This week’s Fools: Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh and J.J. Barea. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
This week’s Fools: Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Drummond, Chris Bosh and J.J. Barea. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Nothing can change this lost season for Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves. His first career triple-double Tuesday night reminded what might have been, but more importantly, what’s still to come.
Look no further than Chicago and the ongoing road to full recovery for Derrick Rose to understand the complications and fears associated with a return from reconstructive knee surgery. While Rose still has yet to make his season debut, Rubio is three months into his return from a torn ACL in his left knee that short-circuited the end of his 2011-12 season and the start of this one.
It’s been just the last four to six weeks that the 22-year-old Spaniard, who acknowledged early on the mental strain of coming back, has started to resemble the tantalizing floor magician who awes fans and inspires teammates.
He pulled a rabbit out of his hat and more Tuesday in a blowout win against the San Antonio Spurs, producing season-highs with 21 points and 13 rebounds, plus 12 assists. He was playing with full confidence, dribbling behind his back to beat defenders into the paint, dropping no-look passes, firing baseball passes, lobs and spotting cutters with lightning-quick bounce passes that somehow skip into the hands of his target.
“That’s the first one of many to come in his career,” teammate J.J. Barea said of Rubio’s triple-double.
The first was just a matter of time. Over the last 15 games, Rubio has eight double-doubles. He twice missed a triple-double by two rebounds and once each by three rebounds and one rebound.
“Yeah of course,” Rubio said afterward when asked if it feels good to notch the triple-double. “It’s good to have a triple-double, but especially a win against [the Spurs]. I know they got Tim Duncan, [Kawhi] Leonard and Tony Parker out, so a lot of players, but they are a great team and we played great.”
Before anybody discounts Rubio’s performance and the Wolves’ 107-83 win against the shorthanded Spurs, let’s just remember that this was a Minnesota team playing without Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger as part of an injured list that keeps on going. It’s been a carousel of devastating injuries since the start of the season and the result is a 22-39 record when a return to the playoffs was the predominant offseason forecast.
On Tuesday night, starting along with Rubio was Luke Ridnour, Mickael Gelabale, Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma, mostly a decent lineup of backups on any other team, in fact, on this team with a full roster.
That won’t happen until next season when playoff hopes will again rise. Rubio’s gradual improvement and more recently his sudden leaps are the greatest hope of all. In the last 15 games he’s averaging 13.6 ppg and 9.0 apg to lift his season averages to 9.2 and 7.3.
The most gratifying number, however, just might be 34.9. That’s his average minutes in that span, raising his season average to 28.9 mpg. Since Feb. 1, Rubio has logged at least 30 minutes in 14 of 19 games and at least 35 minutes nine times. Prior to Feb. 1, when he was often limited by a minutes restriction, Rubio hit the 30-minute mark twice (30 and 31 minutes) in 17 games while averaging 23.9 mpg, much of it coming off the bench.
“He is playing with such resolve trying to get us over the hump,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. “He has had that effort but we had so many people step up [against the Spurs]. It really made a big difference. I thought he was going to expire in the third quarter when I took him out. He just played so hard in those first six minutes.”
With this disappointing season winding down, nothing can be more meaningful to the Wolves than Rubio’s rise.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.
Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.
The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.
Here are a few moments from the season thus far that made us laugh, made us smarter, or made us shake our heads.
Game: Minnesota @ Denver, Jan. 3
Denver analyst Scott Hastings really shows his colors here. First, he infers that the official should take a previous J.J. Barea complaint into account when making a call. Then, he disparages Barea’s size. And finally, he infers that the number of fouls that Kenneth Faried had at the time should have affected the call. Oof.
Game: Golden State @ Minnesota, Nov. 16
One of the biggest problems with some NBA broadcasters is that they’re behind the curve in regard to advanced stats. When a play-by-play guy or analyst references points per game and/or field-goal percentage as a measure of offensive or defensive quality, those of us who know and believe in advanced stats just want to squirm and/or mute your television.
So when one of these guys takes the time to educate their audience about pace and efficiency, it’s worthy of a mention. This clip starts out on the wrong foot with a graphic citing PPG, but Dave Benz and Jim Petersen quickly turn the conversation toward efficiency.
Hopefully, talk of pace and efficiency will be the norm (and not the exception) in the near future.
Game: New Orleans @ Portland, Dec. 16
There are a lot of times when broadcasters need to hold their tongues until they see a replay before questioning an official’s call. Let’s just say that Mike Barrett and Mike Rice don’t do that very often.
On this play, Barrett (play-by-play) first questions the idea of Nicolas Batum‘s foul being a flagrant. Rice takes over from there, seems to ignore an obvious blow to the face of Anthony Davis, makes a silly remark about the official not wanting him to eat dinner on time, and then takes a grade-school-level shot at Davis’ eyebrow(s). Oh yeah, like Hastings in the clip above, he infers that a previous call should somehow influence this one.
One more thing: Broadcasters should know that referees will err on the side of caution when initially determining whether a foul was a flagrant or a common foul, because one can be reviewed and the other can’t. If the refs initially call a flagrant, they can review the play and change it to a common foul. If they don’t call a flagrant initially, they can’t review it or change it. So if there’s any doubt, the best thing to do is call a flagrant foul and check the replay.
Game: Minnesota @ Brooklyn, Nov. 5
Let’s end on a good note, shall we?
Ian Eagle is a Hang Time favorite, because he’s calls games straight, he’s got a quick wit and he certainly isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Here, he regrets his premature assessment of Greg Stiemsma‘s perimeter game.
Remember Trevor Winter!
OK, as battle cries go, it’s not much. Winter, a 7-footer from Slayton, Minn., was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves back in the lockout-shortened 1999 season. A four-year backup center for the University of Minnesota, the undrafted Winter owed his NBA snapshot to the Gophers roots of Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders, the GM and coach, respectively, at that time.
Winter had been playing for Fargo-Moorhead in the defunct International Basketball Association and spent the first month of 1999 hampered by a sore back. But finally, on March 16, 1999, he was activated for a game at Target Center. The opponents: the Los Angeles Lakers. Winter’s job that night: Try to contain Shaquille O’Neal. “Might as well start with the best,” Saunders said that night. “He can give us six fouls, as a starting point.”
The results: Winters played 5:01 minutes across two separate stints, grabbed three rebounds and committed five fouls, not six, before sitting down for the night. Saunders used him in the first and third quarters in what then was still a controversial strategy — Hack-a-Shaq — although only three of Winters’ fouls were spent on the massive O’Neal. The others came at 9:18 of the third against Travis Knight and then at 7:59 for a Kobe Bryant three-point play.
Saunders subbed out Winters and his NBA career promptly became like one of those rural U.S. small towns, with the “Welcome To” and “You Are Leaving” on the front and back of the same sign. He never played in the league again. He eventually landed a job in medical sales and began a family, and has joked about his NBA cred: “I’m not sure my kids even believe me.”
Winters does hold a couple of distinctions, due to his “Hello, I must be going” career arc. His three rebounds in five minutes left him at 21.6 rpg on a 36-minute basis; that’s more than Hall of Famers Bill Russell (19.1), Wilt Chamberlain (18.0) or Maurice Stokes (16.7). And his five fouls-in-five minutes pace put him atop the list of players whose career foul totals are equal to or greater than their minutes played.
But Winter’s claim on committing the fastest five fouls in Timberwolves history fell Wednesday night, when guard J.J. Barea racked up five personals in 2:44 seconds of the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.
Barea has an NBA championship ring. He’s in the second year of a contract worth $18 million over four season. He has played more than 400 regular-season and playoff games in his career. He’s been romantically linked to the 2006 Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera, for cryin’ out loud.
You’d think he could have left Winter with his little bit of fast-and-furious Minnesota NBA fame.
DALLAS — Andrei Kirilenko has been a godsend to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Russian rookie Alexey Shved during this strange twist of a season.
It’s a minor miracle that the Wolves are still sniffing playoff contention considering their barrage of injuries. One major reason is Kirilenko, the 11-year NBA veteran who is in his first season with the Wolves after a decade-long run with the Utah Jazz. He spent the 2011-12 season enjoying a one-time homecoming in Russia, playing before family and friends during the NBA’s lockout and shortened season.
The versatile, 6-foot-9 forward was always going to figure in as a major piece to the rotation, but he’s been invaluable in the wake of long-term injuries to forwards Chase Budinger and Kevin Love, among multiple other injuries such as to Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee that have thrust the surprising Shved into a starter’s role at shooting guard.
“We had some seasons when we had a lot of injuries, but this is something crazy,” said Kirilenko, whose scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounds (6.8) and minutes (34.8) are all his best since the 2005-06, and his 50.8 shooting percentage ranks as a career high. “We never played together [with a full roster] for even one game. It’s tough to play that way, but I guess this is the reality of NBA basketball.”
Then there’s been the big brother role Kirilenko’s embraced mentoring Shved, who turned 24 last month. But with a baby face and a mouth full of braces, some might say Shved could could pass for, well, a 12-year-old. Which is exactly how old he was when he first met Kirilenko and asked Russia’s No. 1 basketball player to sign a picture for him.
“He’s a great guy and he has a lot of bright moments in front of him,” said Kirilenko, who turns 32 next month and beams at Shved more like a proud papa than a big brother. “I think he started the season well and he can really be a great contributor to a team.”
Two-thirds of Russia’s NBA contingent play for the Wolves. Timofey Mozgov, currently buried on the Denver Nuggets’ bench, is the other. Kirilenko and Shved know each other quite well now after playing last season together for CSKA Moscow, and the two fashioned quite a dynamic duo on the Russian Olympic team that put hoops back on the map in their country by taking bronze in London.
They were gearing up for the Games when Shved, signed as a free agent by Minnesota in July, got word that he would continue on as Kirilenko’s teammate in Minnesota.
“He is the best player in Russia,” said the 6-foot-6 Shved, whose game (10.8 ppg and 4.7 apg) has emerged quicker than his grasp of the English language, which he speaks softly and carefully. “He is smart, he plays hard. Everybody wants to be a player like this.”
Just as Spanish-speaking J.J. Barea (from Puerto Rico) aided the Spain-born phenom Ricky Rubio last season in his arrival stateside, having Kirilenko around to show Shved the ropes of the NBA and American life has been invaluable.
And who knows, perhaps soon Shved will serve a similar role to another wide-eyed countryman that makes his way to the NBA.
“Sergey Karasev might be the next [one],” Kirilenko said of the 6-foot-7, 19-year-old shooting guard who averages 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Triumph Lyubertsy in the Russian Professional Basketball League. “He might be joining us soon.”
DALLAS — For a kid who knows only how to play the game with pure joy, this is pure hell.
The two ugly scars that mar his left knee each measure five inches long, one starting in the middle of his knee cap and jagging down. The other curves around the left side of the knee like a misshapen crescent moon.
As Ricky Rubio pulled up the black, padded knee sleeve that made the permanent markings of reconstructive surgery disappear, he wished the trials that still come with his ongoing recovery, one that wiped out the Olympics and all but 10 games now of this season, could just disappear, too. He softly shook his floppy mane of dark hair and flashed a small, if only brief, smile.
“It’s hard because I still have a little pain and it’s something you have to fight through and get through,” said the 22-year-old Spaniard before the Minnesota Timberwolves lost 113-98 to the Dallas Mavericks, a fourth consecutive defeat for Minnesota and yet another game that Rubio would come off the bench and be limited by a minutes restriction.
“I talk with the guys who had the same injury and they say about a year, a year-and-a-half [after surgery] they started feeling, like, normal,” Rubio continued. “It’s tough when you’re playing with something in your mind; you don’t want to think about it, but it’s in your mind that you’re going slower and you are not who you used to be.
“That’s going to come, but you have to be patient.”
Rubio made his season debut on Dec. 15 against Dallas and played 18 minutes. He dazzled the home crowd with eight points and nine assists, including the highlight of the night, a no-look, behind-the-back bounce pass into the lane to Greg Stiemsma for a layup. It’s about as good as it’s gotten.
Back spasms, likely caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out of the lineup after just five games. He returned on Jan. 8 and in the four games prior to Monday, Rubio, averaging 3.8 points and 4.6 assists, had made one of 12 shots. His assists dwindled from eight to seven to three to two, all while playing no more than 22 minutes.
“You see flashes, but you can see he is nowhere near like he was last season. He was moving,” teammate J.J. Barea said. “The way he plays he needs to move like he used to move, where he’s faster and he’ll be able to get to pick his spots, get wherever he wants so he can make those passes.”
Flashes came and went Monday night against the Mavs. By the time acting coach Terry Porter subbed Rubio in with 3:20 to go in the first quarter, listless Minnesota trailed 22-11. Rubio and benchmate Barea got the Wolves clicking. Rubio directed an alley-oop pass to Dante Cunningham, drained a jumper and kept a possession alive with a swooping rebound in the lane as the Wolves closed to 39-36 and then 45-41.
But Rubio also couldn’t finish a drive after getting around O.J. Mayo, with little lift leaving his attempt short of the rim. In the final moments of Rubio’s nearly 13 minutes in the first half, Dallas went up 48-41, and then, with Rubio on the bench, 55-45 at the half.
He never got a fair shot to make a dent in the second half. Porter — serving for Rick Adelman while he tends to his wife in the hospital — kept Rubio tethered to the bench for the first 10 1/2 minutes of the third quarter as the Wolves’ first unit mirrored its awful first quarter and allowed the game to slip away. Rubio checked in with Minnesota, reeling from injuries and a rotation in tatters, trailing 87-68.
He finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds, and was a plus-7 — the highest rating among the eight Wolves that played at least 21 minutes.
Rubio’s 2-for-3 shooting night tied his season high for made buckets and figured as his best shooting percentage among the 10 games he’s played, an indication of how brutal it’s been after he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists in a tantalizing rookie campaign before a torn ACL ended it after 41 games.
“It’s hard because you work hard for eight or nine months to get back and it doesn’t stop here,” Rubio said. “You have to work even harder now to get back in shape, to get back to the point you want to be feeling the game again, and that doesn’t come easy.”
Yet, add logging a season-high 27 minutes Monday and a desperate Wolves team slipping down the standings at 16-18, can at least glean some positives as they head back to frigid Minneapolis.
“I tell him to be patient, to keep working on his legs, keep working on his body. It’s going to turn around sooner or later, but he’s got to be patient and stay positive,” Barea said. “And I tell him he’s young. He’s 22, he has nothing to worry about.”
Maybe so. But right now, it’s hell.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — So this is just how it’s going to be for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a season so marred by constant injury that it stands to test their collective sanity as much as their ambitious playoff aspirations.
The Wolves already knew they’re moving ahead without star forward Kevin Love for a second stretch of games after he re-fractured his right hand last week, but Wednesday’s news that he’ll miss more time than expected, the next eight to 10 weeks, severely worsened that blow just one day after the sigh-of-relief return of point guard Ricky Rubio from his second injury stint.
Love initially broke his hand before the start of the season doing knuckle pushups at home. He missed the first nine games of the season and the Wolves, without their two young stars, were pleased to be 5-4 when Love surprised everyone with an early return.
A stunning spat of injuries followed. Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee remain out with knee injuries. Rubio played in just his sixth game in Tuesday’s hard-fought home win over the Atlanta Hawks to push their record to 16-15, just 1 1/2 games out of the West’s final playoff spot. The Wolves played that one without resolute coach Rick Adelman — out for personal reasons — as they will again tonight trying to stay above .500 in a tough road test at Oklahoma City.
Coaches impress on their players all the time that the 82-game NBA grind is about survival. Expected to be without Love, their leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and by far most productive rebounder (14. 0 rpg), until mid-to-late March, the Wolves are truly in the fox hole now.
They’ll carry through the high hopes of its long-suffering fan base and secure the franchise’s first postseason berth since their lone Western Conference finals run in 2003-04 only by sticking together and pushing harder.
Rubio’s return is a good start. He played 19 minutes on Tuesday and finished with four points and eight assists. He missed the previous four games with back spasms, an issue believed to be caused by overcompensation as he learns to trust the surgically repaired left knee. He’s dealt with the groin and back problems since making his debut on Dec. 15 from last season’s ACL tear.
Adelman and the team’s training staff will have to closely monitor his minutes and progress, but the belief is he’s ready to ramp up and burden a bigger load.
To keep within arm’s length of a playoff spot to this point, the Wolves have heavily relied upon stat-stuffing forward Andrei Kirilenko, center Nikola Pekovic, who has eight double-doubles in last 13 games, emerging Russian rookie Alexey Shved and the diminutive backcourt duo of Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.
But how long can they keep up the fight in a competitive Western Conference that could take 45 wins to get in?
And which team or teams drop off? The top four, barring catastrophic injury — something the Wolves know never to discount — seem like locks. Golden State is playing well enough and for long enough to not expect a collapse in the second half of the season.
Of the next three teams — Houston, Portland and Denver — none are sure bets, yet the trio is currently on a collective 10-game winning streak.
And lost among the crowd currently on the outside looking in is the Los Angeles Lakers. A glorious run back into contention doesn’t appear imminent, but can’t be eliminated as a possibility either simply because of their proven talent.
The Wolves have expended tremendous energy to stay afloat. How much longer can they grind away? Long enough for Love’s eventual return to be meaningful?
We’re about to find out.
HANGTIME SOUTHWEST — If Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman can somehow steer his dejected club through these latest injury setbacks to his two injury-marred stars, please reward him with long overdue recognition as coach of the year.
Before Saturday night’s game against Portland, and after learning that star forward Kevin Love would again be sidelined by a re-break to that darned right hand he originally fractured before the season by doing knuckle push-ups, Adelman marveled how, through one injury after another, his team had managed to pull off a 15-14 record.
With Love joining point guard Ricky Rubio, saddled with his second injury after a brief return from a torn ACL, on the bench once again, the Wolves dropped to 15-15 after a furious late comeback failed against the surging Trail Blazers.
A once-promising season, so filled with hope and excitement and adventure, is becoming one to forget, robbed by uncontrollable injury that now threatens to nosedive off the cliff as the Wolves sit in ninth place.
Rubio, the flashy, dynamic point guard destined for stardom, managed to play in just five games starting Dec. 15, but was unable to join the starting lineup before back spasms, perhaps caused by overcompensation for his knee, took him out after a Dec. 26 loss to Houston.
Rubio and Love, who had never really rounded into All-Star form, saddled with wilting shooting percentages, have played in just three games together.
“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Adelman told reporters before Saturday’s 102-97 loss, Minnesota’s sixth in the last nine games. “You start out with Ricky from the very beginning, hoping to get him back and then it’s just been one thing after the other.”
Dante Cunningham, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved are the only Wolves to have played in all 30 games. The injury list is mesmerizing. Obviously Rubio didn’t play for the first month-and-a-half and Love missed the first three weeks. Brandon Roy lasted just five games before more knee problems have forced him to consider re-retirement. Chase Budinger made it into a sixth game before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. Malcolm Lee played in 16 games before a knee injury took him out.
Josh Howard, brought in as an emergency replacement, was waived after he suffered an ACL injury.
J.J. Barea has missed five games, Andrei Kirilenko has missed four and Nikola Pekovic must feel fortunate to have only missed two when he sprained an ankle in November.
If the Wolves have any luck at all they’ll soon get Rubio back. They’ll need him. The remaining January schedule is a bear and could ultimately determine whether the Wolves will be a playoff contender and how active they might be come the trade deadeline.
Among 12 games left this month, Minnesota faces Atlanta twice, the Los Angeles Clippers twice, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and Brooklyn. The Wolves play seven of the 12 on the road, where they’re just 6-10. Games at Washington and Charlotte at the end of the month will serve as must-wins.
In the hotly contested West, if the Wolves somehow head into February with a top-eight spot or anywhere close, be ready finally to give Adelman that long overdue coach of the year award. No questions asked.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The New York Knicks visit Houston tonight and will get their first look at their old No. 17 turned No. 7 in Rockets red.
They’ll find a shrunken image from the blue-and-orange rocket that lit up drooling Garden crowds last season and turned the place into a nightly dream factory. The absolutely surreal, 50-day Jeremy Lin phenomenon launched “Linsanity” and transformed its creator, a Harvard grad and twice-cut NBA player, into a global icon.
A $25 million offseason offer sheet from the Rockets and a surprising refusal to match by the Knicks later, the dream went poof.
Lin’s on-the-floor replacement — or more appropriately, replacements — has made it easy for Knicks fans to compartmentalize Lin’s remarkable run that started on Feb. 4, 2012 with 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, and ended on March 24 with 13 points, three rebounds and a left knee injury.
Lin would have surgery, be done for the season and, ultimately, done with the Knicks.
Once incredulous, Knicks fans now hardly notice. The club retooled with the remarkably ageless Jason Kidd, who at age 39, has slid seamlessly to shooting guard, allowing the other backcourt acquisition, the rejuvenated and redemptive Raymond Felton, to handle the point.
New York is off to an 8-2 start, playing with purpose and a rare collectiveness that includes ‘Melo, with much credit being heaped upon the eternally unselfish Kidd.
“It’s been great,” Felton said of playing alongside Kidd, the NBA’s second-leading all-time assist man who now willfully is second on his own team. “He has respect for my game and what I can do out there enough to accept that role at the same time he’s been great for me, just being in my ear, being a big brother. He’s a great teammate.”
Lin’s role changed before the season even started after the Rockets’ trade for James Harden. A phenomenal ball-handler and finisher, Harden’s new $80 million contract dwarfs Lin’s big payday, and his outrageous skills have pushed Lin out of his comfort zone and even recently to the bench during key fourth-quarter stretches.
For a brief time, a Kidd-Lin mentorship in the Big Apple seemed inevitable and exciting. But the Knicks didn’t go to the great lengths, as reportedly they would, to bring Lin back, not at a third-year balloon payment of $15 million. Instead they returned Felton, to his great delight, to New York after a near-ruinous run through Denver then Portland.
Felton has owned up to his mistake of showing up out of shape after the lockout. His game suffered and he became a pudgy target of machine-gun criticism both in Portland and nationally. Following a hard-working summer, his body is slimmer and his numbers better, averaging 15.4 points and 6.9 assists for a Knicks team he never wanted to leave in the first place.
“Yeah, it’s big, it is for sure,” Felton said of the chip he carries on his shoulder. “No making excuses, I came in out of shape and a lot of negativity came from that, so I really have to put most of that on myself. But there was a lot of other stuff that was said about me, off the court stuff that was not true. I’m not that type of person. I think a lot of my teammates, ex-teammates will vouch for that, say that’s not the Raymond that they know. All I can do is come out and bounce back this year.”
Felton is averaging 33 minutes to Kidd’s 26, yet usage rates reveal Felton has the ball in his hands more than twice as much as Kidd, who is averaging 8.3 points and a career-low 3.3 assists, mostly as a 3-point shooter. He filled that role more than some might remember in Dallas, particularly on the 2011 title team when playing with J.J. Barea, or late in games when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry engaged in a two-man game with Kidd isolated on the wing or in the corner awaiting a kick-out for an open 3.
“Ray’s our engine,” Kidd said. “He gets things going and again, he finds the open guys and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He’s been doing that since training camp so he’s playing at a high level.”
At the start of free agency, none of the three point guards knew they’d land where they did, let alone the roles they’d play. It will be fascinating to watch how each’s season continues to unfold.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The Dallas Mavericks signed journeyman big man Eddy Curry out of desperation at the center position with Chris Kaman injured. When he returned, Dallas cut Curry and signed out-of-work Troy Murphy because power forward took top billing on the depth chart with Dirk Nowitzki rehabbing from surgery.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, down four starters and six rotation players to injury, signed Josh Howard off the street Thursday. The Toronto Raptors are reportedly looking into unemployed 3-point shooter Mickael Pietrus to plug into their injury-depleted roster.
Entering just the third week of the 2012-13 season, injuries — many to some of the game’s biggest and brightest stars — are the overwhelming story line as overworked team medical staffs are on 24-hour notice.
Both conferences can field a veritable All-Star team, position-by-position, of players that have recently returned from injury, were injured prior to the season or are injured now.
The West: Steve Nash, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Love, Nowitzki, Andrew Bogut.
The East: Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger, Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, Nene.
Yet that’s hardly all of the NBA’s wounded. Here’s more of those who have been, still are or just got injured: Gerald Wallace, Gerald Henderson, Mario Chalmers, Devin Harris, A.J. Price, Nikola Pekovic, Kirk Hinrich, Grant Hill, J.J. Barea, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Anthony Davis, Steve Blake, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Channing Frye, Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert, Alan Anderson, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Avery Bradley.
When Minnesota came to Dallas earlier this week with five players out (and Pekovic’s sprained ankle in the third quarter would make it six), coach Rick Adelman engaged in something of a “Who’s on First” rapid-fire Q & A with beat writer Jerry Zgoda.
Jerry: Who’s your backup 3 and your backup 2?
Rick: We don’t have a backup 3. I’m going to start Malcolm (Lee) tonight at the 2 and bring Alexey (Shved) off the bench at both spots. And then at the 3, I don’t know, we’re going to slide somebody there.
Jerry: Have to play AK (Andrei Kirilenko) 48 minutes?
Rick: I don’t want to do to that. We don’t need to wear him out, too.
Jerry: Can you get five or six (minutes) out of (assistant coach Terry) Porter?
Rick: I don’t think so.
A year ago, the worry around the league was how an abbreviated training camp following the hasty resolution to the lockout and then a compacted, 66-game schedule would affect player health. With a full, month-long camp this time around and a complete slate of eight preseason games, this spate of injuries is as unexpected as unfortunate.
Entering this weekend’s games, only the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder among the league’s 30 teams boast clean injury reports, and 22 list more than one injured player.
“The league’s not going to stop and wait for you,” Adelman said the other night about his team’s rash of injuries. “A lot teams are having the same issues with major injuries. As a coaching staff you can’t coach the people that aren’t there. You only can coach the people that are there.”
And so it goes in a very strange first month in the NBA.