With the all-star break approaching, an unfortunate number of injuries have incurred among the top players in the league.
DeMarcus Cousins, Pelican twin tower alongside Anthony Davis, went down with an achilles tear last Friday with only ten seconds to go in a hard-fought victory against the Houston Rockets. Achilles injuries are especially hard to overcome – several big-name players never came back true to form after one. Most recently, Kobe Bryant was never the same after tearing his achilles in the 2013 playoffs. However, Cousins is only 27 years old, and players such as Rudy Gay and Wesley Matthews should give him inspiration; they have fully recovered from the same injury at similar ages. The would-be all-star’s injury has significantly changed the trajectory of both his career and this New Orleans franchise. Boogie’s contract will end this summer, and the currently 7th seed Pelicans could find themselves out of the playoffs come April. This year would have been Cousins’ first postseason. New Orleans’ front office seems to be gearing up to re-sign Boogie, seeing as they have traded center Omer Asik along with a first round pick in exchange for Nikola Mirotic. If the Pels do end up re-signing Cousins, their core will be made up of the perma-injured Jrue Holiday, only-plays-three-quarters-of-his-games Anthony Davis, and a newly crippled DeMarcus. That will work out well.
Wizards point guard John Wall, who was supposed to be an Eastern Conference all-star, is undergoing knee surgery and will be out for up to two months. The Wiz are currently the fifth seed in the East, and the top-heavy team will sorely miss their star. Washington could easily slide a few spots, which would provide a steep hill to climb later in the season. After losing last year’s tight series against a much less intimidating Boston squad, the Wizards could find themselves out of luck this year.
Kevin Love, after dealing with some Cavaliers drama, caught the injury bug as well, sustaining a fracture in his left hand, and according to Brian Windhorst, will to be out for 6-8 weeks. With the Cavaliers in a bit of hot water, teetering at the fourth seed in the East, this injury could seriously deter an already struggling squad. The Cavaliers haven’t missed the Finals since LeBron’s return from Miami, but the current squad is by far the worst that they have rolled out. Love’s absence will stretch the team even thinner, giving the Cavs further reason to make a trade before the deadline. If the talk about LBJ leaving this summer is true, then the Cavs should be weary of dishing out their infamous first rounder from Brooklyn. However, if Cleveland doesn’t make it the Finals, then Bron is much more likely to leave.
Andre Roberson, OKC’s elite perimeter defender, has suffered a ruptured left patellar tendon, and will miss the rest of the season. The injury, while not to one of the Thunder’s big three, significantly impacts the on-court dynamic of the team. Robes was averaging over 26 minutes a game this season, and would have been assigned to guard some of the toughest matchups in the NBA come the postseason. There, the Thunder could have to deal with the likes of either Houston of GSW, two teams with notoriously skilled backcourts. If the Thunder don’t make a move at the trade deadline, they could find themselves overrun by the superpowered Western Conference offenses.
Earlier in the season, a host of players endured serious injuries. Gordon Hayward has missed every game since the season opener, but the Celtics haven’t missed a beat. Boston is sitting pretty atop the East. It isn’t yet clear whether Hayward will make a return, but the Celtics have not ruled him out for a playoff comeback. Kawhi Leonard has hardly played for the Spurs this year, logging a total of 210 minutes over 9 games, and still remains out indefinitely. In spite of this, San Antonio has held up, comfortably maintaining a top-4 seed in the West. Mike Conley has been out, prompting the worst Grizzlies season in years, and the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley has also been out since November on a knee injury for return next year. Beverly’s injury may have helped the Clippers’ front office decide to blow it up and trade Blake Griffin and possibly DeAndre Jordan.
The sheer number of non-contact season-ending injuries begs the question of how midseason rest affects players’ health. Bleacher Report noted that Cousins had been averaging nearly 40 minutes per game for the 10 games prior to his injury, on top of the game being his fourth within seven days. The uptick in these type of injuries is especially unfortunate given the NBA’s effort to protect players by expanding the length of the regular season, eliminating the possibility of having 3 games in 4 nights. One of the solutions most widely proposed and simultaneously disliked is simply reducing the number of games from 82. The packed schedule causes for players to strategically skip unimportant regular season games, which directly reduces the quality of the product being shown to ticket-buying fans. Having less games could mitigate the injury issues as well as the game sitting problem, but would most likely meet significant pushback due to the inevitable decrease in revenue.