NBA learns to do more with less after rash of midseason injuries
Every time you hear those words these days -- "Do more with less" -- you want to snap the pencil in your hand while imagining your boss with a yellow, No. 2 neck. It is management by Dilbert, a hollow dictum that strains credulity as much as it strains a dwindling workforce. When you think about it, if your department, crew or shift actually was capable today of doing more whatever with less something, then yesterday it must have been doing less with more. Nice message there, boss.
Then you glance at the NBA standings and you see that, in fact, a number of playoff-bound teams have been doing just that. Winning more with less talent. More teamwork with less star power. More results with less payroll, at least on the floor at any given moment. A remarkable number of clubs have endured injuries to significant players without immediately nose diving in their division or conference races. Teams in Houston, Orlando, Philadelphia and elsewhere have kept afloat their fans' postseason hopes while -- uh-oh -- maybe emboldening your CEO to trim a little closer to the bone next quarter.
In which case, thanks a lot, resilient stinkin' NBA teams. Why couldn't you be more like San Antonio (17-15 without
Here are some of the teams that are thriving, not just surviving (that's Dilbertian, too) in their management of crises:
The Rockets were 31-21 on Feb. 9 after a miserable 124-112 defeat at Milwaukee. Worse -- or so it seemed -- was McGrady playing in his final game of the season; he would have microfracture surgery on his left knee two weeks later. And yet, Houston has gone 16-5 since that loss to the Bucks. It ranks third in the West and, a few days ago, briefly sat atop the Southwest, the team's latest division lead since 1994. The Rockets are headed toward 50 victories for the third straight season and their best offensive season in almost a decade, with a career 22.1-point scorer on the shelf.
"We've had so much drama and ... lineup shuffles, trades. I don't think too many people thought we'd be here today,''
With the bold move of trading
"In this long season, you're going to go through ups and downs, through injuries and everything else," coach
Maybe Rockets GM
Nelson's injury, besides spoiling his All-Star and potentially Most Improved Player season, was expected to doom Orlando's ambitions overall. The team was 32-10 (.762) with Nelson running the offense, and it is 13-4 (.765) since Alston took over.
Orlando clinched its second straight Southeast title Wednesday and will compete in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. It is 27-11 on the road, second best in the NBA, and the Magic offense ranks sixth at 104.5 points and fifth at 47.4 percent shooting.
"We know the organization is doing better because [fans] are mad the point spread isn't big enough,'' coach
Alston is scoring and shooting a little better since the trade -- 11.9 points vs. 11.5, 39.7 percent vs. 37 percent -- and he has kept 34-year-old backup
Granted, Bynum -- whose season got shredded by a knee injury for the second time in as many years -- ranked no higher than the Lakers' third-most-important player, behind
Bynum might be back for that this spring and, frankly, might not be needed until then, based on L.A.'s performance. Since he went down -- we're counting the Jan. 31 game at Memphis in which Bryant accidentally bowled him over, tearing Bynum's right medial collateral ligament, because it happened five minutes after tip-off -- the Lakers have gone 21-5. Losing his 14.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.89 blocks put a challenge to the teams' veterans, so Bryant has boosted his scoring average by 2.6 points, Gasol is up 3.6 and
When they signed Brand as a free agent last summer, the Sixers saw themselves going to the playoffs again, even advancing this time. They didn't expect to be toting Brand around as a sharply dressed mascot. The fact is, Philadelphia was 13-16 with Brand on the floor this season, but 24-17 without him heading into Friday's game against Charlotte, about 180 degrees from what anyone expected or intended. Since doctors shut him down on Feb. 9 with the injury to his right shoulder, the Sixers have gone 14-9.
Fortunately for Philly, four other starters --
Boozer is back, unlike the key guys mentioned so far, so this is more about what the Jazz did than what they are doing minus a star player. Utah is 10-4 since Boozer returned from the injury that required arthroscopic knee surgery in January. It took coach
The Bucks are headed for the lottery, but they sorta, kinda qualify here because things were supposed to have gotten so much worse than 31-41 after Redd went down. Redd was averaging 21.2 points and 36.5 minutes when he tore two ligaments in his left knee on Jan. 24, and the Bucks were 17-15 with their best player in the starting lineup. Ten days later, center