Wrists ankles and knees. Oh my.
Last night, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest his starters rather than actively pursue the league's best record. As a result, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili remain injury-free even as I type these words. Assuing Manu didn't spontaneously flop on his way out of the Staples Center.
Meanwhile, the Lakers went for the second seed in the Western Conference. Next thing you know, Andrew Bynum stepped on DeJuan Blair's foot and, at minimum, hyperextended his surgically repaired knee. The injury could mean some serious doom and gloom for the Lakers. L.A. needs him as much as the Celtics need Kendrick Per...uhm...I mean a healthy Shaq. Yes. A...healthy...Shuh...oh dear God.
Back in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls were playing the Knicks in Madision Square Garden. Amar''''''e Stoudemire sat out to preserve his marshmallowy insides for New York's first round bonfire against the Celtics. Quick aside: If you're making Knicks s'mores, and STAT is the marshmallow, then 'Melo has to be the chocolate, right? In that case, who's the graham cracker? Chauncey Billups? Landry Fields?
Anyway, the Bulls didn't hold anything back. Poor Luol Deng logged 40+ minutes for what felt like the 81st time. In reality, Lu has played 40 or more minutes in "only" 38 games. He's played 39 minutes in another nine games, 38 minutes in another six, and 35-37 minutes in another 17 games. Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer played 38 and 37 minutes, respectively. But, hey, the Bulls have a shot at the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage in every conceivable playoff series.
Who takes their foot off the gas in the middle of the Indy 500?
Bad news, though. Ronnie Brewer injures his wrist. Joakim Noah tweaked his already injured ankle. Noah is Noah and Brewer is a crucial roleplayer off the bench. The Bulls are going to need both of those guys for a long playoff run.
Now Popovich and Doc Rivers -- who rested Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on Monday night rather than going for the East's second seed -- look like geniuses. Of course, Pop's genius may have nothing to do with actually resting his big guns. Remember: If the Lakers earn second place in the West, that puts them out of San Antonio's playoff bracket until the Western Conference Finals, assuming both teams make it that far.
It's an age-old debate that has no clear-cut answer no matter what happens. Oh, sure, it's easy to say what the team should have done after disaster strikes. Several years ago, the Indianapolis Colts clinched the top seed in the AFC so early they rested their starters for the last three games. Throw in their first round bye and the Colts didn't play any truly competitive football in a month. Their first postseason game was against a Steelers team that had to win their last five games to even qualify for the postseason. Steelers won that game (barely) and went on to win the Super Bowl, too.
Colts shouldn't have rested. Right?
But the Bulls and Lakers should have. Right?
Freak injuries are unpredictable. They can happen at any time. There's no way to prevent them short of covering people in bubble wrap and locking them in a padded room for the rest of their lives. And even that might not keep Greg Oden or Yao Ming from shattering like florescenct light bulb that just got stepped on by Oliver Miller.
I mean, Bynum could have stepped on somebody's foot in the first game of the first round of the playoffs. Or he could have avoided it.
It's funny. I was reading comments in the CHI-NYK game thread at KnickerBlogger, and angry Knicks fans were killing the Bulls for, you know, trying to win the game. I guess the whole "trying to win games" thing has been so out of fashion in New York for most of the last decade that seeing another team care looks as foreign as filling a jar of peanut butter with rat poison. Dear Knicks fans: On behalf of the Chicago Bulls organization, I humbly apologize that they give a shit, and that them giving a shit makes you feel worse about your team and yourselves. Good luck in life.
In possibly related news, the MSG crowd erupted into a few "M-V-P!" changes for Rose. Which means, I guess, that at the very least people who attend Knicks games in person appreciate dedication to winning.
You wanna know a secret? I hate the end of the regular season, when garbage like this becomes "news." Everything gets so bizarro. Good teams stop trying, bad teams either begin taking or suddenly discover they have something to prove, and everybody goes crazy saying what this or that team should or shouldn't be doing. Rest him! Don't rest! Try to win! Losing's better!
We can't just enjoy the games anymore. It's this 24/7 news coverage thing. Hey, I'm part of it, I know that. But you know, people have been bitching about MVP since freaking January. Sports fans need constant stimulus. Even on days when there are 13 NBA games, there may be three new stories about Rose's PER or the many different things Team X should consider to manipulate the playoff seeding.
As for me, I just want the playoffs to start, already.
Chris's Lethal Lacktion Ledger:
Bulls-Knicks: Derrick Brown drilled one foul in 5:36 for a +1, while fellow Knickerbocker Shelden Williams matched that in 3:42 for the same suck differential and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.
Grizzlies-Frail Blazers: WHOA. Chris Johnson, Armon Johnson, AND Earl Barron had 34 seconds of work unclogging the water system at the Rose Garden, resulting in MARIO TRIPLETS! (Barron went 100% from the field on one attempt so he avoided pure lacktivity, however.)
Spurs-Lakers: Theo Ratliff's stock options expired, resulting in a payout of exactly 1.5 trillion (90 seconds).