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As the NBA gets ready to take its mid-season break for All-Star festivities, many teams aren't feeling very festive. Injuries are a fact of life in any sport, obviously, but I can't remember the last time there were this many significant injuries to so many high profile, high impact players. A look at the more notable players checking into the NBA's M*A*S*H unit this season...
Gerald Wallace (F, Charlotte Bobcats) - Suffered a cracked rib and partially collapsed left lung after a hard foul from Lakers C Andrew Bynum. Of course, the basketball gods make sure everything evens up in the end...
Andrew Bynum (C, LA Lakers) - Out 8-12 weeks with a torn MCL suffered 3 days after his hard foul on Wallace (personally, I'm with the basketball gods on this one). It is unquestionably a significant blow to the Lakers, at least come playoffs time, where Bynum’s size will be needed to handle other Western Conference playoff contenders' bigs like Tim Duncan.
Elton Brand (F, Philadelphia 76ers) - Out for the season following right shoulder surgery. Much like the Bynum injury for the Lakers, this will hurt the 76ers more come playoff time than during the rest of the regular season. But it is still a blow for a team that was trying to work Brand, their big free agent acquisition last offseason, into this young team's core lineup.
Chris Paul (G, New Orleans Hornets) - Day-to-day with a strained right groin, and has missed the Hornets' last 4 straight. This could have been worse if it was an injury that actually kept Paul out of the lineup for an extended period of time, but it’s still not good to have your team - and arguably the league - MVP struggling through at less than 100%, especially in the cutthroat Western Conference.
Jameer Nelson (G, Orlando Magic) - Out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Possibly the most unfortunate injury on this list, Nelson was having a career, breakout season before his injury. The loss of Nelson as a setup man for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu is potentially crippling for a team that, at one point, had the best record in the NBA this season.
Delonte West (G, Cleveland Cavaliers) - Out 4-6 weeks with a fractured right wrist. Hurts the Cavs more from a position of depth, but will unquestionably still cost the team a few games until he returns, and every game counts when you're fighting for the top playoff seed in the East.
Sasha Pavlovic (F, Cleveland Cavaliers) - Out 4-6 weeks with high ankle sprain. A solid rotational player who has been with the Cavs for several seasons, like West the loss of Pavlovic impacts the team primarily on the depth chart.
Michael Redd (G, Milwaukee Bucks) - Out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL/MCL. Arguably the best pure shooter in the NBA, the loss of Redd cripples the Bucks’ outside shooting game. Add to that...
Andrew Bogut (C, Milwaukee Bucks) - Day-to-day with a stress fracture in his lower back. Already missing their outside shooting threat in Redd, the injury to Bogut removes the Bucks’ best low post threat. And as if that weren’t enough...
Luke Ridnour (G, Milwaukee Bucks) - Out 3-5 weeks with a broken thumb. The team has lost their starting point guard/setup man with the injury to Ridnour, though backup Ramon Sessions has so far stepped up his game to fill the void.
Al Jefferson (C, Minnesota Timberwolves) - Out rest of season with a torn ACL. The team was already in a bit of a state of flux given the firing of head coach Randy Whittman, and with now this loss of unquestionably the team’s best player Minnesota may as well start making their vacation plans now, because they certainly aren't heading to the playoffs.
Jason Terry (G, Dallas Mavericks) - Had surgery for fractured finger on his left hand. No timetable for return. Terry is the team’s second leading scorer behind Nowitzki, and the loss of his outstanding outside shooting game allows defenses to pack the paint and deny the Mavs easy scoring opportunites inside.
Andrei Kirilenko (F, Utah Jazz) - Out 4 weeks following minor surgery on his right ankle. AK-47’s injury leaves the Jazz with a void on the defensive end, especially as a weak side shot blocker.
And this list doesn’t even include teams that had to weather the storm of significant injuries earlier in the season, like the Spurs/Manu Ginobili & Tony Parker, Hawks/Josh Smith, Rockets/Tracy McGrady, Nuggets/Carmello Anthony, etc...
...and people say basketball isn't a contact sport!
Following the All-Star break, the next significant event for the NBA is the trade deadline on February 19th. Considering such big names as Shaq, Jason Kidd, Pau Gasol, and Mike Bibby got moved right around last year’s deadline, it will be interesting to see who may get moved this year. The big name players currently rumored to seriously be on the block include Amar'e Stoudemire, Shaq (again), Baron Davis, Jason Kidd (again), Shawn “The Matrix” Marion, Jermaine O’Neal, Vince Carter, and Ron Artest.
Kevin Garnet (Boston Celtics) - Injured his right knee last night against the Utah Jazz. Garnett left the team, flew back to Boston, and will undergo an MRI by team doctors on Saturday to determine the extent of the injury.
Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns) - Suffered a partially detached retina in the Suns' game on Wednesday night. Today he underwent surgery for it that will keep him out at least 8 weeks and, realistically, probably the rest of the season. And this after he already suffered a partially torn iris during the pre-season.
Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) - Suffered a stress reaction to his right ankle and will miss 2-3 weeks. Not having a good year ankle wise... he started the season on the bench following off-season surgery on his left ankle.