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Injuries May Shape Western Conference

January 4, 2012
By

 

This isn’t the usual 82-game season, where nicks and bruises early on are a distant memory come playoff time. It’s a condensed season where 66 games are crammed into roughly four months. Key players missing a month or more could have serious repercussions on team chemistry and in the standings. The Western Conference, in particular, may already have been affected by overactive infirmary wards….

 

The San Antonio Spurs lost Manu Ginobili to a broken bone in his left hand Jan 3rd. Think the team wishes they still had George Hill? Not only was Ginobili the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 per game in the early going, but he’s also the emotional leader of this group (though he rarely ever cracks a smile). The Spurs look to Manu for dynamic plays on both ends of the floor, as he also may just be their biggest competitor. Tim Duncan is no longer a dominant player inside, while Tony Parker is off to a sluggish start despite playing professionally in France during the Lockout (he’s shooting just 39% in the first 5 games). The Dallas Mavericks will eventually wake up from their champagne comma from last June’s parade and the Houston Rockets are a scrappy bunch playing hard for new coach Kevin McHale (has anyone seen Luis Scola‘s left hand this season? pretty sweet). San Antonio could realistically be pushed to third fiddle in the Texas Triangle by the time Ginobili returns in 2 months. Hurry back Manu, this team needs you like L.A. needs drama.

Zach Randolph got the MRI back on his injured knee…torn MCL. While it won’t need surgery it will need a lot of time off, like 8 weeks of time. The Memphis Grizzlies still have Marc Gasol inside, as well as newly acquired young PF’s Dante Cunningham and Mareese Speights…but the loss of Z-Bo is still huge. He is the heart and soul of this team, their identity is Randolph and his toughness inside. Gasol will have to put up All-Star numbers in the meantime (see Andrew Bynum‘s recent tear of games). But I fear that guys like Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo will revert back to their old ways in Memphis, jacking up shots until the buzzer sounds. Luckily point guard Mike Conley has returned quickly from his ankle sprain, because Lionel Hollins will need him out there enforcing the gameplan: inside-out-inside again. I just have one question…which #1 seed will the Grizzlies upset in the 1st round this year? Without Randolph, this group could be stuck in the 8th spot again.

Another season, another Kobe Bryant injury…yet he never opts for surgery (platelet-rich plasma procedures excluded). You can’t doubt the heart and focus that he plays with. Kobe literally just wraps it up, goes out there and plays. The problem this season is that he’s yet another year older. Don’t get me wrong, Bryant can still get the job done, but I fear only in stretches. Asking him to carry the team offensively isn’t realistic. Luckily for Laker fans Andrew Bynum is playing well enough to get an All-Star nod already in just week 2. Despite what Kobe thinks, it may be best to rest him as much early on in order to have him as healthy as possible come April. Forget winning the West, the Lakers will have a hard enough time winning Los Angeles. The Clippers are healthier and arguably more talented than the purp n’ yellow squad. You’ve heard it a million times, this season isn’t a marathon it’s a sprint. To quote Laker analyst Stu Lantz recently, the Lakers should pound the ball inside until Bynum and Gasol are dragging their tongues on the floor. Kobe is no longer a gazelle, Bynum is the young buck on this team. I’m sure Mike Brown will lean on him heavily…but will Bryant?

 

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{for more Spurs coverage check out the SAS Team Page}

 

 

5 Responses to Injuries May Shape Western Conference

  1. Joe Perez on January 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Funny, KM how you mention which number #1 team the Griz will upset this season, NONE. Reasons everyone has already caught on to what happen last season of throwing games away to posistion yourselves with the best possible matchup for your team, if not the Mav’s would not had won the Championship, waited for the last 2 weeks of this season and see what teams are going to do, not this time Griz or Mavs.

  2. Martin Knezevic on January 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Joe, that’s a serious accusation. Are you saying teams don’t give their all every game??? Yeah, I hear you. But it’s a slippery slope when you start throwing games late to position yourselves for a 1st rd matchup. Eventually the basketball gods will get you…..
    Where do YOU think the Grizz will finish this year? Which team is the better matchup for them?
    -Knez

  3. Joe Perez on January 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Knez, First of all Awesome post. I can tell you are an open minded person that values other people opinions as long as they are within the bloggers code. I read a lot of blogs and believe me you are only the second person I’ve ever responded too. Your article caught my eye, and then you even went as far as to ask for my opinion as too what seed the Griz place, I value that and here it goes: 1)OKC=well rounded, 2)SAS=well rounded, and balance (live by the 3′s and die by the 3′s), 3)LAL=not dead yet, 4)Griz=great patch work so far with early injuries, payback on the Mav’s, 5)DaM=just enough in the gas tank. 6)Por=talented team and consistant, 7)Den=George Carl, 8)UJaz=gets the last seed over the Clip’s,in their case size does matter they just need a better coach. Food for though a couple seeds may change IF big trades are may at the trade deadline. I beggining to enjoyed your blog and hope to become a welcome person in your blog. Thank you and have a great NBA season.

    • Martin Knezevic on January 9, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Joe, Thanks for the kind words…we always promote discussion on BlogNBAsketball. I can see you’ve given some thought to the playoff picture out west already. I like that you respect SAS enough to have them high (higher than most) and also have faith in MEM to keep the ship afloat without Z-Bo. I don’t know if I can agree with you on LAC, they’re a playoff team for sure (over UTA). I like DEN as well out west. But my darkhorse that no one is picking…MIN. I think they’ll be a playoff team. I predicted this when they hired Rick Adelman and am sticking to my pick.
      Come back anytime Joe…we welcome feedback/discussion from knowledgeable fans like yourself.
      -Knez

  4. Custom Killa on January 15, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Griz can play without Z Bo, but the Spurs feed of Manu every game

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