There have been amazing games, incredible performances, and dramatic storylines throughout these playoffs, but when it’s all said and done the one thing we will all remember is the first thing we will want to forget: the injuries. Beginning with Derrick Rose in the first round and spanning until now with Chris Bosh, some of the best players in this league have had to sit out multiple games because of a litany of bumps and bruises. Not only have fans missed out on some memorable games, but audiences have also been deprived of great individual matchups, some of which certainly would have affected the outcomes of their respective series. Here are the top five one-on-one matchups that could have been, but injuries prevented from happening in this year’s playoffs:
5. Al Horford vs. Kevin Garnett
This matchup of two of the best centers in the Eastern Conference (and no, I cannot believe I just called KG one of the best centers out East) was ruined very early on in the season, January 9th to be exact. The only reason this matchup is so low on our list is that Horford was able to make it back for Game 4 of these teams’ first round series, salvaging one of the best one-on-one matchups in the first round. During those three games, Horford went for 15.33 points a game along with 8.33 boards a game. Garnett, on the other hand, posted averages of 19 points and 8.67 rebounds over the same span. It surely would have been a treat to see these two go at it for the first three games of the series.
4. Roy Hibbert vs. Chris Bosh
Hibbert is just about as frustrating as it comes in terms of inconsistency, as shown by his point totals of 17, 8, 19, 10, 8, and 12 in Round 2. From game to game, from minute to minute even, Hibbert can go from looking like the All-Star he was this season to giving off the vibe that he is an unfinished project, which he may always be. But the great thing about Hibbert is that for every head-scratching play he makes, there’s at least one that is just as jaw-dropping. That’s why I would have loved to see Hibbert challenged over a seven game series by a player like Chris Bosh. With Bosh in the lineup, Hibbert would have been forced to extend out and defend his jumper while also attempting to maintain a defensive presence in the lane. It would have been quite the task for Hibbert to hold up over an entire series, but it at least could have given us a better idea where this big man realistically falls on his ever-changing spectrum of talent.
3. Derrick Rose vs. Jrue Holliday
We got to see these two duke it out for almost an entire game. Somehow, after only putting up 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists compared to Rose’s 23 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds, Holliday came out on top simply because he was still standing by the end of the game. Without Rose around to wear him down over the final five games of the series, Holliday posted averages of 18.6 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds. Those stats nowhere approach Rose’s regular output, but Holliday was able to establish himself as Philadelphia’s most consistent offensive threat. The 76ers have to feel pretty good about their point guard heading into his third season, but you have to wonder if the franchise would be as confident about their lead guard of the future if Rose had been able to contain him in the first round and prevent an appearance in the conference semifinals.
2. Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh
We were almost lucky enough to see these two forwards-playing-center go at it in Game 5, but instead Bosh only played 14 minutes. That now makes four games we’ve missed out on seeing these two match up when they’re both one hundred percent. Granted, Garnett rarely ever matches up on the opposing team’s best big man because his strong suit lies in his help side defense, the Celtics might not have many options. In Game 6, fans and media members alike had their eyes on Bosh to see how he would spread out the Celtics’ defense with his midrange jumper. However, Bosh played sparingly and failed to consistently challenge Garnett on both ends of the floor. Although we have seen Bosh for a limited amount of time in this series, we surely have not seen his best against what could arguably be the best basketball KG has played in his career. And that, my friends, is a crying shame.
1. Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade
Bradley has turned into one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Wade continues to be one of the best penetrators and finishers in both transition and the half court. How could that matchup not be a classic? Seeing one player transform into one of the most daunting defensive presences in the NBA while matching up against one of the most explosive players in the game certainly would have been a treat. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be as Bradley was knocked out of the playoffs with repeated shoulder problems. Instead, Bradley has to sit on the sidelines while his team has taken a 3-2 lead against the favored Heat and wonder what could have been if he had his shot at Wade. In a postseason that has been fascinating from so many angles, matchups like these that should have been are about all fans can find to complain about.
Can the Heat bounce back? How are they going to plug the hole in the middle with Bosh injured? Is their bench good enough? They are never going to advance if Wade keeps playing like this. Can LeBron come up big in the 4th quarter for once?
We all want to know how and when the Miami Heat are going to stumble. Any chance critics get to point out a flaw they are quick to hypothesize over the demise of the team. This team, understandably, is analyzed and picked apart like no other in the league. I’ll admit that I’m one of the biggest offenders; any chance I get to rip on LeBron James and company I will take it.
But it is time for all of us to realize one thing: this team, as much as us haters loathe admitting it, has proven time and again that it can bounce back from almost anything.
Believe you me, I want to see them fail just as much as the next person, but their track record shows that this team is at its best when its doubters have the most ammunition.
You need not look further than the Heat’s first round matchup with the Indiana Pacers. After Chris Bosh went down in Miami’s Game 1 victory, they dropped two in a row to fall back 2-1. Not only that, but the way they dropped Game 3 (which Original NBA predicted) by giving up 38 points in the paint and making Roy Hibbert (19 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 blocks) look like the franchise player he never will be, while getting only 5 points out of Dwyane Wade had the doubters in full force. Wade was injured beyond repair, the Miami bench was quite possibly the worst in these playoffs, and the Heat absolutely could not replace Chris Bosh in the middle.
However, Miami shut us all up real quick. They reeled off five straight wins to knock the Pacers out of the playoffs and go up 2-0 against the Celtics. In fact, since that game Wade has put up 26 points a game and played some of the best ball of his life. Miami has had huge games from their non-star players, including Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Udonis Haslem. Haslem and Joel Anthony have at times filled in admirably for Bosh, who will in all likelihood be back for Game 5 against the Celtics.
Earlier in the season, when Miami lost three games in a row in January to the Warriors, Clippers, and Nuggets, critics across the country were telling us all the reasons why the Heat should be concerned in the long term. What did they do to respond? They put up 20 wins over their next 23 games. Hell, that run included a nine game winning streak and Wade even sat out six out of those 23 games.
And speaking of Wade, during the 14 games he missed due to injury, when Miami was supposed to be relegated to a two-man team incapable of running with the big boys without their leader, the Heat went 13-1.
The long and short of it is this: any time the Heat have faced significant adversity this season, they have bounced back to play some of their best basketball.
So now that they have dropped two in a row inBoston, how ever will the Heat rebound and get back on track? They will do the same thing they have done all season long and battle through the questions and just play basketball. Getting Bosh back is certainly going to help ease the pain, but even without him back in the fold, my money would be on the Heat to make a big statement against the Celtics tonight. Instead of overreacting as I and countless others have done after things don’t go Miami’s way, I instead expect them to respond to their previous two defeats in a big way. After how they responded to adversity throughout this season, I would be a fool not to expect their best tonight.
After the mad blitz that was the NBA regular season, teams in the playoffs are certainly showing some fatigue. Many have argued that a season that demanded players to attempt to play 66 games in approximately 120 days has led to the rash of injuries. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Josh Smith, Ray Allen, Baron Davis, Kendrick Perkins, and Iman Shumpert are among the players who have missed time this postseason because of injuries. Throw in the suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Metta World Peace and it is clear that perfect attendance was almost impossible to achieve this season.
Obviously, teams who are able to keep their best players on the floor have a sizable advantage over their opponents. A quick glance at the number of games missed by rotation players on playoff teams during the regular seasons offers a little insight. By looking at a team’s roster and gauging how many players from each team missed time due to injuries or suspensions can quite possibly predict that team’s chances of keeping its best unit intact throughout the playoffs.
Here are the teams that did the best job of keeping its best players on the court throughout this hectic season:
1. Indiana Pacers
30 games missed, 10 rotation players, 3.0 games missed on average
Players considered: Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison, George Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, Louis Amundson
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
41 games missed, 9 rotation players, 4.56 average
Players considered: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Derek Fisher, Daequan Cook, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison
Note: Eric Maynor was not considered in this evaluation as his injury was suffered very early in the season and the team was adequately able to replace him with Derek Fisher
3. LA Lakers
35 games missed, 7 rotation players, 5.0 average
Players considered: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake
Note: The amount of games missed by Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill was incredibly difficult to quantify as each players’ up and down play led to inconsistent playing time
4. San Antonio Spurs
83 games missed, 12 rotation players, 6.92 average
Players considered: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, Dajuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw
Note: The Spurs’ position on this list is remarkable especially considering several of their best players were held out of games at the end of the season.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
63 games missed, 9 rotation players, 7.0 average
Players considered: Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Mareese Speights, Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter
6. Miami Heat
73 games missed, 10 rotation players, 7.3 average
Players considered: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf
7. Philadelphia 76ers
86 games missed, 10 rotation players, 8.6 average
Players considered: Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Thad Young, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen
8. LA Clippers
86 games missed, 10 rotation players, 8.6 average
Players considered: Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Nick Young, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, Randy Foye, DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans
9. Orlando Magic
78 games missed, 9 rotation players, 8.67 average
Players considered: Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon
10. Utah Jazz
99 games missed, 11 rotation players, 9.0 average
Players considered: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, Devin Harris, CJ Miles, Derrick Favors, Josh Howard, Alex Burks, Raja Bell, Enes Kanter, Earl Watson
11. Chicago Bulls
100 games missed, 10 rotation players, 10.0 average
Players considered: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton, Joakim Noah, CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik
12. Dallas Mavericks
102 games missed, 10 rotation players, 10.2 average
Players considered: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Delonte West, Roddy Beuabois, Brendan Wright, Jason Kidd, Ian Mahimni, Brendan Haywood
13. New York Knicks
95 games missed, 9 rotation players, 10.55 average
Players considered: Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, JR Smith, Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Baron Davis
14. Denver Nuggets
136 games missed, 12 rotation players, 11.33 average
Players considered: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington, Javale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer, Rudy Fernandez, Kosta Koufos, Timofey Mozgov
Note: Faried was not counted as having missed any games, even though he only played 46 games this season. Once he started receiving consistent playing time beginning February 9th he did not miss another game.
15. Atlanta Hawks
133 games missed, 10 rotation players, 13.3 average
Players considered: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, Willie Green, Kirk Hinrich, Ivan Johnson, Tracy McGrady
16. Boston Celtics
167 games missed, 10 rotation players, 16.7 average
Players considered: Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Wilcox, Michael Pietrus, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
Note: Wilcox and O’Neal were both included because it appears the team still has not recovered from their injuries, shown by inconsistent minutes still given to Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, and Marquis Daniels. It just seems like Doc Rivers is still trying to make up for the size they are missing with Wilcox and O’Neal out.
It should come as no surprise that the four teams that are widely considered to be the favorites to contend for the NBA Finals (Thunder, Spurs, Heat, and Lakers) are all in the top 6 teams on this list. Not only did these teams do a superior job avoiding the injury bug, but it is also incredible how few games their star players missed this season. James, Bosh, Duncan, Parker, Bryant, Bynum, Pau Gasol, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden missed a combined 38 games between the ten of them.
A team like Indiana, who no one thinks has a chance at winning a championship this year, certainly must be overjoyed at their ability to stay healthy. If a major injury does occur to one of their opponents, the Pacers’ tendency to field a healthy roster could prove to be the catalyst in a series against an undermanned team.
On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised the Bulls are in the position they are in. Surely it was not their fault, but the numbers don’t lie: Chicago has a team that struggled with injuries all year long, and surely the playoffs are no different. The Bulls thought they might be able to get everyone healthy and on the same page down the stretch, but it should be no surprise to any of us that their unhealthy trend continued into the playoffs.
In light of Amare Stoudemire’s recent run in with a certain fire extinguisher in Miami, it got me thinking about the most idiotic self-inflicted injuries in the NBA. Most are self-inflicted out of the sheer stupidity by the offending party. Where does Stoudemire’s hand laceration rank in the list? Believe it or not, there have been more foolish injuries, albeit both by the same player. And no, Lionel Simmons doesn’t make the list for missing games during the 1990-1991 season because of a wrist injury caused by playing Game Boy. Simmons is saved by the fact that Derrick McKey missed time for the same reason a year later. You cannot fault these guys for being passionate about their Tetris. And there is nothing stupid about playing Game Boy. That being said, let’s see the real list:
5. Paul Pierce
The stage: the 2008 NBA Finals, Game 1, the biggest game of his life. Paul Pierce is bumped by teammate Kendrick Perkins and…Oh wait, we’re talking about real injuries? Excuse me, that was just so damn convincing.Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
5. Derrick Rose
Given his recent injury, maybe we shouldn’t be picking on the guy, but you haven’t heard just how ridiculous this injury really is. During his rookie season, Rose injured himself when he got a cut underneath his left elbow. Fortunately, Rose didn’t end up missing any game time, but it’s not the impact of this injury that is worth noting, it is the absurdity of it. Rose claimed that the night before the injury, he had been eating an apple in bed. The next morning as he went to grab a bottle of water, he forgot that the knife he used to cut the apple was still there. Thus, he sat down on the bed and sliced his arm. I guess it was an honest mistake, but lack of common sense is no excuse for being excluded from this list.
4. Monta Ellis
Ok, this one is pretty simple. When you sign a 6 year, $67 million contract, typically you owe it to your team to stay out of harm’s way. Instead, in August 2008, a little over a month after signing that big deal, Ellis revealed that he had torn a ligament in his left ankle. Initially, Ellis claimed that he had injured the ankle in a pick up basketball game in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. However, the Warriors looked further into the situation and discovered that Ellis had actually injured the ankle in a moped accident. The Warriors decided to suspend Ellis for 30 games without pay for the incident, assuming that he was too injured to play in those games anyway. That guess proved to be a tad on the conservative side as Ellis ended up playing only 25 games that season.
3. Tony Allen
Poor Tony Allen. Back in the days when he was known as “Trick or Treat Tony” for his maddeningly inconsistent play, he suffered one of the most unfortunate turns of fate on the court. But I can’t leave him off the list because I feel bad for him. No, his stupidity must be pointed out. On January 10, 2007, Allen was playing in the second half of a Celtics’ loss when, after hearing a whistle blow, Allen decided to drive into the lane and throw down an uncontested, dead ball dunk. Unfortunately for Allen, his knee didn’t exactly cooperate; upon landing he tore his ACL and MCL and ended up missing the rest of the season. You hate to see a guy go down with such a devastating injury, but in reality, Allen injured himself by showing off to the crowd. He went up for what he thought would be an emphatic and impressive dunk, but literally fell flat on his face, shredding his knee in the process.
2. Amare Stoudemire
Notice how all of these players “suffered” their injuries in the regular season? Too bad we can’t say the same for Stoudemire. He gets a lofty position in these rankings for the timing of everything. With his team struggling through a first-round playoff series with the Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations on a fire extinguisher. Bad news for Amare: after the dust settled, the fire extinguisher came out on top. Surely, the Knicks had little to no chance of winning the series, but with its second scoring option out for the foreseeable future against one of the best defensive teams in the league, New York was all but eliminated as fast as you can say “Amare’s a dumbass.” Not only that, but when the 6-10 Stoudemire went down, the Knicks were forced to play small ball, taking away quite possibly the only advantage the Knicks had, their size.
1. Lew Alcindor
The man now known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar was once upon a time a very stubborn and, apparently, not very sharp young man. During a pre-season game in 1974, Alcindor was hit by an opposing player and, being so infuriated, swung at and punched the basket support. He broke his hand and missed 16 games. Ok, you’re probably thinking “that’s excusable, what’s the big deal?” Fast forward to the 1977-1978 season opener, now as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and facing his former Bucks team, Kareem loses his temper once again. This time, after being elbowed by Kent Benson, Abdul Jabbar punches Benson, breaks his hand, and is forced to sit out for two months. You would imagine that after missing significant time for punching an inanimate object, Abdul Jabbar wouldn’t take his chances with a human being, but apparently he didn’t learn from the first time around. I’m assuming he finally did learn his lesson as, after this injury, Abdul Jabbar never missed more than 8 games in a single season.
There are currently fifteen players on the US Men’s Basketball roster that are healthy enough to play for the team this summer. Those players are Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin and Tyson Chandler. With injuries to Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dwight Howard and the decision that Lamar Odom will not be representing the team at this summer’s Olympics, Jerry Colangelo has stated that the team is likely to add one or two players who will compete for the twelve spots on the active roster.
Here are five players that should warrant some consideration:
5. Greg Monroe
This team is clearly lacking size here and need a player with Monroe’s rebounding and low-post scoring ability. Monroe has something that the other big men on this team do not: a low-post scoring game. He can back down his man and score with an array of low-post moves unlike anyone else on the roster. However, Olympics basketball rarely ever favors big men in the post; therefore, Monroe (and player’s like him, such as Zach Randolph) has an asset that may very well be mitigated. USA Basketball may want to add him into the mix in order to give him the experience and prepare him for the future when he may very well be part of the teams’ plans.
4. DeAndre Jordan
Jordan would bring another dimension to this team as a big man who can run the floor in transition. Surely, with Williams, Paul, or Westbrook running the point and the best wing players in the NBA, this team is going to have the ability to get out on the fast break like no other team in the field. Add a center like Jordan into the fold and USA Basketball could field a lineup that would devastate less athletic teams in transition. Just imagine a limeup of Westbrook, Wade, James, Griffin and Jordan running the break. Just downright frightening.
3. Anthony Davis
Kentucky’s big man is sure to be the first pick in this year’s draft, but why not throw more accolades at this 19-year-old? He may very well be the future of the USA Basketball program, so giving him experience now can only help. His ability to rebound, protect the rim, and knock down open shots are all very attractive to a team whose only true center is Chandler. Have you noticed a theme yet? Yup, this roster is short on size and defensive presence in the paint.
2. James Harden
A scoring wing player certainly is not a need for this team, but as one of the best young players in the league, Harden certainly deserves a look. He has drastically improved his 3-point shot, shooting 39% this year, and has a fantastic all-around offensive game. Considering Gordon represents the US’s biggest 3-point threat and his ongoing health issues, Harden would be a sound investment.
1. Josh Smith
Smith has everything the team could possibly want: athleticism to run the floor, defensive presence and ability to alter shots, and a middling offensive game that won’t require a lot of shots. Of course, Smith has a tendency to take unadvised jumpers, but you would hope that in this environment he would defer to others and the betterment of the team. Smith averaged 1.74 blocks a game to go along with 9.6 rebounds, numbers that should draw the attention of Colangelo. Lastly, Smith is versatile enough to play the 5, 4, or, if necessary, the 3, which would be an asset, especially considering the US will likely have to matchup with Spain’s front court of Serge Ibaka and the Gasol brothers.
Note: Andrew Bynum has said he will not participate this summer. Roy Hibbert is not eligible because he played for Jamaica’s national team in the 2010 Centrobasket tournament.
10.) We all tried to forget about Ron Artest’s reputation. The man who won the NBA’s sportsmanship award in 2011 had certainly worked hard enough to try to get us to forget. Hell, he even changed his name, maybe tricking some of us into thinking he was a completely different person altogether. But after Sunday night, no one is going to forget Metta World Peace was once, and still is to a degree, Ron Artest.
9.) By elbowing James Harden square in the back of the head, Word Peace committed one of the most violent plays in the history of the sport…again. And the fact that he is a repeat offender should absolutely be taken into consideration when the NBA levies a suspension.
8.) I have heard some compare this play to “The Punch” that occurred on December 9, 1977 when LA Laker Kermit Washington punched Houston Rocket Rudy Tomjanovich in the face. I can’t go that far; this play was not nearly as malicious as that one. However, World Peace’s actions simply cannot be compared to basketball-related fouls, like the one committed by Andrew Bynum in last year’s playoffs. I cannot think of a violent, non-basketball play like this one in recent memory.
7.) The Lakers knew they were taking a chance by bringing in Metta World Peace as a free agent in July of 2009. The team should be recognized for looking beyond his reputation and seeing that in recent years, the man formerly known as Ron Artest had actually been behaving. However, inherent with that signing was the risk that Artest would revert back to his old ways. As much as you and I would love to mock World Peace for his often offensively challenged skills, the fact remains that he is indeed an incredibly important player for the Lakers. I would not be surprised to see the team knocked out in the first round, in no little part thanks to a suspension to World Peace. As unfortunate as it may be, franchises that keep knuckleheads like World Peace employed are going to pay the price.
6.) World Peace made a completely non-basketball move when he threw his elbow into Harden’s head. It wasn’t even part of his celebration. Instead, it was a player getting too caught up in the moment and, for some reason I cannot even begin to explain, unleashing his energy in an incredibly violent way.
5.) Metta World Peace’s attack on Harden seems pretty unprecedented, but in all honesty we have come close to this before. The only difference is in the past, players haven’t connected on their swings at each other. Obviously, the force with which World Peace hit Harden combined with his history make this a big story, but Shaq’s swing at Brad Miller could have potentially been worse.
4.) Throw in the fact that the NBA has seen one of its most marketable players, Blake Griffin, targeted in thug-like ways throughout the season and you know the NBA is going to come down hard.
3.) One of the most feared enforcers in the league, Kendrick Perkins, was far away from the fight that broke out on the floor. For that we should all be thankful.
2.) The NBA is loathe to be unconventional. So you can throw out any idea of World Peace being suspended indefinitely, only to be reinstated when the Lakers are eliminated from the playoffs. Same for JA Adande’s (very good) idea of suspending World Peace as long as Harden is out, plus two games.
1.) So if this play isn’t as bad as Washington’s, but worse than Bynum’s, how many games should World Peace be out for? Washington was suspended for 60 days (26 games) and Bynum was ruled out for 5 games. Considering Harden’s health, the action itself, and the player’s history, I think that World Peace should be suspended for 15 games. However, throwing in the fact that he is going to miss playoff games, which to me, and anyone who has ever watched an NBA game, carry more weight than regular season games, the suspension should be reduced to 10 games. This way, World Peace would miss the Laker’s final game of the regular season, the first round of the playoffs, and beyond. It sounds a tad extreme on its face, but World Peace cannot be allowed to get away with such a heinous act. The NBA cannot allow players to be assaulted on the court with little penalty. 10 games, which includes several in the playoffs, would send a clear message to the players and teams alike that this will absolutely not be allowed.
15 years ago the San Antonio Spurs were handed the #1 overall pick in the 1997 draft, a result of their dismal 20-62 season that led to the firing of their head coach after only 18 games. With the future of the franchise weighing on that pick the front office wisely chose the 6’11” forward out of Wake Forest: Tim Duncan. Duncan was highly touted coming out of college, but I don’t think anyone envisioned the kind of success this team would achieve with that acquisition. 6 Finals appearances, 4 NBA Championships, and 15 years later we look back at a team that has gone 776-352 (including this season), eclipsing a 70% winning percentage in 8 different seasons and amounting a 68.79% winning percentage overall. In comparison the Lakers have won 5 championships in 7 appearances in that time period, winning over 70% of their games only 4 times and going through 7 different coaches. I will lay out the factors that have caused the Spurs to be the most consistently successful team over the past 15 years. Factors that indicate, if history tells us anything, they will continue that trend for years to come.
1. Tim Duncan
We all know how amazing of a player Tim Duncan is, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him here. He’s not a flashy slasher/shooter like Kobe, he doesn’t have the scowl, and he doesn’t make big waves in the media; he simply lets his performance on the court do all the talking for him. For the first 8 seasons of his career Duncan never dipped below 20.3 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, or a 49% shooting percentage from the field. Even after his production dipped ever so slightly he still managed to average a double double for 5 more seasons until last year, when at the age of 34 he recorded his first season without averaging a double double. His numbers become even more impressive in the playoffs where he has averaged 22.7 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while shooting 50% throughout his career when it matters the most. He is not only a great leader but a model of consistency that has been the foundation of this team for 15 years and is surely bound for the Hall of Fame whenever his illustrious career comes to a close.
2. Gregg Popovich
As important as it is to have a core of solid players it is arguably even more important who you put in charge of those men. Gregg Popovich has led this Spurs franchise to nearly 850 wins ever since taking over 18 games into the 1996-1997 season. The 2002-2003 Coach of the Year implements his defense so effectively that ever since his first full season as head coach the Spurs have been in the top 10 in the league in opponents’ points per game excluding last season. Not only does Popovich get his players to execute his strategies effectively but as this team has aged he has gotten his entire roster, including the star players, to accept their roles on the team whether they be diminished or not. As much of a dominant player Tim Duncan used to be his age and knees no longer grant him the mobility he was accustomed to. As he has grown older he has accepted his role on the team: rebounding, providing an inside presence on defense, and playing efficiently in the post. Even Ginobli and Parker have accepted their roles, with Ginobli coming off the bench and Parker picking up the slack left offensively by Duncan’s regression. Each player knows what their role is on the team and they embrace and execute that role for the greater good of the team.
3. Front Office
Lastly we can’t ignore the process through which these players have been acquired. Duncan was almost a lock at #1 when the Spurs were on the clock, so it didn’t take too much thinking to pull the trigger on that one. Aside from that obvious choice the Spurs have made savvy moves that have squeezed every drop of value from their picks. Manu Ginobli was taken in the 2nd round, 57th overall in 1999. He was a project that the Spurs were patient with, letting him develop overseas until he officially joined the team in 2002 and since has been an integral part of their core group of players, averaging over 15 points over his career and earning 6th Man of the Year honors for the 2007-2008 season. Tony Parker was a late first round pick that turned into a 4-time All Star. Most recently the front office made a draft day trade with the Pacers to acquire Kawhi Leonard despite having to give up coveted George Hill, a move that has worked out thus far with Leonard bringing youth, intensity, rebounding, and defense to this aging roster. These moves have kept this team succeeding over this long period of time and indicate further success even after the big 3 of San Antonio move on.
*Transactions not mentioned but worth noting: Dejuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Matt Bonner, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw.
The story of the Phoenix Suns is seen by many as a charming success. A team that was expected to go nowhere has rallied around its leader and is making an improbable run at the playoffs. Yet, however exciting a first-round exit in the playoffs may be to the Suns’ adoring fans, this season has been, from an objective standpoint, an absolute failure.
Let me be clear: the Suns have overachieved all year long. But with one of the least talented and most ill-prepared rosters in the league, Phoenix has set itself up to remain mediocre for years to come.
In the modern NBA, one of the best ways to get good is to be really bad. Look at a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder who built from the ground up. They acquired high picks and stockpiled talent by making good selections in the draft year after year. Another option for building teams is to establish a solid core of players, while preserving cap flexibility, and attract a big time free agent. I can think of a team in South Florida that has had a little success with this former route.
The Suns, on the other hand, have failed to choose either path. Instead, they have lost key players to free agency for several years and signed below-average players to above-average contracts, all while continuing to be competitive in the West, eliminating any chance at a high draft pick.
Rather than setting themselves up for the future, the Suns have found themselves stuck in a cycle of mediocrity. They have little resources to improve and have a roster with low potential and a high average age (the Suns are the fifth oldest team in the league with an average age of 28.82).
The offseason before the 2010-2011 season was the beginning of the end for the Suns. During that summer, Amare Stoudemire left for the New York Knicks. The Suns then responded by giving unreasonable contracts to Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and Channing Frye, not to mention the trade for Hedo Turkoglu and his fat contract.
That summer set them up for little financial flexibility in the future. For example, hypothetically, if the Suns were to re-sign Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shannon Brown, and Sebastian Telfair, keeping alive the fantasy that they can have success with this group, they will be right around the salary cap. They will have little to no room to sign free agents and a mediocre draft pick.
If they had given up this fantasy already, they could be building for the future instead of treading water in the present.
In fact, by committing to Steve Nash, one of the best point guards in the league, during that offseason and beyond, the team has committed to being average. Surely, by holding onto Nash this season they have kept up ticket sales in the short term. But over the long term, the team has sacrificed its future. If the Suns had been able to deal the 38-year-old, not only would they inherit potential young talent, draft picks, and financial flexibility, but their own draft stock would have soared.
The fact of the matter is that a team whose best players are Nash, Marcin Gortat, and Grant Hill is going nowhere fast unless they can add some talent to that mix. However, without high draft picks or room under the salary cap, the Suns have no means through which to improve.
The Suns’ fans better enjoy the fight for the 8th seed out West; that’s all they’ll be getting from their team if management stays the course.
10. Tim Duncan
That’s right, the most mild-mannered man in the NBA has two tattoos and one of them is this bad ass death jester! Combine this with his knee brace and you start to think maybe he’s hiding some sort of hard-core alter-ego that he keeps from the public because he knows we just can’t handle it.
9. Kenyon Martin
Supposedly, Martin has an exact replica of his one-time girlfriend’s lips tattooed on his neck. Just too odd to not make the list.
8. Quentin Richardson
Yeah, there is a lot going on here, but you’ve gotta love the Chicago skyline. I can take or leave everything else here, but it is interesting to say the least.
7. Brad Miller
A seven foot monster of a man has a tattoo of a cartoon dog on his bicep? Yes please. Miller gets some recognition for having the cajones to put a cartoon on his body for the rest of his life. However, he certainly picked a winner in Scrappy Doo.
6. Marquis Daniels (top) and Udonis Haslem (bottom)
Clearly, this is not the most original tattoo in the world if two guys have seemingly the same exact thing tattooed in the same exact location. But these two deserve some credit for their dedication to their home state, though I have to give the edge to Halsem for having a more geographically accurate depiction of the sunshine state.
5. Amare Stoudemire
Stoudemire has a tattoo on his neck that reads “Black Jesus.” Need I say more?
4. Chris Anderson
This guy should get recognition for his entire body of work, Anderson gets some much deserved love here for incorporating his nickname of “Birdman” into his tattoos. Yeah, he has wings tattooed on his arms. Wings, Birdman, get it? His “Free Bird” tattoo isn’t nearly as original, but it still deserves some ink (pun absolutely intended).
3. Stephen Jackson
Yes, those are two hands praying while simultaneously holding a pistol. I never said these had to make any sense.
2. Nikola Pekovic
As if his opponents needed any more reason to be afraid of this man. Pekovic’s warrior tattoo is simply perfect for him. Stare at it for 2 seconds and tell me it doesn’t give you the creeps. I can only imagine his victims in the post are merely trying to avoid adding to the pile of skulls Nikola’s throne sits upon.
1. DeShawn Stevenson
And finally we come upon number one in the countdown. There is just so much to analyze here, so let’s get right down to it. First off, the man has one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States tattooed on his body. Why? Well, Stevenson explains, in so many words, that he did it to honor the man who ended slavery. That is a noble gesture, but what about those 5’s? Stevenson says “I had to put the 5’s on each side because nobody could recognize Abe. They kept asking me who it was?” Considering the tattoo is a stunning replica of the 16th President, it seems like the 5’s were entirely unnecessary and don’t help to clarify all that much, but what do I know? Lastly, and most obviously, the tattoo is planted firmly on Stevenson’s throat, a very unique placement if you ask me. Now when you look DeShawn Stevenson in the eyes you’ll be staring right in the face of one of the greatest men to ever live, and no, I do not mean DeShawn Stevenson.
Any tattoos that I left off the list? Comment below and let me know!
For some teams it’s time to start thinking about the 2012-2013 season. Surely the Bobcats, Wizards, and Hornets, to name a few, have been looking ahead to next year for several months. And then there are teams that have slowly begun to realize that they are going to miss the playoffs.
But there is one team in the league that went from dreaming of the playoffs to planning for next year in a matter of minutes: the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The second that Ricky Rubio’s knee buckled against the Lakers on March 9th, all the Wolves’ hopes of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-2004 season vanished. The momentum the team had been building all year suddenly crumbled to nothingness and the team’s 4-14 record since that game points to just how devastating the injury truly was.
So the question now must be asked: what one thing do the Wolves have to do to make the playoffs next year? Pray that Rubio returns to form after rehabbing his knee? Ensure that Nikola Pekovic continues to improve as a reliable offensive contributor? Develop Wesley Johnson’s confidence and scoring ability? A full training camp together for this young team could certainly do wonders with a teacher like Rick Adelman.
Obviously, all of these would be huge for development of this franchise. However, the story of how the Minnesota Timberwolves can become a contender begins and ends with Al Jefferson. That’s right, if the Wolves want to be a serious contender for years to come, and not just a threat to make the playoffs, then they need the Jazz to make the playoffs this year.
Because of the Al Jefferson trade from two years ago, the Wolves own Utah’s first round pick in this year’s draft, so long as it’s not a lottery pick. Now throw in the fact that Minnesota’s own first-round pick is on it’s way to New Orleans and how difficult it is to lure top free agents to the Twin Cities and you see just how important this is for the Wolves.
The Jazz making the playoffs, and thus surrendering their first round pick, represents Minnesota’s best chance for improving this offseason.
Just imagine who would be available to the Wolves if they had the 16th pick in this year’s draft. Austin Rivers, Terrence Ross, Doron Lamb, and John Jenkins all come to mind as players that could upgrade the Wolves at their biggest need, shooting guard.
Minnesota desperately needs another player who can spread the floor by knocking down 3s and get his own shot from time to time. A scoring wing man would be the perfect complement to the inside scoring of Kevin Love and Pekovic and the play-making ability of Rubio.
And what if the Jazz don’t make the playoffs and the Wolves are left without a first-round pick? Well, they are then looking at a future similar to their Western Conference foes, the Houston Rockets.
Ever since the 2003-2004 season, the Rockets have been battling to make the playoffs year after year. Unable to attract a big time free agent or land a high lottery pick, the Rockets haven’t been able to make the move from average team to contender.
Thus, the Wolves have this one chance to break free from mediocrity. In a year where the draft class is considered to be the deepest it has been in years, where the No. 20 pick in this year’s draft is akin to having the No. 10 pick any other year, the Wolves have a chance to make that leap. Surely a rookie won’t elevate them to championship contenders next season. But several years down the road, if all the players, including this fictional rookie, develop correctly, the Wolves have a chance to build around the best power forward in the league, Love, and one of the most promising young players, Rubio.
There in lies the hope for the Timberwolves franchise. It may be a precarious position to be in, but the Wolves have to sit back and root for the Jazz to make a run to the playoffs.
In fact, the schedule-makers did the Wolves a favor by pitting them against the Denver Nuggets, currently 1.5 games ahead of the Jazz for the 8th seed, in the final game of the season. Wouldn’t it be something if the Wolves could knock off the Nuggets in the last game of the season and thus thrust the Jazz into the postseason?
It may be that the Wolves will have a hand in their fate after all, rather than putting the future of their franchise in the hands of Jefferson and the Jazz.