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NBA PM: 10 Players Returning from Injury
Posted By Alex Kennedy On August 23, 2013 @ 5:01 pm In NBA | No Comments
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It’s understood that injuries are a part of the game, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with ailments when they surface. Last season, a number of key players were sidelined with various injuries that forced them to miss a significant portion of the schedule.
Some players – such as Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum – didn’t play a single game. Others – such as Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook – played at a high level until their campaign came to a premature end.
Entering the 2013-14 season, here are 10 players who will make their highly anticipated return. All of these players finished last season on the injured list, but are expected to be back on the court at some point this season.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – All eyes will be on Bryant as he tries to play on his surgically repaired Achilles tendon for the first time. Bryant has been making headlines all offseason because he’s apparently ahead of schedule with his rehab. He says that he has “shattered” the usual recovery time for this injury since he’s already able to run and lift weights with his Achilles. Bryant has admitted that he may not be ready for the Lakers’ season opener on October 29, but he should return quicker than his original diagnosis. Bryant, who turned 35 years old today, has continued to play at a high level in recent years despite his age and miles. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s still the case once he returns from this injury. The Lakers will need Bryant at full strength to compete with the improved Western Conference.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls – Rose was criticized for sitting out the entire 2012-13 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, but his decision to take things slow means he should be completely healthy this year. Rose is just two seasons removed from winning the Most Valuable Player award and one season removed from leading the Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference over the Miami HEAT. If the 24-year-old can return to MVP-form, the Bulls have to be considered one of the best teams in the league and a legitimate contender. It’s been awhile since Rose has been completely healthy, so it’s easy to forget just how dominant and exciting he is when he’s at 100 percent. Rose is one of the NBA’s elite players and, for the last year, the basketball world has been patiently waiting for his return.
Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers – Bynum is one of the biggest question marks entering the 2013-14 season. After missing all of last year with the Philadelphia 76ers, nobody is sure what to expect from the big man. Will he be healthy enough to play? If he is healthy, will he be in All-Star form or will he be a shell of his former self? If Bynum is at full strength – playing like the 18-point, 12-rebound, two-block star from two years ago – the Cavaliers could make some noise in the Eastern Conference. If Bynum can’t take the court or isn’t as effective, Cleveland won’t lose much since they signed him to a safe, partially-guaranteed deal (only $6,000,000 of Bynum’s $12,250,000 salary is guaranteed). Bynum has proven that he can be one of the top centers in the game when healthy, and there aren’t many 25-year-olds who have two championships and an All-Star appearance on their resume.
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics – Prior to tearing his ACL in January, Rondo was having one of the best years of his career. He was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and 1.8 steals, and he had 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists, tied with John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history. Now, Rondo returns to a Celtics team that looks very different. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are on the Brooklyn Nets and his new weapons include Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks among others. It remains to be seen if Rondo can continue to play at his previous level. He relies heavily on his quickness and athleticism so will the ACL injury limit him going forward? Will he still be able to rack up the assists with a lesser supporting cast? We’ll learn just how good Rondo is this season and, at the end of the day, the Celtics will go as far as Rondo takes them. That is, unless Danny Ainge decides to trade the volatile point guard and enter rebuilding mode.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers – Last season, Granger battled patellar tendinosis and experienced a number of setbacks. He underwent surgery in October and again in March. He managed to play in five games between the surgeries, but the veteran small forward wasn’t himself, averaging just 5.4 points on 28.6 percent shooting from the field. Now, Granger is hoping to return at full strength and put the Pacers over the top in the tough Eastern Conference. Will Granger be the All-Star we saw in 2009 or will he be an overpaid role player? The Pacers could certainly use the Granger who’s just one year removed from leading Indiana in scoring with 18.7 points per game. Last year’s Pacers team ranked 23rd in points per game (94.7), 26th in field goal percentage (.436) and 22nd in three-point percentage (.347), so they could use all the help they can get from Granger either in the starting lineup or in a sixth man role.
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Bynum isn’t the only injured-plagued big man on the Cavaliers. Varejao has been sidelined with a number of strange injuries in recent years, ranging from patella tendinitis to torn ankle tendons to broken wrists. Most recently, Varejao had to undergo surgery on a torn leg muscle and then developed a blood clot in his lower right lung. Prior to his injuries last season, Varejao was having the best year of his career, averaging 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds. He was leading the league in rebounding and seemed poised to make the All-Star team. If Varejao can put up similar numbers this season and mesh with Bynum, Cleveland could have the best frontcourt in the NBA. Staying healthy has been an issue for Varejao over the years – he has played 81 games in the last three seasons – but his injuries have been freak occurrences. If healthy, Varejao will be a key piece for the Cavaliers or, at the very least, an attractive trade asset for Chris Grant and his staff.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder – Last season, Westbrook had arguably the best season of his career before getting injured, averaging 23.2 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.2 rebounds. He was one of only four players in the league to average at least 22.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds – the other three players being LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Stephen Curry. Westbrook was playing at a ridiculous level in the postseason – averaging 24 points, 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals – just before he tore his right meniscus. Without Westbrook, the Thunder lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games in the Conference Semifinals. Entering the 2013-14 season, Oklahoma City will be relying heavily on Westbrook and Kevin Durant to carry the offense. For the first time in quite awhile, they won’t have a clear-cut third option since they traded James Harden last offseason and lost Kevin Martin to free agency this summer. Westbrook shouldn’t be limited when he returns, but whether he can take his game to another level remains to be seen. The Thunder are certainly hoping he can make that jump, and the fact that he’s only 24 years old bodes well.
Lou Williams, Atlanta Hawks – Williams was the Hawks’ big addition last offseason, but he was only able to play 39 games with the team before tearing his ACL in January. The perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate was playing well prior to the injury, following up his career-year with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-12 with similar averages of 14.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 28.7 minutes while improving his shooting percentages (42.2 percent from the field and a career-best 36.7 percent from three-point range). Entering the 2013-14 season, Williams will have every opportunity to succeed in Atlanta’s new system. New Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer has said that Williams will have a big role in Atlanta’s offense and that he plans to use the scoring guard in a way similar to how his San Antonio Spurs used Manu Ginobili. That means Williams will get plenty of opportunities to torch opposing second units, as he’s been doing for most of his career. The 26-year-old has finished as a runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in the past, but this could be the year that he elevates his game and actually takes home the award.
Al Harrington, Washington Wizards – The last year was incredibly difficult for Harrington. Not only did he undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus last April, he contracted a staph infection that required him to get a PICC line and IV medicine twice a day for several weeks. When he finally recovered, he was buried on the Orlando Magic’s depth chart because the team wanted to develop their young players. Now, Harrington is looking to revitalize his career and show people that he’s the same player who, just one year ago, averaged 14.2 points off of the Denver Nuggets’ bench and finished fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting. Harrington joins a Wizards team that is determined to take the next step and end their five-year playoff drought. The 33-year-old has been working out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas all summer and looking very good. He should provide instant offense off of Washington’s bench and veteran leadership in the locker room.
Greg Oden, Miami HEAT – Oden is the most intriguing player on this list because he hasn’t played an NBA game since December 5, 2009. The big man’s struggles and setbacks have been well-documented. His knees have been operated on five times, including three microfracture procedures, and he’s hoping to become the first player in NBA history to return from that many surgeries. Oden has been training hard and drawing rave reviews from the coaches, executives and players who have watched his workouts. However, that setting is very different from a packed arena against NBA-caliber opponents. It remains to be seen how effective Oden will be or if he can even get healthy enough to take the floor. Oden will take things slow in Miami, with the goal being to be healthy and ready to contribute for the playoffs. If he’s able to return and play a significant role, Oden’s comeback will be one of this year’s best sports stories.
Which player are you most excited to see return to the court? Is there another player that should’ve made the list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Harrellson Excited to Join Pistons
As a member of the New York Knicks during the 2011-12 season, Josh Harrellson made a name for himself thanks to his hustle plays and willingness to do the dirty work. He played 37 games for the Knicks, including four starts, and did many of the same things that made him a fan favorite at the University of Kentucky.
However, Harrellson injured his wrist and needed surgery. Shortly after, he was traded to the Houston Rockets as part of the Marcus Camby deal and subsequently waived. Just like that, Harrellson went from being a contributor to being unemployed. After a quick six-game stint with the Miami HEAT, the big man signed with a team in Puerto Rico followed by a team in China.
Now, Harrellson is returning from abroad to sign with the Detroit Pistons, and he’s hoping that he can stick in the NBA this time around. He has been working out with the Pistons coaches, including Rasheed Wallace, and he believes there’s a roster spot for him.
“I think there’s always opportunity,” Harrellson told Pistons.com. “Nothing is set right now. We’ve got a new coach coming in. I know he’s going to start Greg [Monroe] and Andre [Drummond]. They’re both great big men; they’ve both got a bright future. I don’t know who’s going to be the backup center. Greg could stay at the four or he can stay at the five and I could play the four. I can shoot. I can stretch the floor.
“Who knows right now? I think there’s the possibility for minutes for anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are. I’m going to show them what I can do and I’m going to work hard every day and then it’s in the coach’s hands.”
The Pistons were in contact with a number of players before signing Harrellson, but after seeing him workout they felt confident that they found their guy. In fact, Joe Dumars relayed that message to Harrellson at the workout.
“After my workout, I was talking to Mr. Dumars and he was saying, ‘All the coaches like you. Everybody wants you to be our 15th guy and we’re going to make that happen,’” Harrellson said, “Right then and there, I kind of knew they had interest and I know they were going to submit some kind of offer. I didn’t know if it was going to be, ‘Come to camp and make the team like you have the previous two years,’ but they liked me enough to guarantee a little money and that gives me confidence in them and a better relationship.
“I’ve liked the Pistons ever since I came in for a pre-draft workout. We’ve always had a good connection. They’ve always liked me and now that I was a free agent and they could get their hands on me and they’ve got room, I’m looking forward to it. I came here and worked out and I don’t know what happened [with other teams] after that. From top to bottom, I like everybody here. I’m comfortable and I told my agent to work it out with Detroit and this is where I want to be.”
Harrellson is going to bring 100 percent on every play and he’s always going to do whatever the coaches ask of him. Every team needs a physical, high-energy role player like Harrellson and he can’t wait to bring his contributions to Detroit.
“I think they liked the fact that I play hard,” Harrellson said. “I don’t care who I go against. I don’t care what your name is. I’m going to play as hard as I can. The hype and intimidation doesn’t get to me. I’m a hard-nosed player and that’s what they liked. They want to bring back the Bad Boys mentality to Detroit and if we get everybody on the same page, I think we can.”
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