Less than two weeks before the start of the first-round series, several playoff teams are coping with key injuries. Predicting what the future holds for these clubs and their ailing players is no easy task -- remember, a year ago at this time, most people figured
With that cautionary note in mind, what follows are semi-educated guesses from a cloudy crystal ball about how injuries will affect some playoff teams.
Ginobili has almost single-handedly altered the trajectory of the Spurs' season, from disappointing underachievers to proud, gritty veterans who have a chance to become a fearsome Cinderella story in the West. Ironically, a rapid return to vintage form by Parker could diminish the incredible roll Ginobili is on and ultimately hurt San Antonio's playoff chances. But if anyone can overcome pecking-order issues, it's the Spurs' Big Three of Ginobili, Parker and
Add in point guard
Nearing the end of his second season, Heat forward
And he still has aggravating outings like the one last Saturday in Minnesota. There was no shame in the two quick fouls the 6-10, 235-pound forward picked up trying to guard 7-foot, 275-pound center
Reporters who cover Miami expect Beasley to be shopped hard this offseason as the Heat seek to add a second star in order to retain Wade, one of the summer's top free agents. Of course, Beasley was supposed to be that stellar sidekick, and as Miami has surged to fifth in the East thanks to an eight-game winning streak, it's hard not to imagine all the sugar plums -- home-court advantage in the playoffs, the assured return of Wade next year -- the Heat would likely reap if Beasley was, as expected, on a par, talent-wise, with Rose.
The Heat, not surprisingly, are downplaying the disappointment. "He's getting better and helping us win," coach
You don't have to watch the Timberwolves very long before concluding that
Yes, Minnesota is rightfully trying to develop a legit center, and both Hollins and Milicic are 7-footers. But playing either one at Love's expense seems like a long-term absurdity for a 15-62 team that has a double-double machine to nurture, a player who already is among the game's elite rebounders and ranks second in scoring and third in assists on the team.
"I'm sure Kevin on some level is frustrated he's coming off the bench. But we need him, this team needs him," coach
But then what? Trying to break a franchise-tying 16-game losing streak against Sacramento last Wednesday, Love and the Wolves built a 16-point lead with 7:06 to play. Rambis replaced three players, including having Milicic sub in for Love. Less than three minutes later, the lead was down to six. (Minnesota held on to win 108-99.)
Three nights later against Miami, Milicic left in the second quarter with a concussion after absorbing an elbow to the jaw. But rather than plug Love into the starting lineup alongside Jefferson (against an undersized Heat front line that included Joel Anthony and Beasley), Rambis opted for Hollins, who owns one of the league's worst plus/minutes ratings. Sure enough, by the time Love entered the game with 6:23 to play in the third quarter, the Heat had expanded their lead from nine to 19 and the outcome was essentially decided.
What makes matters worse is that Love was shorted minutes during the first half of his stellar rookie season by former coach
Asked if he felt like he had been "promoted" to the second unit this year and how he responded to watching his team struggle while he sits, Love said: "I don't look at it as a promotion or a demotion or whatever -- I just have to get it done in the time that the coach gives me. But it is tough sometimes coming in when we are down and in the third quarter it kind of seems like the team needs me.
"Hopefully, looking into next year, I would like to determine what my role is, talking with the coaches going forward about knowing what I am to the team. It is still up to them to decide and for me to work my butt off showing them what I can do. But I feel like I can do other things out there and I'd like to know going forward what they think. That's why you have exit interviews at the end of the season."