Hurting The Game

An increase in injuries has diminished the NBA

Many other teams are also missing big-time players because of notable injuries: Atlanta guard Steve Smith is on the IL with a strained right knee; Charlotte forward Glen Rice had elbow surgery and will be sidelined until at least mid March, while teammate Anthony Mason will miss the rest of the season due to a hyperextended right elbow; Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas will miss the rest of the season due to a broken foot; Denver center Raef LaFrentz tore an anterior cruciate ligament in last Thursday's game against Dallas; Detroit forward Christian Laettner is expected to be sidelined until the end of March with a torn Achilles tendon; Miami forward Jamal Mashburn is on the IL with a left knee contusion and teammate Voshon Lenard will be out for the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his left leg.

For those who continue to suit up and run the floor in pain, there isn't much anyone can do to speed up their recovery period or adapt their game play.

"I only know how to play one way," says Williams when asked how he has dealt with his injuries. "So I don't compensate. I can't. I'll do as much as my body can do."

Sam-I-Ain't: Cassell gets helped off the court after an opening-night injury.
AP/ Wide World/ Courtesy of Fox Sports
Sam-I-Ain't: Cassell gets helped off the court after an opening-night injury.

"The problem is that there isn't enough room in the schedule for them to rest and repair their bodies," says Dalatri. "Even after a few weeks of playing, the schedule doesn't allow for any real training time, and coaches can't think of the first few weeks of the season as any kind of training period either. So it's a matter of do you want a player that is out of shape, or a player that is out of shape and tired? You can only push them so much. Otherwise, something is going to break along the way."

Dalatri has employed cardiovascular training in the pool and a special diet to keep his players' energy up in a season that has been rough on their bodies. There has been some improvement. "The strength of the players is definitely getting better, and the games will start getting better as a result," says Dalatri. "But whether any injured player in the NBA will ever get to the level where they normally should be? I don't know."

Injuries Are Up; Points Are Down

First 3 weeks
NETS 1999 '97­98 '97­98
Player games missed 29 57 249
Pts PG 84.6 94.7 99.6
FG % .389 .415 .441
Turnovers 17.3 15.7 14.4

First 3 weeks
KNICKS 1999 '97­98 '97­98
Player games missed 17 3 191
Pts PG 83.6 96.5 91.6
FG % .439 .477 .447
Turnovers 18 16.9 15.2

First 3 weeks
NBA 1999 '97­98 '97­98
Player games missed 67 60 N/A
Pts PG 90.9 95.2 95.6
FG % .427 .446 .450
Turnovers 15.9 16.5 15.5

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