I was going to do this this weekend, but there's been some big headlines over the last couple of days, so we'll cover this now and make this weekend's update a full league-wide flyover.
Today we cover every team's worst nightmare: injuries.
An injury to a key player can kill even a contending team's entire season....just ask the Rockets. This update is long, but stick with it....I promise it's worth the read. Already this year, there have been a number of serious injuries to noteworthy players, some of which are so randomly outlandish, they'd be hysterical if they weren't so sad.
In fact, I think we'll start with one of those....
Hasheem Thabeet has a broken jaw:
Thabeet broke his jaw when his chin collided with teammate Zach Randolph's head during Memphis' game against the Trailblazers.
The injury is, at the same time, just as painful yet less serious than it sounds. The "break" is more of a fracture, and isn't likely to keep him out more than a week....pending Thabeet's threshold for said pain.
The injury is also a bad break.....no pun intended....for Thabeet's young career, as Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins had just decided to give Hasheem some consistent, quality minutes to see what he could do. Those plans are obviously on hold now.
Kevin Martin proves once again he's made of glass:
For the third straight year, Martin will miss significant time during the season, this time with a fracture in his left wrist. Martin had surgery just yesterday on the wrist, and will be out approximately 2 months.
The injury has forced the Kings to do what most of us assumed was going to eventually happen anyway: move rookie Tyreke Evans to shooting guard and start Beno Udrih at the point. And wouldn't you know, it's working. The Kings are, astonishingly, .500 right now (4-4), with three of those wins coming in Martin's absence (consecutive victories over Utah, Golden State, and Oklahoma).
Kings fans insisted to me all through May that Sacramento GM Geoff Petrie was going to take Evans in the draft (check the Star Trib archives if you don't believe me....even Jerry Zgoda told me I was nuts when I relayed the info along) It's easy to see why Evans topped the list now. It's probably too early to say the Kings are better without Martin. But based on the past two years and now this, it probably is safe to say he doesn't do enough to make them miss him.
And speaking of players whos teams don't seem to miss them....
Michael Redd is out with a bad knee:
Two weeks is the official prognosis, but after what happened last year, don't believe Redd is healthy until you see him on the court. Like Martin, Redd has struggled to remain consistently healthy the last few years, dropping in and out of the lineup so frequently the Bucks have developed whole playbooks to use without him, as to not miss a beat when he goes down.
And yet, like the Kings, the Bucks are currently a .500 club, thanks to a healthy Bogut, rookie sensation Brandon Jennings, and the league's best defense. Yes, you read that correctly...the Bucks are currently the best defensive team in the NBA.
None of the Bucks fans I've questioned seem to care whether Redd returns at all or not. A few went as far as to pretend they didn't recognize the name. And really, who could blame them?
Tyrus Thomas is.....MIA....
Because saying Ty is injured doesn't cover even half of what is going on here.
Thomas started this year the same way he ended last year: feuding with Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. Vin started Taj Gibson all preseason, prompting a mini-outburst from Thomas over coming off the bench. Ty got back into the starting five in the regular season, but things quickly went downhill. Thomas and the Bulls failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension (the Bulls insinuate Thomas does want to come back; Bulls fans claim the team didn't even try to make a real offer).
The very next day, Del Negro benched Thomas for the entire fourth quarter of Chicago's loss to the Miami Heat, reportedly over a spat about Thomas' failure to rotate on defense.
The NEXT day, Thomas showed up to practice in a sweater and sandals, claiming he was "sick". Del Negro apparently didn't believe him, reportedly sending him home just to not have to deal with him, then bringing him off the bench when he returned from his "illness" behind Taj Gibson again.
The NEXT day, Thomas broke his arm, reportedly during a routine workout, and will be out 4-6 weeks, which Del Negro seemed almost giddy about when asked, spending 90% of the interview praising Gibson while barely fielding questions about Thomas.
"Gibson's been great. Taj keeps working, he's out there after practice working; he's constant effort. He's always working and his energy and his effort -- especially defensively -- is good. He just has to continually find his spots in the offense, but as he gets more confident and gets more consistent minutes, that will come.''
Um, what about Ty?
'He was doing some type of pull-up or something and kind of injured his arm..."
Wow Vinny. Don't sound so concerned....
While the Kings and Bucks don't appear to miss Martin and Redd, the Bulls have taken it a step further with Thomas. Not only do they not seem to miss him, they all but openly declare they want him gone.
Yao Ming is out for the season:
This isn't really new news, or something that happened during the year, but it's important to note (especially since I kind of took a cheap shot at the Rockets about it...)
Yao suffered a fractured left foot in the Rocket's second round playoff series with the Lakers at the end of last season.
The injury is much more severe than it sounds, to say the very least. Not only will it cost him this season, it could cost him his career. Initial reports said 8-12 weeks, but it was later revealed that the injury is barely healing at all. No one associated with Yao or the Rockets will comment beyond that, which is a good indication of how concerned they are over this. Yao's injury history is not favorable by any means, and doesn't figure to get better either. Yao has the unfortunate burden of carrying around Shaq-like weight without Shaq's strength or natural athleticism...the strain of moving his body at NBA speeds has slowly been catching up to him for a few seasons now.
And while we're on the subject of the Rockets...
Tracy McGrady is set to return.....maybe....
McGrady actually told Yahoo Sports that he intended to return a week from now, November 18th, against (brace for the irony...).....the Timberwolves.
But the Rockets quickly denied the report, saying TMac's return is indeterminate right now, that he hasn't practiced with the team at all this season, and that they won't allow him back on the court until they are convinced he's 100% healthy, or at least as close to it as his body can manage. So it's anyone's guess what the timetable here is.
TMac dropped out of last season after revealing, in a way that greatly irked the Rockets, that he would undergo Microfracture surgery.
The good news here is that McGrady finally took decisive steps to get healthy this summer, working out with legendary trainer Tim Grover at his Chicago ATTACK Camp. Grover and his staff are credited with resurrecting several careers from potentially career-ending injuries, including Amare Stoudermie, Shaun Livingston, Kenyon Martin, Dwyane Wade, and even old schoolers Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway. His other clients include or have included Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan.
So the guy knows how to get people healthy, to say the least. McGrady credits his wife of all people for getting him to Grover's gym, saying someone, "should have put a gun to my head and made me come" after working with Gorver and therapist David Reavy.
"His whole body was imbalanced from basically his shoulder blades down to his feet," Reavy said. "He was developing a lot of back problems ... He was developing strength in an imbalanced fashion. He had no core strength, he couldn't hold a plank."
"He took a hard fall seven years ago in 2002 and he said he was never able to dunk off his left leg since. We got him dunking off his left leg four and a half months post micro-fracture, which is basically unheard of. The results that we get here are basically unprecedented because we take the force off the injured area, we make the body absorb the force equally, so that it can heal properly and faster without the loading that it's constantly getting before."
Hmmm.....sounds like something a certain Al Jefferson might benefit from....
Gilbert Arenas reportedly joined McGrady at ATTACK Camp this summer, and is playing big minutes for the first time in three years this season. So if ever there was a reason to think TMac might actually make a comeback this season, this would be it.
Tayshaun Prince has a ruptured disk in is back:
And is out indefinitely. Which is really only noteworthy because it ended his streak of 439 consecutive starts, the longest such streak in the NBA until Tay got hurt.
Andrew Bynum has an injured elbow:
Bynum suffered the injury against the Houston Rockets, and is listed as day-to-day, possibly returning tonight against Phoenix.
The interesting note here is the injury happened the game before the Lakers played the Grizzlies, against whom Bynum suffered a major injury last year after Kobe crashed into his knees.
Seems like Memphis is the place to go to get hurt by your own teammates...
Pau Gasol has an injured....something....
Because it's really not clear what's going on. The official diagnosis is...was...a bad hamstring, but the injury has been extraordinarily slow to heal for what it should be (Gasol was expected to play in the season opener), and a few days ago, Laker doctors admitted they might have misdiagnosed it....something they seem to do quite frequently.
A misdiagnosis on Bynum's first leg injury could have cost the Lakers a title in 07-08. A misdiagnosis of Chris Mihm years earlier appears to have cost him his career.
Gasol is listed day-to-day, with the possible timetable of return being (this ought to make you guys laugh...) any game between now and Christmas.
Laker fans I've spoken with are admittedly worried about this, given the teams' poor track record with recovering big men. One told me there's rumors going around Laker blogs that Gasol's injury is much more serious than is being reported. Another asked if they could trade medical staffs with the Phoenix Suns.
Now to check in with the Staples Center's other residents...
Blake Griffin has a broken kneecap:
Again, not breaking news (again....no pun intended....), but he is the #1 pick and was, until his injury, the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Now the race is wide open, with Jennings and Tyreke Evans racing off and not looking back, and Flynn just starting to get off the ground.
Blake is an athletic freak (his pre-draft combine numbers were nearly identical to Amare Stoudemire's), but he's out until mid-December, which delays what is supposed to be a year of big growth for the Clippers and a heated race for RotY.
Kevin Love has a fractured hand:
Like we didn't all know this already. What's worth mentioning here is Love and the team are a bit at odds about his return schedule. Love said he thinks he'll be back by November 20th. The team and most "media in the know" guys are sticking to the original diagnosis, which would mean more like December 20th.
The New Jersey Nets:
Yep, the whole team. There's really no other way to put it. The Nets have been hit with so many injuries already they were only able to dress 8 players a few days ago against the Celtics (a game they nearly won, by the way...) Devin Harris and Courtney Lee are out with groin injuries, Keyon Dooling has a hip pointer, Yi and Tony Battie have bad knees, Jarvis Hayes has a hamstring injury, and Chris Douglas-Roberts has the swine flu. That's 4 out of 5 starters and the first three guys off the bench all out in Jersey.
Ryan Anderson has a bad ankle:
The Magic didn't skip a beat at all to start the year, thanks to Anderson. He's shooting 46%....44% from three...good for 15ppg and all the matchup problems the Magic are used to creating. Orlando went 5-1 with him as a starter.
An interesting sidebar is that Anderson was considered a throw-in to the Vince Carter trade, but Stan Van Gundy actually specifically demanded him. When later asked, he simply said "Contending teams don't go picking players willy-nilly".
Guess Cavs GM Danny Ferry missed that memo...
Both with ankle injuries. Like Prince, this is really only noteworthy in the product....in this case, two wins by San Antonio, a team that looked listless and old when Parker and Timmah were healthy.
The Wizards have been hit with their annual injury problems:
But probably the saddest, most ironic injury is the shoulder injury suffered by Antawn Jamison in preseason. Ironic because Jamison has been about the only Wizard to not get hurt in the last two years, and sad because the rest of the team is finally (more or less) healthy. Jamison should be back late this month though.
And now, to wrap this up, is the most random, outlandish, freaky injury I think I've ever heard off...
Kings forward Francisco Garcia was injured during a routine workout when....get this...his exercise ball exploded:
You read it right. The Kings at first simply said he injured his right arm, but Kings fans immediately lit up various blogs and boards with the full story.
Garcia was strength training by doing weight presses, when the exercise ball he was using exploded. The jarring movement dropped one of the weights on his right arm, tearing up ligaments all across his right forearm and wrist. The resulting surgery and rehab will keep him out until at least the all star break, if not longer.
The injury thoroughly freaked out Kings' management. In a move that sounds so ridiculous I can't imagine any other team took them seriously, the Kings sent emails to the 29 other NBA teams warning them of "the extreme dangers of using exercise balls during workouts", as well as contemplating suing the makers of the exercise balls.
Just goes to show why Kings fans have renamed their owners from the Maloofs to the MaGoofs....
Full around the league update coming this weekend.