The 82-game NBA season is a marathon not a sprint and, just like reality, there are numerous participants that struggle to finish the race. It was recently announced that New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis would be sidelined for the remainder of the season dealing with simultaneous shoulder and knee injuries. The club later released a statement implying the All-Star wouldn’t be able to resume basketball-related activities for another four months. But the Pelicans were already out of the playoffs and gearing up for an appearance in the upcoming draft lottery.
However, there are numerous teams in the heat of jockeying for playoff position that are battling their own mix of injury woes as we head down the stretch of the 2015-16 campaign.
Here’s a list of guys limping down the stretch that may impact their team’s playoff chances as the campaign comes to a close:
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers currently sit fourth in the Western Conference standings, which is a remarkable feat considering Griffin has appeared in just 30 contests this season. Griffin has been sidelined since the day after Christmas dealing with a quad injury and the All-Star later suffered a fractured hand in an off-court alteration. Making matters worse is Griffin will have to serve a four-game team suspension upon being deemed healthy.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
The veteran guard is dealing with tendinitis in his Achilles, which may sideline him into the beginning of April. The Grizzlies hold the fifth spot out West with a somewhat comfortable lead over the sixth-place Portland Trail Blazers, but it’s clear the Grizzlies are missing their floor general. Memphis has compiled an 8-8 record without Conley this season and the team is currently relying on a couple of well traveled reserves to hold down the fort until he returns.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have been so dominant this season that Iguodala’s ankle sprain didn’t generate many headlines. However, the former Finals MVP will be a critical cog in the Warriors’ quest for a championship repeat. Iguodala should be nearing a return soon, but without him Golden State loses a sizeable chunk of their versatility.
Chris Bosh, Miami HEAT
The HEAT are poised to return to the playoffs after a year absence, but Bosh’s uncertain future leaves a constant cloud over the franchise. This is the second consecutive campaign Bosh has had health issues that have sidelined him after the All-Star break. Last season, it was announced relatively quickly that Bosh would miss the remainder of the campaign, but this year there is a sense of optimism in Miami that the veteran could return before the playoffs. However, as of now, Miami’s chances to make a deep run are dwindling by the day.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
George has been incredibly durable this season, appearing in all of the Pacers’ 71 contests, but the All-Star left Thursday’s contest versus New Orleans nursing a bruised leg. Indiana currently holds the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, but the team is just two games ahead of the Chicago Bulls from being out of the playoff picture entirely. George isn’t likely to miss much time, if any, but a lower extremity injury suffered at this point in the season should be closely monitored.
Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics
While Isaiah Thomas is the team’s All-Star, some would argue that Crowder (ankle) is the most valuable player on Boston’s roster. The Celtics (42-30) are a mediocre 3-3 without Crowder in the fold and the veteran could be sidelined until early April dealing with an ankle ailment. Crowder’s numbers won’t jump out at you on the box score on most nights, but his offensive and defensive versatility have been a key to Boston’s success.
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
Gasol has been dealing with a knee injury since the beginning of the month, forcing the veteran to miss multiple games. The Bulls are currently one and half games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with time ticking to make a move down the stretch.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
In what has become an annual theme, the Bulls are faced with multiple injury challenges heading into the playoffs – should they get there. Butler has missed 15 games this season and the team has compiled a woeful 5-10 record without him in the fold. While Butler has been in the lineup as of late, the guard is averaging a pedestrian, for his standards, 15.3 points on 39 percent shooting from the floor in eight March contests.
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