The injury epidemic hit the NBA hard at the beginning of this NBA season. Several stars’ season debuts have been delayed due to different injuries. On top of guys getting hurt, a couple of big time players started the year suspended. Now that J.R. Smith and Tyler Hansbrough finally suited up, there are a dozen of other players who are about to crash the season and possibly make major impacts. Here’s ten to keep an eye on.
1. Pau Gasol (Lakers): With a 6-1 record, the defending champs have been holding down the fort nicely, while they wait for their All-Star forward to return from a hamstring injury. When he does, this starting five will be practically invincible. The big question is when Gasol will return. Coach Phil Jackson stirred the pot a little yesterday by saying he wouldn’t retun until Christmas – he said later he was joking. Gasol is going to resume practicing next week, so his return might be closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas.
2. Antawn Jamison (Wizards): The ship is quickly sinking in the nation’s capital as the team has dropped five straight and their record now stands at 2-6. The injury curse has once again struck as Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Mike James have all been hurt as of late. Jamison has been out the entire season with a shoulder injury. The team misses his points, rebounds and his leadership. His injury has also forced Caron Butler to play a little out of position.
3. Blake Griffin (Clippers): Every game we see Brandon Jennings play, the more we start to forget about Blake. Blake shouldn’t be MIA too much longer, but he needs to get on the court and be a beast ASAP, before suspisions of the Clippers curse arise again.
4. Rashard Lewis (Magic): The Magic have struggled at times at the beginning of this season. Losing to Detroit and getting blown out by OKC is unacceptable for a team that is supposed to contend for a title. Rashard was forced to sit out the first 10 games of the season after taking a performance enhancing substance over the summer. His long range shooting and versatility has been missed sorely.
5. Kevin Love (Timberwolves): We all expected the Timberwolves to struggle, but they are getting destroyed out there. They have lost eight straight games and his sidekick Al Jefferson has been awful so far. When Love and Jefferson are at their best, they are the best young frontcourt in the league.
6. Tracy McGrady (Rockets): Every day that passes, McGrady becomes less and less relevant. A lot of people probably don’t know he is still on the roster. He is expected to be back at practice next week and should be ready to go by early December. After shutting it down at the middle of last season, T-Mac has a lot to prove this year to his team, the league and his fans.
7. C.J. Miles (Jazz): It is doubtful that the Jazz are 3-5 solely because Miles is not in uniform. But between Miles and Kyle Korver being hurt all season, leaves the team without a couple of their best perimeter guys. C.J. has never had a huge impact in this league, but has showed flashes that he can be a solid starter in this league one day. If he proves to be more consistent when he returns from a hand injury, then he could help get the Jazz out of their funk.
8. Leon Powe (Cavs): When Powe returns, he won’t be the missing piece to the championship puzzle, but he gives the team another big body that will go in and rebound and bang. Plus he’s won a championship with Boston, so he has playoff experience that will certainly come in handy.
9. Eddy Curry (Knicks): Has anybody seen the pictures of Eddy that have been floating around the web this week? He is supposedly under 300 pounds now and with his new bald head and bushy goatee, he is looking like a slightly larger version of Plaxico Burress. Who knows what he can contribute to the Knicks when he returns. But one thing is certain: he can’t possibly make them worse.
10. The Random Free Agent: Maybe the biggest party crasher will be someone who isn’t even in the league right now. Earl Boykins just came out of nowhere today when he signed with the Wizards. With so many NBA players getting hurt this year, maybe someone like Rashad McCants, Stephon Marbury or some random D-League call up like Patrick Ewing Jr. or the other Marcus Williams will have an opportunity to make some noise.
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