“You can go through each team [in the NBA], every team has a guy beat up on the roster,” Kevin Garnett told reporters. “I’m not different.”
But don’t tell the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin that Garnett is no different from the beat-up guy on every roster. Griffin, out for the season with a broken left kneecap, would likely be ecstatic to have played in 30 games this season, as Garnett has. The electric number one draft pick, charged with turning around perhaps the least successful NBA team in recent memory, has yet to lace up his sneakers to play a single game for the Clippers. Call it the Clippers curse, call it a fluke, or call Griffin himself fragile… whatever it is, Griffin should envy even Garnett’s tenuous health.
“[Griffin's injury is] a little disappointing,” Mike Dunleavy drastically understated, “because he brings so much to the table. As a group, we’re coming together better all the time, and adding that talent to our lineup was something we were looking forward to.”
But something the Clippers will never get to experience, at least for the rest of this season. They will be without the 6’10″, skilled bruiser until next year. Griffin was supposed to solidify an already respectable frontcourt rotation but, instead, the most basketball-related activity he’ll do for the next several months will be rehabbing his knee.
While nobody knows just how good Griffin will be, most everyone who follows the NBA is assured that he would at the very least contribute as a valuable sixth man and likely be a franchise cornerstone for years to come. Coming into the draft, Griffin was thought to be head and shoulders above the rest of this rookie class… a class that has proven itself to be both deep and talented. The ceiling is still high for the powerful high-flier from Oklahoma, but the present — at least playing-wise — is non-existent.
“It’s frustrating, but what do you do, you know?” asked Chris Kaman about the injury. “Any time someone gets hurt, you don’t control those things. Those things happen and you try to do the best you can and live with it.”
Kaman’s words certainly ring true to the Celtics, who have been fighting to overcome injuries since Glen Davis went down with an injury before the regular season even began. Finally, it seems, the Celtics are getting healthy again. But the path has not been easy, and with an aging roster health will never be a sure thing.
Still, the Celtics can look across the court tonight at their opponents and be thankful their own situation is not worse. Garnett could be out for the season with a broken kneecap. He could have already shut it down in hopes of being ready for next year. He could be unable to suit up, having to resort to watching his teammates compete for the remainder of the year as he did last season, and Griffin has been forced to do this campaign.
Even though the Celtics have been mired in a spell of injuries and poor execution that has left their early-season record less successful than they had imagined, things could always be worse.
They could be the Clippers.
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Rondo’s defense – Rajon Rondo has been struggling to shut down opposing point guards lately, especially the bulkier variety. In comes Baron Davis, the stocky but quick Clipper who torched Rondo in the teams’ earlier matchup for 24 points and 13 assists, to go along with a game-winning jumper. Rondo will have his hands full with Baron tonight; with his size and strength, Davis is a bundle for Rondo to take care of.
- Garnett – How will Garnett’s knee hold up after returning the other night from his injury? Against Portland, he still looked bothered by pain, at times hobbling after landing awkwardly. It would be a very good sign for Boston if KG can put together another good game. Even if he doesn’t, his presence alone is usually enough to help the C’s win games.
- Ray Allen’s aggression – Last time the Celtics played the Clippers, I chastised Allen for his lack of assertiveness. With Paul Pierce out, Allen still only managed to muster 12 shot attempts. Even with Pierce back in the lineup, I’d like to see Allen in attack mode. If he gets going early, it will really open things up for Rondo and Pierce to create down low.