NBA players are dropping like flies in the playoffs. Perhaps a victim of the 66-game lockout shorten season or in some cases because of self mutilation (see: Amar’e Stoudemire punching glass), big names and small names alike are missing the most important games of the year.
2011 MVP Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL, Knicks rookie guard Iman Shumpert the same. Baron Davis just went down with a nasty knee injury himself. Dwight Howard will not play in the playoffs, Al Horford just returned after sitting out nearly the entire season, his backup Zaza Pachulia is still out. The flash in the pan known as Jeremy Lin has been sidelined for the first 4 games of the Knicks-Heat series. Memphis stud Zach Randolph worked his way back into the lineup the final couple weeks of the regular season. The T-Wolves’ chances of making the post season went out the window when rookie PG Ricky Rubio blew his ACL, the Clippers lost their leader Chauncey Billups, and many more. And then you have the “old” Celtics.
The C’s are up 3-1 in their 1st round series with the Hawks. Boston managed to win the Atlantic Division title despite numerous injuries throughout the season, which began with the news that Jeff Green would miss the year and need heart surgery. Chris Wilcox was forced to the sidelines in an eerily similar fashion. And Jermaine O’Neal… whatever. The veteran group fought through the multiple back-to-backs and the ridiculously thrown together season (little to no practice time and crazy travel schedule) to win the division (for the 5th straight year) and enter the playoffs as the #4 seed. They still did not have home court advantage.
Where do the Green stand health wise?
Ray Allen missed the last 9 games of the year with an ankle injury and Games 1 and 2 against the Hawks. Allen surprised himself coming back for Game 3, saying that he had told KG he would probably miss the entire series. It’s hopeful that he will be on the court the rest of the way, but it’s no sure thing. Allen will undergo surgery when the C’s are done.
Paul Pierce, who was extremely durable this season, hurt his knee in shootaround prior to Game 4, and Doc left the morning get-together thinking the Captain would miss the game. He played, 24 points in 17 minutes, and said on his twitter that he was glad he only played limited minutes to he could rest his knee.
Mickael Pietrus played in 42 of the 66 games this year. He missed time with a concussion and left Game 4 in the 3rd quarter with a hamstring injury.
Avery Bradley re-injured his left shoulder in Game 3. He was a game-time decision in Game 4 (he played), but will be a concern through the rest of the playoffs. He apparently popped out his shoulder 2-3 times during the season, but Doc Rivers said it was like a “LEGO” and would just pop back in, but in Game 3 it did not do that. Gross.
Greg Stiemsma (feet) sat out of nearly every single practice the Celtics had this season. He should be able to go the rest of the playoffs for as much time as the team needs him, but it should be pointed out that he’s been playing banged up all year.
Is it possible that Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett are the healthiest players on the team?
The lasting image of the 2011 playoffs for the Celtics was Rajon Rondo playing against the Heat with one arm. After Dwyane Wade tackled him to the floor, Rondo got up and tried like hell to play through the pain. The 2009 playoffs were essentially a lost cause because of the knee injury that kept Kevin Garnett from suiting up with the team. Now in 2012, Rondo and KG are the healthiest, and without question the two pieces most important to knocking off the Heat in a potential Eastern Conference Finals match-up.
Few would have predicted the type of season KG had. At 35 years old and with well over 1,200 career games played, Garnett averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists per game (playing in 60/66, sitting out a couple for personal reasons and for rest). I believe he will be All-Defensive 2nd Team and All-NBA 3rd Team, at center, where he really flourished in the 2nd half of the season.
Health has already derailed the top seeded Bulls and the Orlando Magic. If the Celtics are going to make a deep run they are going to continue to walk the injury tight rope. KG and Rondo will have to defy the odds and Pierce (knee), Allen (ankle), Bradley (shoulder), Pietrus (hamstring, head), and Stiemsma (feet) will have to be “healthy enough.”
Believe it or not I said Heat-Celtics in the East Finals in my pre-season predictions. There is no reason to change that now.
Rich Keefe is the Celtics Reporter for 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow him on twitter: @Keefe21