Just when the Eastern Conference is beginning to serge with talent, the west has lost two of its stars. Manu Ginobili fractured his left hand and Zach Randolph tore his MCL against Chicago this week. Both players are expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action.
It couldn’t get much worse for the Western Conference in 2012. Thus far, the beasts truly live in the east with Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Indiana, Atlanta and Philadelphia dominating the rest of the NBA. Now, two team leaders and individual superstars respectively, are out for some time.
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs are two of the top teams in the west, who actually met last season in the playoffs. Both veteran-laden teams will be crushed by these injuries in this 66-game condensed season. Two months is nearly half the season and with so little time in between games, more inexperienced players will have to step into a bigger role. For Memphis it will be Marc Gasol shouldering the load, while the Spurs are hoping Richard Jefferson can step into the invaluable Ginobili’s spot. Regardless, both teams lose huge team leaders and sometimes losing a leader is more detrimental to a team than losing their actual best player.
Are these injuries a product of the lockout? Are these events happening because players weren’t ready for the season? Did they need a longer pre-season? I believe so. I feel players are still trying to find their rhythm that they usually figure out in the pre-season. Some players are going through the motions, while others are going full speed.
Every little thing that goes wrong this season will be blamed on David Stern and the lockout. And why not? The players were away from the game for too long. Guys can only train so much before they just want to start playing. With a shortened season, more teams have to play games in much less time that they’re used to. I feel this is breaking down their bodies, making them more susceptible to injuries like Randolph and Ginobili figured out.
Either way, the NBA players need to figure out a way to rest differently than they have in the past. There is not enough time in between games for recovery, thus enhancing the chances of a real injury. The older teams and players (like Manu and Zach) are much more likely to go down with injury. Younger teams will be able to recover quicker and their bodies are more apt to adjust to a fast-pace schedule. So far, my theory has proved to be true.
Follow Tony Piraro on Twitter @TonyPiraro