I’m jacked about the NBA openers tonight but the league is starting off ominously. In two hours the Lakers will take the court and no one knows if Kobe Bryant will be among them. Dwight Howard supposedly will start but is not yet 100%. This is the story throughout the NBA: Teams are going into battle without key players or with those and others playing hurt.
Their opponent, the Mavericks, will be missing Dirk Nowitski, who had knee surgery recently. Why didn’t he have it done during the off-season? He probably forgot how old he was. The knee started acting up right after camp opened earlier this month. The Mavs without Dirk are like The Captain and Tennille without Tennille. The Mavs will also be without Chris Kaman, acquired in the off-season. The Mavs without Dirk and Chris Kaman are like…not very good.
This theme runs throughout the league. The Clippers (the Clips need their own arena so I can call them the Lakers’ cross-town rivals) are hurting as well. Chauncey Billups is close but can’t rush rehabbing an Achilles rupture. Grant Hill is out for a while, and Lamar Odom has game-time decision status. Other Western teams with similar problems include the Spurs (Manu Ginobili unable to play with a recurrence of back problems), Nuggets (Danilo Gallinari, out with an ankle injury), T-Wolves (Kevin Love out for awhile with broken hand and Rickey Rubio with more knee problems), Warriors (Andrew Bogut, ankle), Hornets (Eric Gordon knee; Austin Rivers, ankle).
Not mentioned are many injured or recovering-from-injury players who aren’t as well known as the above but are also key players. They will all be unavailable on Opening Night.
(The East is equally plagued: Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler–two Knicks players with knee problems–are listed as out tonight; Derrick Rose, knee, after missing a season, can’t start the following season; Andrew Bynum, ankle, out most of last season, can’t start following season; Nene, foot, and John Wall, knee, the Wizards’ two best players. All of the above, West and East, are key players whose teams can’t succeed without them.)
The league is officially out of whack right now. We want the best players on the floor, but it can be a blessing in disguise for teams to go without their best player or two, especially early in the season. It gives everyone else a chance to get better. Being better is one thing. Being healthy is another.
Let the games begin.