard, to lift the Pacers into a new stratosphere.

Teams in New York are talented. The New York Knicks and New York Nets have rosters that when put together hold sufficient talent to make an all-star team. However, chemistry issues will stall the productivity and talent of these two teams. The Knicks will rely on Jason Kidd to somehow rid them of their dysfunctional use of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony simultaneously. The Nets on the other hand need to figure out how to fit new face Joe Johnson along with returning Brooklyn Lopez and adjust to their rising expectations.

The Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks should fill up those last few playoff spots. All these teams have a critical flaw that prevents them from performing much better. The Bulls don’t have Derrick Rose. However, Tom Thibodeau, a defensive mastermind, will muster enough defense and scoring from his relatively productive unit last year. The 76ers have the potential to be an amazing team if Andrew Bynum grows into a reliable franchise player. But, who thinks that’s really going to happen? Last, the Hawks made a great move by getting rid of Joe Johnson’s burdensome contract and making Josh Smith the new focal point. However, they did get rid of arguably their best player.

Finally, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, and Toronto Raptors are just undergoing too many fluctuations to make a viable push for the playoffs. There are definitely some quality players and rising starts on these teams-Kyrie Irving, Monte Ellis, and Brandon Jennings. But, the majority of these teams are a couple of solid first round picks away from making a solid impact on the playoff standings.

Title contenders setting themselves apart with playoffs looming

With only a week remaining in the lockout shortened 66-game sprint there are still many positional races from top to bottom in the standings.

The top seed in the Western Conference is up for grabs as the Spurs have made a run at the Thunder, after OKC has seemingly held that spot for the entire season. At the other end of the standings, the Jazz, Suns, Rockets and Nuggets are already in playoff-mode, fighting for the last two tickets to the postseason.

The Chicago Bulls are in good shape to claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season. In a battle for the fourth seed in the East the Celtics, Magic and Hawks are all within a game of each other heading into the final stretch.

With so many teams still scrapping for position there are no set matchups for the first round of the playoffs, which get underway next weekend. There are at least four teams in each conference to consider as legitimate threats to make a run at the championship in what will likely be a surprised-filled post-season.

Chicago Bulls (47-15)
The Bulls are close to clinching the best record in the league despite playing a third of their games without last year’s MVP, Derrick Rose. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s team kept finding ways to win, mainly in part to their league-best defense. If Rose reaches his top form in the playoffs, it’s hard to pick against this team in any series.

San Antonio Spurs (45-16)
Gregg Popovich’s men find themselves atop the standings again and look like deeper team than the one that was upset by the surging Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs. Led by Tony Parker’s MVP-caliber play, the Spurs are loaded at every position and have the athleticism to compete with the Thunder and Grizzlies of the world.

Miami Heat (44-17)
Like the Spurs, the Miami Heat bring an even more well-rounded group into this season’s playoffs. Adding Shane Battier and talented rookie guard Norris Cole to the rotation, the Heat addressed a couple holes that left them as last year’s runner-ups. LeBron James has answered last year’s finals failures by putting together his greatest individual regular season to date. The problem is that the Heat must complete the process and win the championship or else their season will be considered a failure.

Oklahoma City Thunder (45-17)
The Thunder’s youth and athleticism got them off to the races and they have never really looked back in this shortened season. Durant, Westbrook and Harden have continued their flashy playmaking that had them in the Western Conference finals last season. The Thunder still have a lack of interior scoring and can be vulnerable if they are matched up against a smarter and more experienced team.

Los Angeles Lakers (40-23)
Mike Brown has done a nice job of utilizing his big men and few teams have found a way to contain Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol. Coming off of a winning stretch without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers displayed some of the toughness and playmaking that won them two straight championships from 2009-2010. Dealing with the Lakers size in a 7-game series will be a daunting task for any opponent.

Boston Celtics (37-26)
Sporting a mediocre 15-17 record at the All-Star break the aged Celtics seemed destined for a rebuilding season. Instead Rajon Rondo has accepted his leadership role and has taken his game to an MVP-type level. With Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen all peaking at the right time, this version of the Celtics could have one final championship run left in them

Dallas Mavericks (35-28)
The defending NBA Champions were counted out by most before they even raised their Championship banner. Many questioned this team’s defensive ability once they lost their defensive anchor Tyson Chandler to the Knicks, yet they have the second best defensive numbers in the Western Conference. The Mavs are finally at full strength for the first time all season at the most opportune time. Rick Carlisle’s veteran coaching and Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki will be challenging assignments for even the most talented teams in the West.

Indiana Pacers (40-21)
The Indiana Pacers have peaked their way into the third seed in the East with a 9-1 stretch that includes a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pacers lack a true superstar, but have received major contributions from a handful of players on their way into the championship conversation. Center Roy Hibbert and a trio of forwards give them the length to compete with the Bulls and Heat.
 

Howard's future still in the air

With the NBA trade deadline looming there is still an uncertainty on which NBA uniform Dwight Howard will be wearing after March 15.

The Orlando Magic have made it clear that they want to make a long term deal with the superstar center, but run the risk of losing him without receiving any compensation if he leaves due to free-agency next summer. The Magic have already suffered through a similar situation when they last NBA-great Shaquille O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers through free-agency.

Magic owner Rich DeVos concedes that Howard has all of the leverage on deciding which team he will suit up for at the start of next season. “Howard is going to look at his options [and choose] what's best for him and that may or may not coincide with my desires," DeVos said.

Howard has said he is open to staying with the Magic, but also has a wish list of other possible destinations. His list includes the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers and the Nets are the likely suitors to prepare an in-season trade offer. The Lakers would have to part with both forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum. While the Nets would have to give up numerous valuable players to work an in-season trade, similar to what the Knicks surrendered for Carmelo Anthony. The Nets would then be in position to offer max contracts to both Howard and point-guard Deron Williams.

The Mavericks and Bulls are hoping that Howard remains with the Magic throughout the season and becomes available in free-agency.

The Mavericks simply don’t have the trade assets to land Howard this season, but they are well-positioned to make a bid for him during free-agency. The Mavs are committed to creating more than $30 million in salary-cap space to bid on both Howard and Dallas-native Deron Williams.

The Bulls were the last team to make the cut on Dwight Howard’s wish list. Known as one of the deepest teams in the league and currently holding the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls might just approach this season’s play-off run with their current roster. If the Bulls fail to make the NBA Finals, they will likely make a serious attempt to make the Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard dream duo scenario into a reality.

The Magic are intent on leaving the trade-talk until after the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb.26. The 18 days between the All-Star Game and the March 15 trade deadline will be critical for the future of both Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic franchise.

After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts. Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.  

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going
to happen.”After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed
Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts.

Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Compact schedule could be to blame for playoff injuries