Posts Tagged ‘injuries’

Pelicans may shut down Davis

Anthony Davis, the New Orleans big man whose inability to play a full NBA schedule has troubled the Pelicans and their fans since his arrival, will play his fewest games yet this season.

Coach Alvin Gentry acknowledged to reporters after the team’s practice Saturday that Davis might be shut down due to injuries and miss the Pelicans’ final 14 games. As reported by John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

… Gentry revealed for the first time on Saturday that Davis has been playing with a shoulder injury, too.

”Obviously he has an injury on his knee and something with his shoulder,” Gentry said. ”I think they are going to talk to doctors this afternoon and we’ll know a lot more then.”

With 14 games remaining and the playoffs virtually out of reach, Gentry was asked if the franchise would be more inclined to consider shutting down Davis.

”I wouldn’t say no to that,” Gentry said. ”I think we got to be smart collectively, along with him. Like I said, I think we’ll know a lot more after they talk to doctors today.”

Davis was seen after Saturday’s practice, but Gentry said he did not participate.

After Gentry spoke with the media, the team issued its injury update via Twitter:

Participating in 61 of New Orleans’ first 68 games, Davis, 23, has averaged 24.3 points, a career-best 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 35.5 minutes. In his three previous NBA seasons, the 6-foot-10 forward/center has been limited to 64, 67 and 68 games by various injuries. Just this season, Davis has lost time to a right hip contusion, a sore right foot, lower pack pain, a sore left shoulder and a concussion.

He hurt his left knee Friday and was done before halftime against Portland after teammate Jrue Holiday ran into him as Davis set a screen, the collision caused when Blazers guard C.J. McCollom veered between the two Pelicans.

New Orleans has sagged under injuries all season, its players missing a total of 223 games heading into the weekend. The Pelicans, 1-6 in the games Davis has not played this season, began Saturday’s action in 12th place in the Western Conference.

Update: Before Sunday’s game against the Clippers, coach Alvin Gentry confirmed that Anthony Davis will miss the remainder of the 2015-16 regular season.

Pelicans’ Davis injures back, exits

VIDEO: Pelicans’ Anthony Davis injures back diving into seats

It’s not uncommon, at least in the NBA regular season, for the absence of a team’s star player to result in a better rather than worse performance by the teammates left behind. Most coaches will tell you it has to do with other players stepping into the void, getting more opportunities, mixed with a bit of desperation.

But the New Orleans Pelicans rallied on the fly, without any advance knowledge or prep time in knowing their best player wouldn’t be around. All-Star Anthony Davis was lost early in the first quarter of the Pelicans’ game against Indiana Friday night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, injuring his back and heading to the locker room after diving over front-row seats while saving the ball inbounds.

The Pacers led 7-6 when Davis exited at 8:39 of the first quarter. But New Orleans outscored them 24-9 the rest of the period to lead 30-16 heading into the second quarter. The departure of the 6-foot-10, 253-pound big man, averaging 23.5 points and 11.2 rebounds, caused social media to erupt, given the daily fantasy implications of Davis’ injury Friday. But even as the first half ticked away, the shorthanded Pelicans were hanging onto a lead.

 

Surgery done, Bulls’ Rose will reacquaint with rehab process


VIDEO: Rose out 2 weeks with facial fracture

CHICAGO – No rhyme, no reason. Could be that Derrick Rose is snake-bit, whatever that is. Could be karma or kismet or some other form of lousy luck. Could be that one of his luxury residences is built on a sacred burial ground and the payback stinks.

But the “why him?” of Rose’s litany of injuries, even if it was a part of the Chicago Bulls’ locker room dismay, wasn’t a topic of conversation during the second workout of training camp Wednesday or in their public comments afterward.

The half-empty view of Rose – the Bulls’ oft-injured point guard who suffered a facial fracture in the first practice of 2015-16 a day earlier and underwent surgery Wednesday morning – was that this team is locked in a gauze-wrapped “Groundhog Day,” unable to get and keep Rose healthy to seriously contend for the NBA championship.

The half-full view was, who knows rehab better than Rose and the Bulls?

Coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose’s surgery went as expected and revealed no structural damage beyond the left orbital fracture initially diagnosed. A timetable for his return to workouts and, presumably with a protective mask, his availability to practice and eventually play still was being determined by the team’s medical staff.

“He’s still in great spirits,” said Hoiberg, who said he texted with Rose Tuesday evening but had not spoken with him after surgery. “It’s not a structural injury. When he comes back ready to go, he should be able to go right back into 100 percent. Where if you have something going on with one of your other body parts, it’s going to be gradually [getting] back.”

Rose, who turns 27 Sunday, was running along the baseline early in practice Tuesday when he accidentally got struck by an elbow from one of the Bulls’ big men. Just like that, Hoiberg – who had gotten a taste of Chicago’s injury misfortunes last week when veteran forward Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery – found himself in Tom Thibodeau‘s coaching sneakers.

Veterans Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich are the backups at point guard, with E’Twaun Moore and even Jimmy Butler available for playmaking minutes. But while Thibodeau had familiarity and continuity on his staff’s side, able to keep Rose’s spot warm with the likes of Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, John Lucas III, Brooks and Hinrich through the former MVP’s previous absences, Hoiberg has new strategies and a new style. Rose is missing the early classes now, with the Bulls hoping that doesn’t mess up their whole semester.

“He’s a tough kid,” center Pau Gasol said. “Hopefully he’ll heal well and he’ll be ready to go [by opening night vs. Cleveland Oct. 27]. But it’s unfortunate he won’t be able to be a part of most of training camp or the preseason because it’s a useful time for any team to get things on track. Set the foundation for the season, especially with a new system, new philosophy, a new coach. But no excuses – life works out that way some times and you’ve just got to keep working.”

Said Hoiberg: “He’s still going to be here. He’s still going to be at practice. He’ll still be learning. … He’s in great shape. We don’t know how much he’ll be able to do while he’s in recovery mode. But he still will be here learning.”

Facial injuries similar to Rose’s are not uncommon in the NBA, with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Joe Johnson, Chris Paul, Jason Terry and others suffering various hits and returning to action in a few weeks or less. Rose’s multiple knee injuries have forced longer layoffs and more time away from the team, so that is a relative bright side to this trauma.

No one among the Bulls had even a theory, other than rotten probability, why Rose would be the franchise’s limping medical chart. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, he has missed 212 of 312 possible regular season games, playing in 340 of 558 in his seven-year NBA career.

Hoiberg shrugged off the suggestion of a woe-is-me attitude, though certainly this is an old issue bleeding into a new era.

“We’ve still got a job to do,” he said. “We can’t hang our heads or feel sorry for ourselves. It’s about getting these guys prepared to go out and play. You’re right, injuries are a part of this. Guys have stepped in in the past with this team and given great minutes when key guys have been sidelined.”

The Bulls play their first preseason game Tuesday against Milwaukee at United Center.

Center Joakim Noah, a close to Rose as any of the Bulls players, said both his sidelined pal and his other teammates are staying chins-up.

“We’ve got to stay positive,” Noah said. “We’re living out our dreams. We play for the Chicago Bulls for a living. Things could be a lot worse.”

Irving questionable for Game 3 during injury-filled postseason


VIDEO: Blatt on Irving, Game 3

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hobbled point guard, worked on his shooting at the team’s morning shootaround but still was listed as questionable to play in Game 3 Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving missed the second game of the teams’ Eastern Conference finals series Friday and hasn’t been fully healthy since spraining his right foot early in the first round against Boston. Of course, teammate Kevin Love suffered his dislocated left shoulder in the finale against the Celtics, leading to postseason-ending surgery.

The Hawks got similar bad news Saturday when sharpshooter Kyle Korver was ruled out for however long Atlanta stays alive, his right high-ankle sprain from Game 2 requiring more recovery than the Hawks have time this spring. DeMarre Carroll, their primary defender against LeBron James, is trying to play on a badly sprained knee – “It’s a leg,” he said again Sunday when asked for an update – and another key perimeter defender, Thabo Sefolosha, has been out with a leg fracture since an incident with New York police last month.

Injuries have played a big enough role in these playoffs that the catch phrase “last team standing” might apply literally this year. Perhaps more than ever, the NBA championship could go not necessarily to the league’s best team but to the one least derailed by bad breaks. And sprains, strains and tears.

“Obviously, going into the postseason and going through the postseason, health is always the No. 1 thing,” Cavs star LeBron James said Sunday. “Luck comes into play a lot – you get lucky – and then [it’s] the team that’s playing at the highest level, that’s playing great basketball.”

Out West, Golden State has been playing without backup forward Marreese Speights (calf). Houston has done without guard Patrick Beverley (wrist) and forward Donatas Montiejunas (back), while center Dwight Howard has been touch-and-go daily after a knee sprain.

But the Cavaliers aren’t feeling any more sorry for the others – despite James’ back-pat gesture to Carroll when the Hawks guard was helped off late in Game 1 – than those rivals are for Cleveland. Even James has been playing through dings that have been noticeable on the court, including an ankle he rolled and a sore back he endured against Chicago.

Asked about setting an example in playing through pain for younger teammates such as Irving, James said: “I can’t speak on someone else’s injury. Everyone’s body is different. For me, if I felt like I was hurting the team, then I shouldn’t play. But if I felt like I could give something to the team, I wanted to be on the floor. Obviously I’m playing trough injuries right now, multiple injuries right now. I mean a lot to this team and I understand my presence, and if I can give something, I’m going to be out there.”

James added: “We haven’t been the healthiest. Had a little luck here and there. But we’ve been playing at a high level. So we’ve got like one-and-a-half out of the three.”

Kind of like having a sturdy James, the scaled-back contributions of Irving and no Love. One-and-a-half out of the three.

Westbrook’s face fixed, will sit Sunday; Irving out; Bosh goes home

VIDEO: Westbrook hurt in loss vs. Blazers

There are sports injuries too gruesome to watch in replay – Joe Theismann’s, Shaun Livingston’s and Paul George’s leg fractures all spring quickly to mind – and then there are those you have to look once, twice, even three times to comprehend.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook‘s fracture to the zygomatic arch bone in his right cheek qualifies as one of the latter. Westbrook got kneed in the face by Thunder teammate Andre Roberson on an inbounds scramble late in their club’s loss at Portland Friday in a game that saw him record his third straight triple-double. Westbrook, already on the floor, lay on his stomach momentarily. After he got up, photos showed an odd indentation or depression in his face. Royce Young of ESPN.com passed along the day-after basics following surgery Saturday to repair Westbrook’s face:

He has been ruled out for Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Lakers and will be re-evaluated next week to determine when he can return to play.

Westbrook had his third consecutive triple-double against the Blazers, scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He had a historic February, averaging 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists, numbers that only ever have been totaled by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson.

Kevin Durant is set to be re-evaluated for a minor procedure he underwent last Sunday and could return as soon as this coming week. In seven games without Durant in February, Westbrook averaged a triple-double — 31.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 11.3 assists.

Westbrook, 26, is averaging 26.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.1 assists in 45 games this season. He missed 14 games in November because of a fracture in his right hand.

Newly acquired D.J. Augustin will start in place of Westbrook on Sunday against the Lakers.

Young also had speculated on what this injury might mean to Westbrook’s well-known sense of fashion:

But here’s the really pertinent stuff:

Meanwhile, Cleveland also will be without its All-Star point guard Sunday at Houston. Kyrie Irving continued treatment Saturday on the left shoulder strain that caused him to miss the Cavaliers’ game at Indiana Friday, his team announced, and will not join the team for its matinee clash with the Rockets. Irving’s status will be updated Tuesday morning prior to the Cavs’ home game that night against Boston.

Craving some good news on the NBA health front? The Miami Heat and their veteran power forward, recovering rather nicely from the condition that ended his 2014-15 season, were happy to oblige late Saturday afternoon:

Timberwolves’ Rubio sprains ankle; re-evaluation set for Saturday


VIDEO: Rubio injuries ankle against Magic

You hate to see this.

And this.

And definitely this.

But that’s what the Timberwolves were dealing with, after point guard Ricky Rubio turned his left ankle on a drive into the paint with 2:30 left in the second quarter Friday night in Orlando. Though a pair of Magic defenders closed on him, it appeared that Rubio’s ankle folded over from his own momentum. He was helped to the locker room, then used crutches to navigate between there and the X-ray room at Amway Arena. The Wolves’ official report: Rubio had suffered a sprain, would not return to the game and would be re-evaluated Saturday in Miami.

Which leads to this.

UPDATE (10:53 p.m.):

‘Day to day’ and back-to-backs don’t mesh as Bulls’ Rose skips Sixers

Out of consideration for both the folks following its teams and the media covering them, the NBA has done a better, more consistent job of issuing injury reports, even adopting some of the NFL’s traditional terminology to categorize the severity of various players’ ailments.

But there’s no truth to the rumor that the league might soon add a fifth level, as in: Probable, Questionable, Doubtful, Out and Derrick Rose.

Rose – who was deemed out by Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau in his pregame media session in Philadlephia Friday – largely defies categorization, given the guessing game the team, their fans and the reporters face almost every game day. This week, for instance, Rose (suffering from two sprained ankles injured last week against Cleveland) sat out the Bulls’ home game against Orlando. The next day, he was downgraded from probable to questionable – and then played that night at Milwaukee.

Of course, that game had its pregame drama, too, with Thibodeau explaining the procedures and protocols used by Chicago’s training and medical staffs, along with Rose himself in determining his availability for any given 48 minutes of basketball. The coach was noticeably calm about it – as tightly wound as Thibs can be, he has learned to a) roll with it, and b) win despite it – and pointed out the arbitrariness of the NFL-inspired injury levels anyway. For example, just because someone is probable, which means a 75 percent likelihood of playing, doesn’t mean he couldn’t land in the other 25 percent by tipoff.

Rose is the NBA’s poster guy for injury derailment, based on playing only 13 games in the past two seasons and 53 of 258 (playoffs included) since the 2011 Eastern Conference finals. He blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2012 playoff opener and had his 2013-14 season end last November with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Then again, it is only the second week of the season. Ankle sprains typically sit a player down for a week or more, and Rose has two of them. Given their druthers, Bulls fans would rather see the former MVP point guard in the lineup in April and May, so fretting now isn’t a top priority.

It’s also worth noting that the three games Rose will have missed through Friday all were part of back-to-backs: He was out at Minnesota Saturday after getting hurt vs. Cleveland, he split the Orlando-Milwaukee set and in skipping the 76ers, Rose might be available at United Center Saturday to face Boston.

So Rose’s absence from the game Friday might be more a Chicago hat-tip to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich than anything – at this stage, anyway – to worry about.

Westbrook out at least month after surgery on broken hand


VIDEO: Who steps up now for Thunder?

The clock of healing and recovery from major injury starts the moment the surgery ends, but as expected in Russell Westbrook‘s return from a broken right hand, the clock really is a calendar. The Oklahoma City point guard will be out at least one month after suffering a fractured metacarpal bone in his right hand.

Westbrook, 25, underwent surgery Saturday morning on the fracture he suffered in the second quarter of the Thunder’s loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles. The team said he would be reevaluated in four weeks, by which time he will have missed at least 15 games.

Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.com offered an update on Westbrook’s condition and on the many injuries that have hammered the Thunder in the early NBA season:

Westbrook is the latest victim of an injury bug that that has come through and decimated Oklahoma City’s roster. Kevin Durant, Anthony Morrow, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, Mitch McGary and Grant Jerrett are all out with injuries. Jackson was expected to rejoin the lineup as early as Saturday against Denver in the Thunder’s home opener, but he said at the team’s shootaround Saturday morning that he is not 100 percent and doesn’t expect to play against the Nuggets.

If Jackson does not play, the Thunder would be left with only eight healthy players. Only one, veteran Sebastian Telfair, is a point guard.

“This is the time when we stick together, especially with the guys that we have out,” Telfair said. “It’s no way to replace them guys.”

Due to the rash of injuries, however, the Thunder will soon be eligible to exceed the maximum of 15 players on its roster should the league grant Oklahoma City a hardship exception. It’s an exception that allows teams with at least four injured players who will be sidelined for at least two weeks to add an additional player. For a team to qualify for the exception, all four players must miss at least three consecutive games while sitting out those two weeks.

The Thunder will meet the criteria following the Nuggets game, as Durant, McGary, Morrow and Jerrett all will miss their third straight game while nursing long term injuries. Westbrook’s fluke injury from Thursday night will soon give the Thunder a chance to apply for a second exception once he misses three consecutive games.

“It’s unfortunate the way it is right now, but that’s the way it is,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We have to figure out how we can improve and get better from all of our experiences. And this is going to be a tough one, but the good teams, good players bounce back through adversity.”

Showing up is part of NBA skill set

John Stockton (here in 2002) played in every game in 17 of his 19 years with the Jazz. (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

John Stockton (here in 2002) played in every game in 17 of his 19 years with the Jazz. (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Regardless of how many tools your go-to handyman has in his belt, no matter his craftsmanship and creativity, it doesn’t mean much if he doesn’t show up to work. The same holds true for chefs, pilots, cubicle drones and, yes, NBA players.

“Staying healthy is a skill” is the way some old-school types have put it, and while that might be too broad – neglecting simple ingredients such as luck and good genes – there is no doubt that durability is an asset. To a player and to his team.

Injuries are back in the headlines due to Kevin Durant’s foot fracture, Bradley Beal’s wrist, Rajon Rondo’s hand, Paul George’s leg and assorted dings, bruises and sidelining setbacks around the league. The key word, unfortunately, is back.

In the first few months of 2013-14, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Al Horford and Russell Westbrook were ailing. The toll across several seasons before that included Rose, Horford, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul, David West and the sad arcs of Brandon Roy’s and Yao Ming’s careers.

Despite heavy media coverage, the NBA’s analysis suggested that the injury rate remained largely unchanged across multiple years. Numerous theories were floated in search of an explanation for what injuries there were. Too much year-round basketball at a young age, some said. Too many games in the NBA season, from pre- through regular right onto post-, argued others. Shoe technology, court size, strength training, nutrition — all were factors examined by some, ignored by others, without much consensus, never mind solutions.

And maybe that’s all the explanation we’ll ever get: Athletes get hurt.

“It’s not like they just started happening,” Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday, before his team’s preseason home game against Denver. “This is the way it’s been. If you look at anyone who’s played 10 years in this league, they usually have dealt with something. They had to get past something. Whether it was a knee injury, an ankle injury, a shoulder injury, wrist, finger, something. OK? So it’s all part of it.

“Hopefully you have the mental toughness to get through adversity. Most of these guys have it – you can’t get here without having that. But the injuries, it’s not like all of a sudden … we react like, we collect more data and injuries all of a sudden are something new. No, they’ve been a part of this league for a long time.”

How much a part? One way to gauge the durability of players is to check the rate at which they “showed up” for their teams on a given night. Call it a player’s “availability average,” as determined by his appearances as a percentage of his team’s total games during the same period.

Using regular-season games only, here are the availability averages for 25 NBA greats, all enshrined or likely to be in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame:

  • 98.6%: John Stockton (1,504 of 1,526)
  • 98.0%: Gary Payton (1,335 of 1,362)
  • 97.5%: John Havlicek (1,270 of 1,303)
  • 97.2%: Bill Russell (963 of 991)
  • 96.7%: Karl Malone (1,476 of 1,526)
  • 96.2%: Reggie Miller (1,389 of 1,444)
  • 95.1%: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560 of 1,640)
  • 93.4%: Michael Jordan (1,072 of 1,148)
  • 92.7%: Wilt Chamberlain (1,045 of 1,17)
  • 92.1%: Jason Kidd (1,391 of 1,510)
  • 92.1%: Magic Johnson (906 of 984)
  • 91.8%: Isiah Thomas (979 of 1,066)
  • 91.7%: Oscar Robertson (1,040 of 1,134)
  • 89.6%: Dominique Wilkins (1,074 of 1,198)
  • 86.5%: Scottie Pippen (1,178 of 1,362)
  • 85.7%: Hakeem Olajuwon (1,238 of 1,444)
  • 85.3%: Moses Malone (1,329 of 1,558)
  • 84.1%: Larry Bird (897 of 1,066)
  • 82.2%: Jerry West (932 of 1,134)
  • 81.9%: Allen Iverson (914 of 1,116)
  • 79.4%: Tracy McGrady (938 of 1,182)
  • 79.1%: Shaquille O’Neal (1,207 of 1,526)
  • 78.8%: Charles Barkley (1,073 of 1,362)
  • 75.7%: Elgin Baylor (846 of 1,117)
  • 67.9%: Grant Hill (1,026 of 1,510)

Here, for comparison’s sake, are 25 of the league’s top active players (we’re assuming Ray Allen signs with someone) and their rate for “showing up:”

  • 97.1%: Kevin Durant (542 of 558)
  • 95.5%: Dwight Howard (768 of 804)
  • 95.0%: LeBron James (842 of 886)
  • 94.0%: Dirk Nowitzki (1,188 of 1,264)
  • 93.2%: Tim Duncan (1,254 of 1,346)
  • 93.1%: Paul Pierce (1,177 of 1,264)
  • 92.4%: Russell Westbrook (440 of 476)
  • 91.2%: Kevin Garnett (1,377 of 1,510)
  • 91.0%: Ray Allen (1,300 of 1,428)
  • 90.8%: Vince Carter (1,148 of 1,264)
  • 90.2%: LaMarcus Aldridge (577 of 640)
  • 89.5%: Tony Parker (940 of 1,050)
  • 89.2%: Carmelo Anthony (790 of 886)
  • 87.2%: Kobe Bryant (1,245 of 1,426)
  • 86.2%: Pau Gasol (905 of 1,050)
  • 85.5%: Chris Paul (617 of 722)
  • 85.3%: Steph Curry (336 of 394)
  • 85.2%: Steve Nash (1,217 of 1,428)
  • 82.1%: Manu Ginobili (795 of 968)
  • 81.2%: Dwyane Wade (719 of 886)
  • 78.9%: Rajon Rondo (505 of 640)
  • 78.2%: Blake Griffin (308 of 394)
  • 76.5%: Kevin Love (364 of 476)
  • 75.9%: Amar’e Stoudemire (735 of 968)
  • 60.7% Derrick Rose (289 of 476)

Durant’s average is going to take a hit as soon as Oklahoma City’s schedule begins without him in two weeks. His sidekick Westbrook will have to pick up slack for the Thunder – and Westbrook’s rate actually might be better than you expected, since his most notable breakdown came in the 2013 postseason.

Rose will be trying to boost a number that, historically, has him well below one of the NBA’s poster guys for bad luck, Grant Hill. Meanwhile, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan — even if they never reach Stockton’s or Payton’s mad numbers — probably don’t get enough acclaim for enduring the rigors of their work as well as they do.

“I think your mindset has to be right,” Thibodeau said. “They say Duncan never leaves the gym. And when you look at great players, that’s usually when you read about guys who have achieved something great. It’s usually them getting past adversity, then making great effort, and their readiness to accept the challenge.”

Asked whether good fortune or good genetics plays the greater role in good NBA health, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy said: “Both. There’s also work that goes into it. The more you take care of your body year round, offseason and in-season, it directly affects your health, how many games you’re able to play and how many games you miss. But you can do the best job of that in the world and you can still get hurt.”

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw subscribes to the AAU-crazed, overuse theory and won’t let his kids play just one sport all year long because of that. He and his team are back after a 2013-14 season beset by injuries (Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson and others).

Shaw sees more attention focused on injury prevention and body maintenance, even if that gets circumvented by one awkward move or fluke moment. An NBA point guard for 14 seasons, Shaw said: “Before we kind of just did some jumping jacks, went down and touched your toes a few times, and went out and played. Now there’s a 15- or 20-minute period every day where the strength and conditioning coach activates the players’ muscles and warms them up.

“It takes some discipline to do those things that are monotonous to warm yourself up properly and cool yourself down after a practice, to ice and do all the things that are necessary for you to come back the next day.”

Thibodeau talked of two competing “schools of thought” for coping physically in the NBA. One loads up players with minutes and practices almost like weighting a baseball bat in the on-deck circle, so they’re in peak condition for what the schedules throws at them. The other preaches rest, recuperation and easing through the preseason and even the regular season to be as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

It’s no secret which school Thibodeau graduated from.

“The only way you can guarantee a guy not getting hurt is, don’t play him,” the Bulls coach said. “Don’t practice him, don’t play him. Don’t play him in the preseason, don’t play him in the regular season. Just don’t play him and he won’t get hurt.”

Miami lineups change, LeBron plays on

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron dunks on the Bucks on a night when he rested during the fourth quarter

MILWAUKEE – In the last game of LeBron James‘ seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he took the floor against Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Antawn Jamison and 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. Combined points-per-game of the four starters besides James: 50.9.

Against the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night, James stepped on the court with Chris Bosh, Toney Douglas, James Jones and Udonis Haslem. Combined scoring average at tipoff of this “supporting cast”: 26.2.

This was not what the smoke, lasers and dance music were all about back in July 2010.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has shuffled through 19 different starting lineups in 72 games this season. One – the familiar one from the past two Finals, with James, Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier – has been used 30 times,with the Heat going 20-10 in those games. The other 18 actually have yielded better results – 30-12 – despite none getting more than eight starts together and eight of the combinations going one-and-done.

None of this is by design, mind you. Injuries and ineffectiveness have pulled the handle on Miami’s lineup slot machine, not Spoelstra, the fruit tumbling and landing based on who’s available and contributing. Everyone knows about Wade, whose increasingly brittle body has been nursed through the 2013-14 schedule (51 games in, 21 games out) as if it’s Stephen Strasburg‘s right arm. Ray Allen at times has looked every bit of his 38 years, eight months, one week and three days. Battier’s planned retirement after this season has had a few false starts.

Eternally rehabbing Greg Oden has been more mascot than center, the way this season has gone.

“People think we’re overanalyzing it, we have some plan right now,” Spoelstra said Saturday evening before his guys did their work early in the 88-67 breeze past the Bucks. “Guys who are able to play right now are playing, period. Guys who cannot play, who are not passing the test, they’re not playing. The thing about this season, we’ve had a lot more of those than we’ve had in the past where guys aren’t able to play.”

In the middle of it all stands James. He’s the constant in the Heat’s season of change – OK, Bosh has missed one game and Norris Cole none but they orbit James the same as Miami’s other planets and moons. The four-time MVP has missed three games himself – broken nose, groin and ankle sprain, he recounts swiftly when the topic comes up – but no one on the roster has played within 300 minutes of his time. At 2,592, he has played nearly seven full games more than Bosh (2,258) and the equivalent of twice that compared to Chalmers (1,887).

James sat down after 30 minutes Saturday, skipping the fourth quarter entirely thanks to the score and who the Heat were playing. He orchestrated and facilitated more than dominated – two shots and two points in the first half, 13 points and seven rebounds by night’s end – but he was out there. Wade again was sitting on the bench in a suit. Chalmers and Oden were sidelined, too, and the flu sweeping through Allen’s family kept him off the three-game trip entirely.

Frankly, James would be within his rights to look around and wonder whether this patchwork attack and relative M*A*S*H unit of teammates will be enough to reach and win another Finals. And if he did, the opt-out in his contract this summer would loom so large, it’d throw a shadow over Miami’s entire postseason.

If James’ teammates feel sheepish or some extra obligation to pick up the pace and durability in fairness to him, they’re not saying. “We’re a team. We have to come through for each other,” Wade said after the Milwaukee game. “So we all are obligated for each other. Obviously myself, LeBron and Chris wanted to play together.”

Then again, if his heavier work load while others sit is an issue, James hasn’t let on.

“It’s gotten to the point now where I don’t even think about it,” the Heat star said, “and if I’m in the lineup tonight, then I’ve got to do my job. You just worry about controlling things you can control. Us having injuries, us having guys in and out of the lineup, that’s something I can’t control.”

It is something he’s noticed, at least. Never before has James played for a team with such a revolving door on its trainers room.

“I can’t really recall it, as many guys as we’ve had [out],” he said. “In that sense it’s challenging, not only for myself but for the guys who are in – they may not have played for two months – and then out and they may not play for 14, 15 games.

“It’s the luxury of having unselfish guys. That’s what we have. I don’t know too many teams who can do this – that can have guys like James Jones who – I don’t know, has he played this year [before Friday]? – then to start [in Detroit] and contribute. Guys like that, it’s amazing.”

For the record, Jones had played a total of 70 minutes in a dozen games across Miami’s first 70, before logging 54 minutes in the back-to-back against the Pistons and the Bucks. But what about James? Has fatigue made him crave a couple games off just to rest or reset?

“Only if I’m injured, for the most part, will I sit down,’ ” James said. “I don’t have too many ‘mental days.’ ”

In past seasons, when Miami’s playoff berth has been secured, Spoelstra has spotted James a game or two to set up for the playoffs. He will again, unless Indiana keeps the East race for No. 1 close till the end.

But the Heat aren’t there yet. And James has no hand up in search of a breather.

“If I tried to sit him out of a shootaround or a practice, he would look at me cross-eyed,” Spoelstra said. “This summer he had more rest than he’s had any other offseason. So that’s probably triple [rest] for most people, because he loves the game so much, he loves to compete.”

Consider Friday, the day Miami played in Detroit. James showed up at Oakland (Mich.) University not long after sunrise to work out at the gym where his childhood friend and high school teammates Sonny Weems serves as an assistant coach. Then he went through the Heat’s shootaround later than morning. Nine or 10 hours after that, he posted a triple-double against the Pistons.

During warmups against the Bucks, James took time to meet and visit with Ebony Nettles-Bey, a girls high school basketball player from Verona, Wis., who is battling a Stage 4 cancer. He shot around with her prior to tipoff, then spoke warmly about their encounter after the final horn.

“What she’s going through every single day, the challenges she’s facing every single day with the Stage 4 cancer that she has,” James said, “she’s the stronger one out of us two.”

After that, any further questions about work load and rest, not just James’ but any NBA player’s, seemed a little silly.

“There’s no such thing as well-rested at this point,” James said. “Every season is different. My mentality changes from season to season. Every challenge is different. You just go about it however it presents itself.”