NBA PM: Stoudemire’s Back Affecting Playoffs?
Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t signed by the Knicks prior to last season just to improve the team’s regular season record. The All-Star power forward was supposed to make them a perennial postseason power, and while no one can fault his effort in that regard, the outlook is suddenly bleak.
After injuring his back in last season’s four-game, first-round loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and spending the subsequent three months recovering, Stoudemire has aggravated his back and is now questionable to play tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.
That in itself doesn’t sound too alarming, but considering the gravity of the game—Milwaukee trails New York by a game and a half for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs—and the news that Stoudemire didn’t attend Monday’s shootaround for fear that the car ride could further aggravate his back, it appears as though the Knicks are bracing for the worst.
Initially, things didn’t seem so serious. Yes, interim coach Mike Woodson did say that he was “concerned” about Stoudemire, but the big man didn’t anticipate missing any time.
“I don’t think there’s a reason why I wouldn’t play (against he Bucks),” Stoudemire said after leaving Saturday’s win over the Detroit Pistons in the third quarter. “It just got a little tight, that’s all. We just took precautionary measures.
“It’s not really a pain,” Stoudemire continued. “It’s just muscle tightness. It’s really just a matter of massaging it out. There’s nothing to be worried about.”
From there Stoudemire put the emphasis on Monday’s all-important game against the Bucks, who are just as hot as the Knicks at the moment and have beaten New York in both previous meetings this season.
“Milwaukee is going to be a tough one. It’s very, very important for us,” Stoudemire said. “We’re trying to make a run here. We’re trying to do something special as far as playoff standings and our division chances.”
But in spite of everything Stoudemire has said, the team still kept him out of shootaround and has listed him as “questionable,” which, when you think about it, is a major issue for the Knicks. Even if Stoudemire can play, there’s no guarantee he’ll be his usual self and don’t forget that the Bucks have two post players (Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova) who have each won Eastern Conference Player of the Week in March.
And what if Stoudemire further aggravates the injury? The condensed NBA schedule isn’t doing his back any favors and the team doesn’t want to get to the playoffs without a full deck (of course, the Knicks still need to make sure they get there).
Exacerbating the Knicks’ situation is the fact that Jared Jeffries, the team’s top reserve big man, is out approximately two weeks with knee inflammation.
82games.com, a site that’s numbers are quite up to date but still offers useful insight, says the Knicks are 5.7 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Stoudemire on the floor and 7.7 points worse defensively when he’s not playing. That’s a swing 13.4 points per 100 possessions, so it’s really an imperative that Woodson has Stoudemire at his disposal over the season’s final month.
Remember, the Bucks play 11 of their remaining games at home after Monday while the Knicks will play at Madison Square Garden just seven times. Milwaukee has just seven games against playoff-bound teams remaining on their schedule besides New York. Instead of stiff competition, Scott Skiles’ team has soft games against the Portland Trail Blazers, New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors as well as two contests against the Washington Wizards.
Meanwhile the Knicks still have two games apiece against the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls as well as games against the Miami HEAT, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers.
Woodson may be 6-1 since his promotion to interim head coach, but the Knicks have a much tougher road ahead and Stoudemire will be needed at full strength.
Is Jonas Jerebko Ready to Blossom?
Detroit Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko had a nice rookie season in 2009-2010. The second-round pick from Sweden logged nearly 28 minutes per game, averaging 9.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. He even started 73 games.
At just 23-years old, the 6-10 Jerebko looked like an inexpensive solution at power forward for years to come.
And just as Jerebko was set to really break out before his sophomore NBA season, he ruptured his right Achilles tendon in a pre-season game, causing him to miss all of 2010-2011.
Fortunately, Jerebko’s ankle hasn’t been a problem this season as he’s played in every game for Pistons new coach Lawrence Frank. And while he hasn’t improved on his rookie season (9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game) he is excited to go into this summer being able to focus on improving rather than rehab.
“I had a real good recovery with help from the Pistons and everything,” he said. “I took my time and I didn’t rush anything. So I feel I couldn’t have done it any better so it’s not problems at all. There’s more other parts of the body that are problems this season that are taking a beating. My Achilles, I don’t even think about it.
“Just natural wear and tear,” he continued. “When you play a back to back to back and then travel and stuff like that, it’s a lot of games. Your body is not used to it, especially after sitting out a whole year.”
The Pistons are putting the finishing touches on a disappointing season. They started 4-20, but are 11-12 since Feb. 3, including a recent 1-4 road trip in which they had a chance to win every game.
That doesn’t sound too promising, but Jerebko is playing with budding young prospects like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight and sees the team having much more success next season.
“The future is looking very bright,” Jerebko said. “I feel like the last month has been really good. We’re really showing what we can do. This last road trip, I think we should have gone off with all wins… You know, it could have been a different story, but we started 4-20 and not a lot of positive things after that, so we worked our way back and I think we’ve shown what we can do and we’ve got a bright future.”
Part of that bright future is continuing to grow under Frank, who was denied the chance to coach the Pistons in the preseason because of the lockout.
“It’s been good,” Jerebko said of the time with Frank. “We’re still learning, getting to know each other. He’s getting to know the team. We’re still a work in progress, but we’re getting better and better I think.”
Personally, Jerebko is focused on improving many facets of his game in the offseason. He won’t participate in the Summer League but sees himself taking three or four weeks to go home to Sweden before returning to the States to begin his offseason work.
“Just want to keep working on everything,” he said. “This is going to be my first summer in awhile that I got to really work on my game since I’ve had to do rehab and stuff and trying to get back into game shape. Now that I feel 100 percent I feel like I can work on my game and get some rest and work on my leg strength, my shot and handling, everything.”
The Pistons season will end in late April, but according to Jerebko’s calendar, 2012-2013 starts in June before the NBA Finals have even taken place.
AP All-Americans Announced
Likely top-five draft pick Kansas forward Thomas Robinson was named to the AP Men’s Basketball All-America team on Monday. Robinson, whose Jayhawks will face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Final Four, is joined by Buckeyes big man Jared Sullinger, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, Michigan State’s Dramond Green and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.
Of the five players on the team, Sullinger was the only one on the pre-season All-America team.
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