On the same day that we found out Derrick Rose would miss the remainder of the Bulls season, relegating the rest of Chicago’s campaign irrelevant, Kobe Bryant signed a contract extension with the Lakers, and the Golden State Warriors dropped their second straight game. In the NBA, the health of your superstar is the difference between a legitimate chance at a championship and another year where just making the playoffs or hoping for a good draft pick becomes the team’s primary goal. While the Cardinals made the World Series despite injuries to Allen Craig and Chris Carpenter, and the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Finals even though Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Tim Thomas opted to take a year off, in pro basketball your team is only as good as the medical staff’s ability to keep players healthy.
Rose is the perfect example of a squad that turns on the status of their star. The Bulls were 33-49 before he joined the team. With him they immediately became an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Chicago went 50-16 before he was injured during the 2011-2012 playoffs. They flamed out shortly after he got hurt. Last year, when he missed the entire season, the team dipped to 45-37 and was at best a marginal contender. Chicago started slow when Rose got back on the court this season, but then managed to win five straight. On Friday, Rose got hurt again. The Bulls lost 98-95 in Portland during the game he was banged up, and haven’t won since. With their superstar out for the season, Chicago fans can spend more time concerned with a return date for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, or how the Blackhawks will defend their Stanley Cup Title. The NBA season is essentially over in the Windy City.
In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant inked a new deal with the Lakers but has yet to suit up for a game. He’s rehabbing an Achilles injury. Without Bryant, LA is 8-8 and if the playoffs began today they’d be watching them from the comfort of their homes on TV. Last year Kobe got hurt late in the year and the Spurs swept LA in the first round. During his last healthy campaign, Los Angeles went 41-25 and reached the second round of the playoff. Not surprisingly, the more Kobe plays the better. The last three times he has played a full 82 game slate, the Lakers won a championship, lost in the Western Conference Finals, and posted a 57-25 record securing one of their five straight Pacific Division Titles.
The Golden State Warriors advanced further in last year’s playoffs than any W’s team since the 1970’s. Stephen Curry is the biggest reason why. Golden State went 23-43 in 2011-2012 with Curry sitting out more than half of the season because of injury. When he returned, Curry upped his average points per game from under 15 to nearly 23, bettered his assist total from 5.3 to 6.9 a ballgame, and the was a huge reason why the Warriors doubled their win total. Curry scored 24 points and handed out nine assists a contest in a first round playoff victory over Denver while shooting 44-percent from outside the arc. In the Western Semis against the Spurs he had 44 points and 11 assists in the series opener while connecting on six three-pointers. Unfortunately, he got banged up part way through the fourth quarter of game three. He shot just 14 of 39 from the floor and three of 15 from three-point range over the final two games of the semis. This year the Warriors are 8-4 in games Curry has played and are averaging 106 points a contest. In three games Curry has missed Golden State is 0-3 with a scoring average of 85 points a loss.
While Rose is out for the season and the Bulls are finished, Bryant and Curry should be healthy when the money is on the line. For the rest of the NBA, the greatest fear every time they hit the court is not a loss, but rather avoiding a season crippling injury to their superstar player.