The NBA’s All-Injured Team
Injuries have been the talk of the 2012 NBA playoffs with big names falling prey to the injury bug. While these injuries are unfortunate and greatly change the outlook of this year’s postseason, there were also injuries throughout—and before—the season tipped off on Christmas for teams not in the playoff picture. Had these injuries not have occurred, the fortunes of these teams may have been different, considering the different expectations for each squad.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at a few of the injuries that, had they not occurred, would have caused the 2011-12 NBA season to play out differently. As is the case with the All-NBA teams, we name two guards, two forwards and a center.
G-Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Entering the season, there was cautious optimism surrounding the Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio was one of the main reasons for that. He finally came to the United States and, to the surprise of many media members, was wearing the jersey of the Timberwolves. There was concern for how his game would translate to the NBA, but he, Kevin Love and the Timberwolves began winning games at a higher clip than their norm quickly, even finding themselves in the playoff race.
Yet when Rubio fell to the floor against the Los Angeles Lakers with a torn ACL, the air left the Target Center and Minnesota fell apart quickly. With all the praise Kevin Love receives in Minnesota, it became clear quickly he can only do so much on his own and that Rubio was/is the team’s most valuable player. Unsurprisingly, the Timberwolves fell out of the playoff race very quickly after Rubio’s absence from the court left a void that they were unable to fill.
G-Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Derrick Rose essentially had a nightmare of a 2011-12 NBA season after being named the league’s Most Valuable Player last year, playing in only 39 of the Bulls’ 66 games during the regular season. He fought through a variety of injuries, trying to provide his remarkable skills when able, but his teammates really came through to help Chicago clinch the top spot in the East for the postseason.
Entering the playoffs, many believed the Bulls were one of the few teams that could stand in the way of the Miami HEAT winning an NBA title, but when Rose landed, jumped and fell to the floor in pain, it seemed over immediately. Rose’s ACL injury will keep him out for the remainder of the postseason and a good chunk of next season and his teammates seem to have taken the injury to heart. The Philadelphia 76ers have taken advantage to this point and are poised to knock the number one seed in the East out of the playoffs in the first round.
F-Jeff Green (Boston Celtics)
As a main part of the trade last year that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Celtics’ fans seemed unsure of Jeff Green. His statistics dropped significantly upon his arrival in Boston, yet Green’s versatility was something the Celtics saw a great amount of value in, helping to plug many holes in their attack. The Celtics and Green agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract for the 2011-12 season and Green told numerous media outlets how he was ready to show the Celtics what he truly is capable of on the basketball court.
Then, the bomb dropped. Roughly a week before the lockout-shortened NBA season was to tip off, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm doing his routine physical. His season was over before it began. The Celtics were forced to void Green’s just-agreed-upon contract because of his failed physical, but continue to hold his rights when he is able to return to the court. All indications are Green is doing well and the Celtics plan to bring him back.
F-Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)
The Atlanta Hawks have been a consistent team for many years now with a decent core of players, but they’ve been unable to make a push into the upper-echelon of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. With a lockout-shortened season, the Hawks had great aspirations of achieving home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which may have made the difference in their postseason success.
In early January, only weeks after the season began, the Hawks announced Horford would miss significant time due to a pectoral tear in a game against the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks, led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, played relatively well without Horford, finishing fifth in the East. Horford was able to play 20 minutes during Game 4, but it may be too little, too late as the Celtics lead the series 3-1.
C-Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)
After what could only be considered a crazy season full of ‘will he stay or will he go’ conversations and debates, Dwight Howard eventually professed his love for the Orlando Magic, remaining with the team after the ever-important trade deadline. However, that only sparked more debates as to whether Howard would still find himself in Orlando when next season begins or whether the Magic are giving all personnel decisions Howard’s once-over first.
When Howard herniated a disc in his back, the Magic had to shut him down for the year. While this created an entirely new round of Howard gossip, the big man made it clear he was not giving up on his teammates, but suffering from a legitimate injury. Howard’s surgery kept him out of the playoffs and while his teammates have done all they can, they have had little chance to advance in the postseason. The Indiana Pacers will have the opportunity to end Orlando’s tumultuous season on Tuesday night, leading the first round series 3-1.
There are injuries every season in every sport and the 2011-12 NBA season was no different. Let the debate begin on how the year may have played out differently had these players not gone down.