Dwight Howard

The Heat cools down

 

The Miami Heat is not playing on full throttle. Coach Erik Spoelstra has come to a full understanding that the regular season is irrelevant. Sure, the team still wants home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but if that asset comes at the cost of Dwyane Wade’s longevity and the long term health of the team’s core players — Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Greg Oden — there is no chance Spoelstra goes all out during the regular season. We’ve already seen Spoelstra complacently benching Wade, a seemingly “Popovichian” method of keeping players fresh. 

 

Howard may have found his niche

 

Dwight Howard has finally found his home. Despite Mark Cuban’s claim that Howard made the wrong decision in his choice of destination, all signs show the contrary to be true. Under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale, while also playing alongside superstar guard James Harden, Howard has the tools he needs to transform the Houston Rockets into a perennial championship contender. 

 

Early Rookie of the Year favorites

 

It may be too early to crown the Rookie of the Year award, but Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams appear to be the early front-runners. Both have boasted riveting break-out games that illustrated their dynamic athletic ability to score, pass and defend so far this season. In the seemingly dull 2013 NBA draft, these two players appear to be the brightest gems so far. 

 

Inconsistency evident already

 

There is a massive disparity in the current quality of NBA teams. Innumerable teams appear to be contenders while even more teams appear to be terrible. But, there are very few teams in between. It’s been years since you could name so many potential championship contenders — Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers, Nets, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and the Warriors. The force driving this disparity in the NBA is the fact that mediocrity is unacceptable. Teams would rather be terrible and attain good draft picks next season than settle for second best. 

 

Iverson retires as NBA great

 

The retirement of one of the greatest guards to play the game, Allen Iverson, is a notable moment for the NBA’s legacy. Iverson made up for what he lacked in size with his big heart. Anywhere from Iverson’s infamous practice rant to him single-handedly carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson would be an unforgettable Hall of Famer. He will certainly go down as one of the most passionate and physically gifted men the NBA has ever seen.

NBA trade deadline looms — where is Atlanta's Josh Smith headed?

The NBA trade deadline is 2 p.m. ET Thursday, and this gives us roughly over 24 hours until then.

Around this time every year, NBA fans are bombarded with trade scenarios, rumors and a lot of very unlikely speculation that can cause their blood pressure to spike.

This season is no different of course, so here are the major players involved in rumors and the likelihood you’ll see those respective players actually being traded come tomorrow.

Kevin Garnett: Unlikely

There has been a lot of speculation as of late about what will happen with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Boston after the recent season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo. The Celtics seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out if they should rebuild or try to win now.

Kevin Garnett has been tossed around heavily in recent days in a trade scenario that would send him to the Los Angeles Clippers in a package revolving around Eric Bledsoe.

It seemed very unlikely all along that Garnett would be traded, simply because it’s hard to imagine a situation where the Celtics' brass parts ways with a player who’s been so loyal to the franchise.

To add to the unlikelihood of seeing Kevin Garnett in any other color than green this season is a report from Adran Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday saying talks between the Celtics and Clippers have died. And among other reasons, Kevin Garnett has a no-trade clause and has stated he doesn’t intend to waive it.

Dwight Howard: Unlikely

The Dwight saga that many fans (including myself) thought would end once he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers surprisingly hasn’t ended. Dwight is still one of the more common words you hear in the news, and simultaneously one of the least common names you see on the stat sheet.

Howard is not going anywhere. A strange rumor involving Howard and Rajon Rondo arose for a few days and died very quickly. It didn’t make much sense for LA to trade with their storied rivals in Boston, and it really didn’t make much sense to acquire an injured Rondo since Steve Nash still has a year and a half left on his contract.

Howard simply won’t be traded because there won’t be a deal worth taking on the table before tomorrow’s deadline. The Lakers appear to be ready to roll the dice and see what happens in the offseason, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has stated the Lakers will not trade Howard. Fans should start preparing for Howard's Indecision III this summer.

Josh Smith: Likely

I hope this deal is likely, at least for effort's sake. The Atlanta Hawks have engaged in trade talks with just about every team in the NBA. All right, not really, but they have been involved in talks with Boston, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee and even the San Antonio Spurs.

It seems likely that Josh Smith will be a Hawk, simply because of how involved the Hawks have been in trying to find a deal for him, joined by the fact that Josh Smith is seeking out a max deal when his contract expires this summer.

Not many teams believe Smith deserves a max deal, but the Philadelphia 76ers have appeared to be one of the most likely places for Smith come tomorrow. Philadelphia is still without Andrew Bynum and will probably be willing to sign Smith in the offseason in order to pair him with Bynum, or give Josh Smith the reins of the team if Bynum is unable to come back from injury. The Sixers are offering Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, two young pieces the Hawks can build around.

If Smith doesn’t go to Philadelphia, you could also see him in Milwaukee, who has offered Monta Ellis, a free agent this coming summer. Monta’s talent and expiring contract could be very tempting for a team like Atlanta moving forward.

If any of these players are likely to be traded by tomorrow, expect it to be Josh Smith. But the most likely scenario is the trade deadline coming and going without any major moves revolving around star players. You’ll probably see a few role players being swapped, but with talks dying down it appears that the big names will stay put for the time being.

Top 10 NBA MVP candidates

1. LeBron James – Winner of three out of the last four MVP awards, LeBron has dominated the game of basketball like few have ever done before. It is already evident that Lebron will be among the greatest players ever by the time his career is finished. There really isn’t much James isn’t capable of accomplishing on the court. To top that off, he is only getting better. Every offseason James makes it a goal of his to improve an aspect of his game. Last offseason it was a deadly post-up game; this upcoming season he promises a lethal hook shot. But the real phenomenon worth noting is the profound mental resilience he has gained this past year. In the playoff series against the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics, James illustrated a new side of his basketball character. He demonstrated to the world that he is no longer the man who had a complete meltdown in crucial playoff games against the Boston Celtics in 2010 and the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. No, this was a new James who wouldn’t back down in the most important moments. The 45-point, 15-rebound and five-assist performance, facing an elimination game against the Celtics, really sums up this mental growth and his newly acquired killer instinct. Watch out, ladies and gentlemen, because you will be awe-inspired by this phenomenal player who finally has both the physical and mental tools to become the greatest ever.

2. Kevin Durant – Since 1980 only two players have won three or more NBA scoring champion awards in a row: Kevin Durant and Michael Jordan. That is some exclusive company. It goes without saying that Kevin Durant is one of the most gifted scorers this game has ever seen. However, the improving aspects of Kevin Durant’s game are grossly underrated. Last year, Durant had career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks. Not only is this 24-year-old already the leader of a championship contender, but he is also very humble and willing to improve his game. Just this past offseason after the most success he has seen in his NBA career, Durant added approximately 15 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame in order to better play the power forward position for the Oklahoma City Thunder and also become a stronger defender. This guy is a workhorse. We have definitely not seen the best of Durant yet.

3. Chris Paul – With a continually developing frontcourt in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Chris Paul’s game will only get better. Griffin and Jordan will make Paul look better by the year because of their expanded offensive arsenals. With the absence of Derrick Rose for the majority of the year, the light will shine ever so gloriously on the incredible play-making abilities of the best point guard in the league. However, in order for Paul’s rank to be this high, his individual play is not sufficient. He must also be able to will the Clippers into the championship contender they are capable of becoming.

4. Kobe Bryant – As the greatest player of this generation, Kobe Bryant will have a lot to leave on the court in his last two years in the NBA. Very recently, Bryant chuckled when Ken Berger of CBS Sports questioned him about his willingness to play second fiddle or as a role player, reportedly saying, “That’s not gonna happen. That’s just not me.” Even as a spectator of the sport, it should become painfully obvious that Bryant will not want to leave the league without a final championship stamp on his first ballot Hall of Fame resume. With recent additions Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, Bryant’s offensive load will certainly lessen, allowing him to be the most efficient player he can be.

5. Deron Williams – Deron Williams had gone into the shadows for MVP discussions these past two years. However, there is good rationale to explain that. No player since the 1982-1983 season has won the MVP award while playing for a team with a winning percentage lower than .610. It is fairly reasonable to say that the Nets weren’t close to achieving that standard those past few years. After nearly three or four seasons of pointless basketball, Deron Williams finally has a team that will motivate him to reach his full potential. The addition of Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace will solidify the Nets as a second-round playoff team and give Williams all the motivation in the world. Watch out for Williams to have a statement year for the rising Brooklyn Nets.

6. Rajon Rondo – After his meteoric rise in the 2009 NBA playoffs, when he nearly averaged a triple double, Rondo has not failed to deliver in each of the following seasons. Since 2008, Rondo has made four NBA All-Defensive teams, led the league in assists and steals and dominated ball game after ball game without scoring a single point. Not much will change this year. Expect Rondo to grow as a leader and continue dominating games in ways very few can match.

7. Kevin Love – Is it safe to say Kevin Love is the best power forward in the league right now? After averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds last year, Love is poised to maintain that status (unless Dirk Nowitzki’s knee concerns dissipate). The addition of a resurgent Brandon Roy, the recovery of Ricky Rubio and the growth of Derrick Williams should finally provide Love with all the tools he needs to forge a playoff contender, almost a necessity for an MVP. The 24-year-old’s best days are still ahead of him.

8. Russell Westbrook – Kevin Love’s teammate at UCLA, Russell Westbrook, is not doing so bad himself. Although he plays second fiddle to Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s tremendous athletic ability and growing maturity make it impossible to leave him off this list. To me, Westbrook is the next Dwayne Wade of basketball, able to assassinate as he wishes through sheer athleticism. However, the next step in Westbrook’s development as a player has nothing to do with his athleticism. Rather, it has to do with the refining of his decision-making process and his leadership abilities.

9. Dirk Nowitzki – If not for the knee problems and potential arthroscopic injury, Nowitzki could beat out Love as the best power forward in the league. The ability of Nowitzki to instantaneously take over a game whenever he chooses to makes him a phenomenal player on the dark horse contender that is Dallas. At this point of his career, his offensive output might not match Durant’s or Lebron’s, but this guy can score at will. Because Nowitzki’s game doesn’t require tremendous athleticism, expect his game to age very gracefully. His fadeaway matches Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s sky hook as the most unguardable shot in the history of the NBA. So age should be no deterrent for Nowitzki this season.

10. Dwight Howard – In the ongoing debate surrounding the best center in the league, neither Dwight Howard nor Andrew Bynum seems to be a promising selection. Howard is coming off major back surgery and Bynum’s longtime best friends — knee injuries — are back in full force. However, Howard tops Bynum because he can impact the game so effectively in a multidimensional manner. Without even scoring, Howard’s dominant defense and rebounding abilities can create the largest imprint on a given basketball game. Although Bynum can finally be that No. 1 guy, the franchise player, he has to prove himself as a mature leader before he surpasses Howard.

*Before chaos ensues, there is a reasonable explanation for leaving out Dwyane Wade. His athleticism-based skill set does not age gracefully (ask Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady). Also, the addition of Ray Allen at shooting guard and Wade’s open willingness to defer to LeBron will slightly diminish his role on the Heat this upcoming season.

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.

Howard now open to playing in Chicago

Dwight Howard looks on as his Magic lose to the Indiana Pacers. Howard may be moving out of Orlando after this season. The Magic are 12-8 this year.
Dwight Howard looks on as his Magic lose to the Indiana Pacers. Howard may be moving out of Orlando after this season. The Magic are 12-8 this year.

Dwight Howard has added a new city to his trade wish list, the “Windy City,” Chicago.

In the past Howard’s list of the teams in which he would sign a long-term deal if traded to included only: Dallas, the L.A. Lakers, and the New Jersey Nets.

The list has been speculated upon since November, and teams have been on and off the list more often than the Republicans have had debates this winter.

Now, the new team on his wish list is the Bulls, where Howard would get to play with his buddy Derek Rose.

"If I could play with Derrick right now and God wanted that to happen, it will happen," Howard told the Chicago Tribune. "It has nothing to do with me not wanting to play with Derrick Rose. I love him. That's my brother."

In the past there were rumors that Rose and Howard’s shoe sponsor Adadis did not want the two to play together, because it would limit the pairs influence too a smaller market space. Howard quickly dismissed that idea.

"It has nothing to do with Adidas," Howard said, according to the Tribune. "In fact, Adidas would love that because me and Derrick have the same guy."

If Howard were traded to the Bulls, the combination of Howard and Rose would be lethal. It would be the first true high-low combination between a center and a guard since Shaq and Kobe.

In fact, it could be even more deadly. Rose is a much more willing passer than Kobe ever was, and Howard is a more effective defender than O’Neal in his prime.

The trade would also work for both squads, as the Bull’s have the young pieces to send back to Orlando, to make the trade worthwhile.

The Bulls would be able to put together a package of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson or Omer Asik and draft picks to send to the Magic in return for Howard and absorbing Hedo Turkoglu contract. A package of young talented pieces is something no other team on Howard’s list can afford to offer, in terms of value.

As of now there is no indication that the Bulls are actively perusing Howard, but at this point it looks like Howard will have to be traded and the Bulls would seem to be an excellent fit.

MILWAUKEE— The Milwaukee Bucks are getting a much-needed big man and the Houston Rockets are positioning themselves to make a big move.

A person with direct knowledge of the deal said Wednesday that the Bucks and Rockets had agreed to a trade a day before the NBA draft, with the Bucks sending the No. 12 overall pick and three players to the Rockets for the No. 14 pick and center Samuel Dalembert. The Rockets get guard Shaun Livingston and forwards Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman in the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet official. Several media organizations reported the deal earlier Wednesday.

Dalembert has career averages of 8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game. Center is a major need for the Bucks, who traded away Andrew Bogut last season and never really found a way to replace him.

Houston, meanwhile, is apparently positioning itself for a blockbuster move after dealing Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the 18th pick on Tuesday. The Rockets now have the No. 12, 16 and 18 picks in Thursday’s draft, but the team may make more moves as they put together a package to land a superstar big man — possibly Orlando’s Dwight Howard or Atlanta’s Josh Smith.

Howard, a five-time All-Star center, asked to be traded by the Magic during the season.

The Rockets went 34-32 last year, missing the playoffs for the third straight season. They’ve lacked a strong inside presence since former top overall pick Yao Ming started running into foot and injury issues and finally retired last summer.

Before last season, the Rockets were ready to trade forward Luis Scola, shooting guard Kevin Martin and point guard Goran Dragic for Pau Gasol, but NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the trade for “basketball reasons” on behalf of the league-owned New Orleans Hornets.

Houston picked up Dalembert in December. He started 45 games and averaged 7.5 points and seven rebounds per game in 2011-12.

First-year coach Kevin McHale said at a charity event on Monday that finding a dominant big man remains a high priority.

“From my standpoint,” he said, “getting bigger, protecting the rim, playing above the rim, rebounding and blocking shots is always a good thing.”

Howard was been named the league’s top defensive player three times and averaged a career-high 14.5 rebounds per game last season. He also publicly expressed frustration with coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith during the season. Van Gundy was fired and Smith parted ways with the team in May.

Speculation swirled this week that the Rockets were shopping point guard Kyle Lowry, who missed 19 games last season, mostly due to a bacterial infection that required hospitalization. Lowry and McHale developed a rift, arguing during a timeout in a game against Denver in April. Lowry told the Houston Chronicle in May that he would have “issues” playing for McHale.

With Lowry sidelined, Dragic emerged as a capable replacement, averaging 18 points and 8.4 assists in 28 starts. Dragic is an unrestricted free agent, but said after the season that he’d like to remain in Houston. He also said he wants a starting role in the NBA.

Bucks general manager John Hammond emphasized this week that he and his staff would take the best player available in the draft, conceding that the Bucks absolutely needed to find a center.

“I think right now there’s the assumption that we’re kind of looking into basically a narrow-minded set of, ‘We have to go big,’” Hammond said. “You know, there’s a need there, so obviously that is going to be a discussion and it’s going to somewhat of a priority for us.”

Before moving to get Dalembert, players projected to be of interest to the Bucks were North Carolina center Tyler Zeller and Illinois’ Meyers Leonard. Both run well for 7-footers, a must on a team that wants to play with an up-tempo style powered by guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

Milwaukee also could go with a shooting guard such as Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb or Washington’s Terrence Ross.

Hammond and coach Scott Skiles both are going into the final year of their contracts and aren’t considered likely to receive extensions before the season starts. Given the uncertainty, Hammond might be expected to favor drafting a player who can help the team right away over a project with a higher upside.

But Hammond said his contract situation won’t change the way he approaches the draft, even if fans and the media are discussing it.

“The issue at hand is how can we improve the Milwaukee Bucks,” Hammond said. “So for us, that may be discussed at the draft, it may be discussed during free agency, discussed even during the season when we talk about trades or other things that could come our way to change our roster. But at the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing. And the right thing is what’s best for this team, this organization, this city and our fans. And I would never vary from that.”

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