Dwyane Wade’s ongoing injury problems are forcing the Heat to switch style

Given that the season started just one month after the NBA’s damaging and embarrassing lockout ended, and that teams had one week for training camp (not two) and two preseason games (not the usual six or seven), it was unavoidable, even expected, that there would be injuries around the league – but boy are they coming thick and fast. Already, Miami’s Big Two-and-a-Half has been reduced to the Big One-and-a-Half, as Dwyane Wade struggles with various nagging leg injuries, and on one occasion, even the Big Half as LeBron James joined his running mate on the sidelines and left Chris Bosh to lead an otherwise rather short Miami roster. (As a Bosh sympathiser, if not supporter, I feel obliged to point out that he had a massive game – 33 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks – to lead the Heat to victory over the Hawks.)

Kobe Bryant just dropped 40 points on four straight opponents, but he’s being Kobe again and playing on while ignoring a sore, bruised and swollen right wrist (his shooting hand). Historically, Kobe often puts up his most ridiculous numbers (see: Toronto Raptors, February 2006) when he’s injured and his team is underperforming, but it doesn’t always result in wins, and he was powerless to stop the Lakers losing to their housemates, the Clippers, in LA at the weekend.

Everywhere you look, teams are playing short-handed, and many other star players or important contributors have already gone down. Carmelo Anthony’s lack of fitness is testing the New York Knicks’ lack of wing depth; Jeff Green’s heart abnormality, discovered on the eve of the season, has significantly weakened the Boston Celtics’ bench; Manu Ginobili’s departure has taken the X-factor out of San Antonio’s offense. Al Horford, Zach Randolph and Derrick Rose are in the list of crocked stars, too.

Kobe Bryant’s bruised wrist has him on an already extensive list of NBA injuries.

Some teams are struggling just to get a regular rotation together. My Charlotte Bobcats, who just finished their only back-to-back-to-back of the year with a win over Golden State, are currently missing their only true center (Gana Diop), supposed veteran leader and go-to scorer (Corey Maggette, although he wasn’t living up to that billing before he got hurt) and best shooter (newly-signed Reggie Williams). Given their usual propensity to rack up injuries, it surely can’t be long before the entire Portland squad breaks something and heads for the trainer’s room. More blame should be laid on the lockout for this worrying trend than anywhere else.

Deprived of access to their teams’ trainers during the lockout, players like Golden State’s Stephen Curry have failed to recover from existing injuries in time for the new campaign. The likes of Mickael Pietrus, who must now imitate Green’s production for Boston to be a force, nearly missed out on contracts because of such injuries. There is a big difference between being in good shape and being in good basketball shape, where burst fitness is everything but strength is a necessity, and many players look like they aren’t yet in peak condition. The result: people are getting hurt. Regularly.

Don’t expect the pattern to change much, either. There is no let-up on the schedule, no slackening of the pace, all the way through to the end of April and the playoffs, when half the league’s teams will slump exhausted into their locker rooms for the last time and the rest must summon that extra energy to make a run at the championship. With many more back-to-backs still on the cards for contenders and bottom-feeders alike, the 2012 NBA Champions might be the last team standing in more ways than one.

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