Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tears in Heaven

Of the Spurs, Lakers, Cavaliers, Celtics, and Magic, at least one team will suffer a serious injury to one of its best players this year. At least, the probability of that statement, based on past experience, is somewhere above 90%. (I will gladly take bets on that statement from my co-bloggers.) This year's champion will be "tainted" in some way due to poor competition.

But is this not always true? The 2009 Lakers were pushed to seven games by a Yao-less and un-Mac'ed Houston team; what could the Rockets have done with those guys? L.A. also was lucky that their Finals foe, Orlando, featured a point guard who hadn't played since mid-winter with a shoulder problem. In the East, Boston also was deathly without Garnett, compared to their former vigor. In 2008, the Lakers were lucky that their conference final foes had a hobbled Ginobili. In 2007, the Spurs possibly beat Phoenix due to Steve Nash's bloody nose. In 2006, Miami defeated a Mavericks team that had just ousted Phoenix sans Stoudemire. In 2005, Shaq and Wade suffered thigh and rib injuries, respectively, in the Pistons series, clearing the way for San Antonio to take the trophy after the Spurs had nailed a Joe Johnson-less Suns team. 2004— Detroit was lucky to beat New Jersey with their star guard, Jason Kidd, needing looming microfracture knee surgery. Karl Malone, too, rendered the Lakers punchless with his pallid play in the Finals due to a torn knee ligament. 2003— Dirk Nowitzki's knee injury allowed the Spurs to slip into the NBA Finals. (Not to mention Chris Webber's knee injury against Dallas in the second round.) In 2002, injuries to Peja Stojakovic helped the Lakers slip past Sac. 2001 saw Allen Iverson crack his ribs in the deciding game against L.A. In 2000, the Lakers breezed through the Western playoffs when Tim Duncan bowed out. The Spurs of '99, featuring Robinson and Duncan at their greatest powers, faced a Knicks team missing its Hall of Fame center. Heck, the 1988 Lakers beat Detroit after Isiah Thomas injured his ankle, and the '89 Pistons returned the favor when both Magic and B-Scott tore their hamstrings.

One could argue, of course, that avoiding injury is part of the competition. Still, this season will be just as marred, and I'm already sad.

1 comment:

H.O.S.S. said...

I agree with Bhel's argument: I can't think of a single season where a would-be contender wasn't plagued by injuries to key players.

It should be mentioned, however, that injuries are not completely random. Older players tend to miss more games due to injury. So do bigger players. And some guys are just "injury prone."

I've always wondered what makes certain players prone to injury. For some -- T-Mac and Vince Carter -- it is probably laziness and lack of conditioning. But Manu is an extremely hard working player who is injury prone nonetheless...