It’s October 11, somehow still 90 degrees in L.A. and we’re almost two weeks away from banner night. While LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Co. continue to set fire to the league’s media landscape, there’s another story that is quietly dominating the NBA this fall, one sprained ankle and tender hammy at a time. The ever-present injury bug has reached full-scale epidemic levels during the 2010 pre-season with nearly every team—including several Lakers rivals—experiencing its wrath in one way, shape or form. If you look down the Lakers own bench since training camp opened, you’re likely to be greeted by no less than Kobe, Andrew Bynum and Luke Walton. Bumps, bruises, tears and aches are minor problems for some teams and full-scale crises for others. Let’s check in with some of the competition to see who’s still standing.
Miami’s Big Three took its first hit last week when Dwyane Wade strained his right hamstring in the Heat’s exhibition opener against the Pistons. No one’s hitting the panic button in South Beach, but as anyone who has ever hurt their hamstring can attest, it has the potential to linger if not given due diligence.
The Celtics responded to news that budding center Kendrick Perkins would be out for at least half of the season by signing Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal to help fill their void down low. So far, the injury-plagued younger of the two O’Neal’s has suffered a case of the butterflies and a more concerning pulled hamstring injury of his own that kept him out of the Celtics’ first two exhibition games. He made his debut last night and played five minutes, but Doc Rivers warned that Boston would continue to carefully monitor the injury.
Clutch City has been more like Crutch City the past few years and the 2010 pre-season has done nothing so far to rid Houston of its new name. First, there was the announcement that Yao Ming—so vital to Houston securing a top seed in the Western Conference—would be limited to a maximum of 24 minutes per game and likely wouldn’t play at all on some back-to-backers. Now, his insurance policy, Brad Miller, is nursing an injury of his own, as he’s day-to-day with a sprained left ankle.
Spurs newcomer Tiago Splitter received a rude welcome to the NBA, suffering a strained calf that has kept him out of San Antonio’s pre-season action thus far. Doctors say they’ll reevaluate the forward-center in 7-10 days, but this isn’t exactly the type of start San Antonio was hoping for from a player who is widely viewed as a huge factor in keeping the Spurs’ championship window open for at least another season.
Portland’s injury woes from the past few seasons have shown no signs of letting up with Greg Oden again out indefinitely and potential replacement Jeff Pendergraph announcing this week that he’ll miss the entire 2010-11 season with a torn ACL. This recent bout of injuries does little to instill much confidence in a team, who when healthy, is expected to potentially compete against the Lakers for the West crown.
The Nuggets—whose front court was already reeling from the absence of Kenyon Martin to start the season—lost his replacement, Al Harrington, for at least two weeks with a partial tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot.
Leading contenders for the Central Division title—Chicago and Milwaukee—have both taken their tumbles this pre-season, led by Carlos Boozer’s freak hand injury and news that Andrew Bogut’s surgically-repaired hand, wrist and elbow is likely to continue to cause him discomfort all season long.
While it won’t heal Kobe or Bynums’ knees or cure Luke of his back pain, it’s at least somewhat reassuring to know that most of the Lakers’ leading competition for the Western Conference and eventually, the NBA title, are to some degree, dealing with injuries of their own heading into the 2010-11 season. We all witnessed what one major injury to a key player (Kevin Garnett) did to Boston’s title hopes in 2009, so here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for all of the league’s wearied and wobbled.